Category Archives: Bezels

Here a Duzy, There a Druzy, Everywhere a . . .

I like to use a druzy now and then in a piece of jewelry; yet when showing it to a customer, I usually end up explaining the term. Wilkipedia says that “In geological usage druse or druzy is a coating of fine crystals on a rock fracture surface, vein . . . or geode.”I think that’s a pretty neat occurrence. . .  it’s something beautiful and sparkly where there may have been little of interest previously.

druzy

In the past, I’ve mainly worked with gemstones that contain small pieces of druzy yet the color of the stone remains predominant. Lately, however, I’ve found a few druzies where the crystalline formation is large enough to stand on its own. They are somewhat delicate with which to work and I’ve done my best to capture them in bezels that will protect the structure.

 

cobalt1

I’ve been told that dying the coablt druzy, shown above, is rather difficulty, but I’m certainly pleased with the the perseverance of the lapidary artist who cut this one.

Is there a druzy in your future?

From Big to Small

I’ve always thought that when trying to learn something new you should work from big to small. Remember those first prereaders in Kindergarten? The one or two words on each page were quite large compared to the first grade readers and then chapter books and novels. The print got smaller and smaller as readers progressed in ability. (Of course, as we grow older, that print has to grow larger and larger due to failing eyesight issues. Of course, I can’t personally speak to that! Ha!)

In teaching piano, I found the big to small postulate to be the same. We started with a few large notes in songs and went on to hundreds of small notes and intricate passages. When my friend and I were trying to help little four year olds learn more efficiently, we developed musical notation with relatively large circles and ellipses that most little ones found easy to read. My engineer husband provided us with the appropriate drafting tools to write Keyboard Kapers, a book of original songs we used with the little ones. I wonder how many little pianists played songs about “my dog Blazer” when they were learning from us and the teachers with whom we worked. As the young pianists grew more proficient this notation gradually became the more common smaller notes we see in traditional music.

Having found success with big to large in the aforementioned reading formats, it seemed natural for me to apply this idea to learning to make jewelry. For example, when learning to make soldered bezels, I made large ones first and found they were easier than the tiny ones I’m trying to create now. I currently still have trouble and sometimes melt those little pieces of silver while encouraging my solder to hurry up and flow. Big IS easier!

Fortunately, a couple of my friends recently showed me how to use small premade bezels and snap sets for the tiny stones I wanted to work with. I purchased these from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. I have always made large pendants, but decided I was ready to grow up to smaller pendants using this new bezel setting technique. My bravery extended as I also used more sterling silver that I usually do.

ruby2

These pendants were not intended to look like anything in particular. I just wanted a pleasing shape that would house a little jewel. The first and second pictures show pieces that have rubies set in snap sets.

ruby1

 

 

 

 

The next couple of pieces show peridot in snap sets. The first one IS NOT a bug!

periodot1

 

 

 

     periodit2

 

 

 

 

Finally, I became brave enough to try a larger piece composed of more components. It’s still relatively small compared to most of the copper work that I do. Someone already told me it doesn’t look like my style since it is more formal. See what you think.

scroll

The photo on the left was taken from an angle and makes the piece look somewhat “off” Yet, it is symmetrical – my picture taking just isn’t! I wrapped a stone to hang from the basic silver armature and can change this out to other stones with the jump ring attachment.

Big to small is still working for me with one exception. I quickly realized early in learning about wire working that manipulating heavy gauge “big” wire is more difficult for me than working with a lighter gauge “small” wire. When you’re working with wire and have to sound like a tennis player who makes a noise every time she serves, it’s probably time to get a light gauge wire!

Flow

Yesterday was a day of flow. After several nonproductive days filled with the emotions of life, I was finally able to put things aside and get into what Csikszentmihalyi calls flow. A description follows.

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. . . .According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology) 

I’ve long appreciated the work of this theorist, yet often find his material difficult reading. His contributions to the field of psychology include a plethora of books and articles. I used to draw one of his charts in my workshops showing how flow balances between anxiety and boredom. It seems to me that if we are too relaxed or bored we don’t achieve flow; yet we don’t get there when we are too pressured or anxious. I feel that the need for one or the other (boredom or anxiety) probably depends on the individual. For example, do you work better with or without some degree of pressure? Learning what helps us reach that state of flow can help us achieve productive energy and creativity. If you have interest in this idea, you might enjoy reading some of the work on this topic.

