Category Archives: Techniques

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.

Prongs

I’m preparing to teach my newly designed Hot Metal Mania class in a couple of weeks. I’m very excited to be able to include prong settings in the curriculum using both sterling silver and copper settings.

prongs

I originally set out to just do the type of prong setting that has a back plate, like those below. (The first piece really does hang straight, I just rushed with the photo.)

 

prongs3

prong setting

These require carefully fitting wire prongs snuggly into holes in the back plate and soldering them in place. I made quite a mess of the first few I tried, but persevered and finally figured it out. This has all manner of possibilities for embellishment.

Since I want my students to work some with sterling silver, I figured out a reasonably simple and fairly inexpensive way to make prong settings that have open backs such as those below.

pr2prongs 6

prongs7

You can see the open back in the photo below.

pr3

I went ahead and wrote a tutorial with photos on this one for my students and also put it in my etsy store. This type prong setting really emphasizes the beauty of the stone.

My current challenge is to QUIT making prong settings and move to the next design. I’m just enjoying these so much that I hate to stop. But then . . . surely I need a bit more practice; don’t you think?

Experimentation

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.

sawn earrings   torch ear 

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???

   azurite

  enamel and earringsear1

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!

Color Your World

What colors your world? There is probably an obvious literal answer if you simply look outdoors. Here in the Texas Hill Country, we’re enjoying the Spring growth that follows the blooming Bluebonnets and other wildflowers. We’ve had a bit of rain and our pastures here at Dreamcatcher Ranch have greened nicely. You can see someone else who colors our world in the photo below.

blue G

It seems only fitting that I try to add more color to my metal work and “Spring” it up a bit at this time of the year. Of course, the torch enameling has helped with this, but there are other techniques. I’ve used various purchased patinas to help provide more color but largely stayed with Liver of Sulphur. Yesterday I varied my approach and was relatively pleased with the results.

colors I added some ammonia to the LOS solution before dipping the butterfly. It’s hard to identify in the photo, but it reveals more of an iridescent look. I created the circles on the butterfly using a technique created and taught to me by Carolyn Gebert. She demonstrated how to place the metal inside an embossing template and hammer it. I also used a torch enameled piece of metal inside the bezel. The circles were formed (or malformed) by hammering them on a sandbag. Then, I torch fired each piece. It’s always exciting to see what develops with this process and I have no idea how to exactly repeat what I achieve. I soldered a tube rivet onto the larger circle and used an amethyst crystal. The other two circles are adorned with small sterling silver balls. I think these three will become a necklace. I realize that the Spring colors outdoors will soon change as our usually harsh summer commences but perhaps knowing they are short lived helps us appreciate them even more. Cognizant of the fact that the colors on the metal can also dissipate in the atmosphere, I sealed all of these pieces with an automotive spray paint sealer which I’ve used before. You can’t preserve everything . . . but I try. I’m just glad that my world gets colored in many different ways and hope yours does too.

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!)

Sharing Hearts

It isn’t even February, yet, I’m making heart shaped pendants. It just seems like the thing to do! I prepared the two in the photo because I wanted to experiment with making bails for an upcoming meetup of designers.

hearts

The bail for the heart on the left is made from a small piece of copper sheet soldered on the back. The one on the right utilizes a bail made from wire, also soldered on the back. My grandson told me that this heart has heartworms! Hmm, I really didn’t see it that way, but I’m not three years old. I used my new leather sand bag as a base for creating the doming effect on both pieces. I dimpled them with dimple pliers. By the way, thanks to a talented friend, I was able to saw the heart shape from the middle of each piece. Thanks Adele!

Following is another photo of a heart pendant made for the same meetup. I torch enameled the copper rectangle and riveted the heart, cut out of the center of a piece shown above, to the metal. I used a tube rivet which gives it some dimension. The back shows the small piece of tube I soldered to the metal for a bail.

heartfront  tube bezel

The photo below doesn’t seem to fit with this blog entry . . . yet, it is the essence of “heart”. It was commissioned by one adult sister for another in remembrance of their girlhood when they watched the cardinals together. I’ve shared this previously online, but wanted to repeat. Wouldn’t you say the giving sister was “sharing heart”?

cardinal complete

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I hope that commercialism doesn’t remove the heart from the giving. It often seems that men, in particular, are harassed by the advertisements to a point where they feel they must spend a good deal of money for their sweeties. I hope the men I know will understand that this woman just wants a little “heart” in one form or another.

In the News

I’ve been remiss in not sharing a little success via this venue. This month, October-November, Step by Step Wire Jewelry published one of my pieces. Below is their photo of my Tri-Loop Necklace.

tri

This example was made in sterling silver with lovely amethyst stones from Magpie Gemstones (www.magpiegemstones.com) There’s a very long period of time between having something accepted by a publisher and actually seeing it in print. The publication also contains my complete tutorial for the necklace where you can find out the sneaky way I make those tri-loops. These are NOT made on a jig.

My friend, whose sister works for Disney, calls this the hidden Mickey necklace. Just look at all those ears. She purchased one for her sister in copper and it looks great. I was pleased to see it. Someone who read the magazine also sent me a photo of her version of the necklace. If you make one, why not send me a picture too?

Also, I have another piece that should be out in the same publication in a couple of months. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

Waving

How do you wave at folks? Do you just raise one little pointer finger to acknowledge them are are you an all-out-use-your-whole-arm waver? The latter is the kind I see outside a certain San Marcos business. He’s waving with his entire body as he dances to the music emitted into his earphones. He’s been waving there for so long that they’ve even made a billboard about him. Did I mention he’s really skinny too? All that waving seems to pay off in one way or another.

I’ve been waving with my wire jewelry for years. I started with a simple wire wave bracelet and continued by making wave necklaces. Originally, these were made from recycled copper wire, but now I use new 14 gauge for the pieces. They've also gotten a bit shorter recently. You can see the bracelet contrast in the photo below. Obviously the shorter piece is not yet completed. If you want to make these yourself, I have a free tutorial for the bracelet published on the Magpie Gemstones’ (www.magpiegemstones.com) site: http://www.magpiegemstones.com/wave_bracelet.html

short wave

I’ve also tried waving with different shapes.

wave tri

Here are a couple of versions of the newer wave necklaces. The first features riveted copper charms (faith, hope and love).

wave necklace2

The second is embellished with amethyst stones and the wave is a bit more full.

wave3

I guess I’ll keep coming back to this standard in my jewelry line and continue to perfect my wave. How about you? What kind of waver are you?

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?

Stars

 

starry2

I made the pendant on the above necklace in preparation for the