Over the weekend my state of mind had been too far toward the anxious side and I wasn’t able to create anything that I thought was pleasing. By yesterday, however, I managed to relax enough to find my flow and the designs began to move ahead faster than I could work. While some of the photos below show rather plain pieces, they do represent a work that contributed to a feeling of accomplishment. For me, accomplishment leads to increased productivity and flow.

lapis and silver

          pearl and jasper

 

 

 

 

 

 

yellow

               silver and blue

 

 

 

 

 

pendant

                  IMG_2378

 

 

 

 

 

The top row of pieces needs a bit of explanation. The lapis necklace on the left is different enough that it may need to grow on you. The sterling silver form is soldered and wears a small cabachon and tiny silver cup flowers on one side. Balancing produced quite a conundrum, but I eventually made the bead links on silver wire and added the sterling silver rounds and spacers on another piece of wire below them.

I do believe that I must have strung the jasper piece on the top right at least five times while attempting to get it lay just so. Now it sits very nicely on the neck. The photo doesn’t allow you to see the tiny bit of orange in these beads.

The last two photos may end up as one piece. I may replace the pendant on the bottom right necklace which seems pretty bright with the cab pendant on the left. I’m going to wait and see what the customer wants done with this one.

Since flow is not  always easy for me to achieve, I’m thankful when it comes. My problem is waiting for it to get here!

Resistance to Closure OR Procrastination?

Several sleepless nights this week left piddlin’ in my studio wondering what to do when you are too sleepy to do much of anything. Have you ever felt that way? During one of those times, I located a number of UFOs (unfinished objects) and pondered the current state of my work.

My need for closure used to require that I rush to complete each piece. My head knew that this was not a good thing since creative people are supposed to be amble to remain open for all the artistic possibilities that might present themselves. When you decide on an idea or problem solution (close) too quickly, there’s less opportunity to exercise true creativity. This is one of the areas rated on many formal creativity tests. Yes, my head knew I should resist closure, but I still willed myself to “get it done”.

Because I understand this need to resist closure, I consciously try to remain open and therefore lay some things (pendants in particular) aside while I consider various alternatives for completing them. Apparently, I got carried away with this little practice and during one of my late night/early morning studio carousings, I discovered what I had wrought. I had an entire pile (a little exaggeration) of things left undone.

Then it hit me. Creative gurus teach that we are supposed to diverge and then converge. During my divergence, I was resisting closure and laying things aside while I thought of the myriad of possibilities for how each could be used. But, oops, I forgot the rest of the teaching . . . CONVERGE! During convergence, we are to pull the ideas together, make a decision and, in my words, finish the work. I didn’t do the latter.

So, on that fateful day, it was time to CONVERGE. (Can you here my battle cry?) I devoted one day to getting those pieces in some sort of completion form. I made the pendant for the first one, “Wing It”, last May upon coming home from a boutique run where a customer said that’s what she does. Oh well, it’s only January; but it was time for something to hatch.

wingsIt only took a short while to attach the riveted pendant to some chain and add a few dangles. What took me so long?

The next piece sports a pendant provided by one of the boutiques. The owner had it on a simple silver wire and it had not sold. She sent it home with me before Thanksgiving saying “DO SOMETHING” and she hasn’t seen it since. It’s time! I hope the store owner likes it. She will certainly be surprised to see it again and will probably take it just to get her pendant back.

sherry

I cannot honestly say how long I’ve considered the use of this S shaped pendant armature. I know it has been several months since I repeatedly annealed and whacked this shape. At the time, I just wanted to see if I could hammer a piece to the extent that a couple of my friends do in their pieces. This week, however, it finally turned into a necklace.

s3This one is fairly long and dangles from a doubled leather cord.

Finally, I found two bracelet armatures all formed and tumbled, just hanging around waiting for embellishment. They are now properly adorned.

bracelets           It’s good to finish these pieces and I’m glad I didn’t follow my urge to just throw them away when I first found them. They were worth completing. Yet, now I wonder whether I was really being creative on these by resisting closure or if I was just plain procrastinating. I think it’s resistance to closure when you are not sure that all the possible ideas have been explored on a piece and you are remaining open to receive those great thoughts. That was definitely the case on two or three of these pieces. However, I have known what to do with those bracelet armatures for a while and just didn’t want to do it. That is plain old procrastination! Shame on me! Will it every happen in this studio again . . . . . I can defiantly say “YES!” Now I hope to resist closure when needed and beware of that other phenomenon.

Who IS the Customer?

Many articles that discuss getting started selling things advise us to question “who is the customer?” Unfortunately for me, I’ve often ignored that question because the boutiques I serve are so varied. Magnify that by the fact that each store’s customers are pretty varied as well and the equation about the customer is pretty overwhelming. Yet, this week I’ve found that I really needed to stop and ask that question as I prepared to call on a particular boutique. This new boutique caters to the younger set and in the past the owner has suggested I needed some pieces made with chain or leather ropes. My more heavily beaded pieces just weren’t what she needed. One day, while in this store, a girl about high school age came in and tried on clothes. As I watched her, I finally “got it” and realized I did need some pieces with leather, chain and ribbon.

I felt this wasn’t my style initially, but as I’ve made a valid attempt at it this week, I’m excited to be trying something new. It may allow me to expand the options for all my customers.   chain

The first two pictures show necklaces made with a good deal of chain. The mahogany bead piece has handmade copper chain in the back with handmade copper jump ring dangles in the front. The second piece is similar in style, but utilized both hand made copper chain and plated silver chain. I added beads to every other jump ring in the front.

double chain

I think these pieces turned out OK, because they have both sold before I even call on the customer for whom I made them.

I also experimented with ribbon and leather cord for a few pieces. I know designers often work with ribbon, but it was tedious for me. My thumbs are quite ruff from working with metal and wire, so the ribbon kept sticking to them and raveling. Fray check for ribbon ends has now become my friend.

brown rib and pearls

 

green amber

 

 

 

 

 

 

The necklace on the right sports a green amber cabachon wrapped with dull aluminum wire. It hangs from a dyed silk cord I purchased at a bead show. The organza ribbon bow can be removed.

I made several other pieces on the leather cord which are not pictured here and hope to also work with the black velvet ribbon I purchased.

I do not yet know if the customer for which I designed these pieces will like them, but I do know that thinking specifically about “who” the customer is influenced what I designed. I’ve found this to be true before. Once, I was commissioned to create a pin for someone whose bout with cancer was concluding. As I thought about the patient, the pin just seemed to make itself. Another time, a western wear store that usually sells sterling silver wanted to try some copper and that influenced the design of the piece shown here.    lapis

So, “who is the customer?” Apparently, my customer is the boutique for whom I am visiting next. Today while scheduling my next trip to a specific Texas Hill Country shop, the owner said “you know what I like”. Yes, I do and in the next weeks I’ll be designing specifically with her in mind.

Know your customer. This can open some avenues of design that I never imagined. But sometimes, I want to remember that I am the customer too and create just exactly what I LIKE!

“When I Am An Old Woman . . .

. . . I shall wear purple . . . “  Those are the initial words of a poem called Warning by Jenny Joseph. The poem appears in a book by the same name edited by Sandra Halderman Martz. The contents of this collection include both poems and short narratives such as The Trouble Was Meals, Late Autumn Woods and Reaching Toward Beauty. Years ago when I first bought this book, I thought the pictures of the elderly woman throughout the book were frightening. But after so many trips to the mirror and the nursing home, they look quite normal now. Reading it now for the third or fourth time Warning remains my favorite entry. Not only does the woman in this poem say that she will wear purple, she’s also going to make up for the sobriety of her youth by picking flowers in other people’s gardens and learning to spit. In the final part of this piece, author Joseph suggests that she needs to practice now so that people won’t be shocked when she really is old and starts to wear purple.

I say “hurrah!” I think we should all wear a little purple now and not wait until we’re too old to get a kick out of it. I’ve actually been practicing for years now. Once while shopping with my young adult daughter we saw a rather rotund lady going in a store with curlers in her hair and an orange housedress on. I asked my daughter to not ever let me do that. Then, on her wedding day as we rushed around with our preparations, there I was with curlers in my hair and my lime green and orange housedress on. I went to the nursing home to pick up my Mother in that garb. I’m thinking that when I’m old no one will worry about what’s in my hair or what I’m wearing. I guess I was just practicing on that wedding day.

Today’s jewelry pieces fit with all this practicing. They’re PURPLE! As I looked around at my products and caught up on what had sold at the stores, I realized that purple goes out the door pretty quickly. See what you think about these two new pieces. am1 The pendant at the right hangs from a lightweight strand of amethyst chips and sterling rounds. The bezel is one of those for which I became brave enough to use all sterling silver. Other pictures are in my etsy store at the following address:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/53924047/sterling-and-amethyst-pendant-necklace

The second piece is based on the colors of a specific garment at one of the boutiques. The amethyst is highlighted with just a few olive colored Czech crystals. You can see one of the larger stones best in the side picture blowup. http://www.etsy.com/listing/53963222/amethyst-and-sterling-necklace?ref=v1_other_1

amet2

 

amebest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that I’ve got my purple to wear, the poem also says I can gobble up samples in shops and wear my slippers out in the rain. It sounds like I’ve got all sorts of things to practice for when I’m an old woman. Does anyone out there want to join me?

The Pickle Ate My Pants

I looked up the word pickle and found all sorts of connotations that I hadn’t considered. The first definition usually appears as food or something you do to food as in pickled okra. Then there are all manner of situations that cause one to be “in a pickle”; yet, none of those fit this situation. Let’s get to the beginning of the pickle I’m talking about.

As I’ve probably mentioned before, when learning something new, I try to practice it every day. This goes back to learning and then teaching piano and realizing how skills develop over time. I’m continuing to do daily practice on making sterling silver bezels. While some days I think I’ve really mastered it, the next day is often a disaster and puts me back in my unskilled place.

Lately, I’ve completed a bevy of bezels, most of which are already gone; but a few are shown here. bezebl glack

 

bezel copper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blue bezel

The copper backed bezels remain the most difficult due to the variation in temperature needed for copper versus silver.

Now, about that pickle. After spending considerable time one afternoon working on copper backed bezels, I took off my apron and noticed big holes in my shorts. I didn’t recall any sparks flying from the torch or any pain in the area of the holes. This did, however, remind me of the time I went fishing with my dad and his pocket caught on fire. He was dancing around pretty well when he figured out that his tobacco pipe, which he stuck in his pocket, was not completely extinguished. I think we later threw away those trousers. I guess I was luckier than him since I didn’t have to do any dancing around.

It wasn’t until a day later that I figured out what happened to my now-holy shorts. The pickle must have eaten them. I remember seeing drops of pickle fall on the shorts during several trips of the copper back and forth to and from torch block to pickle. (For those of you who aren’t metal workers, pickle is a solution used as“a treatment of metallic surfaces in order to remove impurities, stains, rust or scale (Wiklopedia).” I think I either mixed my pickle a bit too strong or I need a longer, tougher apron.

This morning as I was making the daily bezel, I felt something easing down my leg. After the shorts versus pickle incident, I’ve become more aware of what gets on me while I’m using the torch. The bezel had just reached the right temperature for the solder to begin to flow and I didn’t want to have to start over by stopping to see what was after my leg. So, I decided that I would not jerk or yell when the “something” bit me and I WOULD finish that bezel. Luckily, when I finally completed the bezel and extinguished the torch I learned it was just my untied apron string that was crawling down my leg. I think I lucked out on that one.

I can’t wait to see what “get’s after” me during the next bezel practice. I never anticipated so many extraneous happenings would occur while designing jewelry.

Pickle . . . we all either eat them or get in them from time to time, but I never imagined that one would eat my pants!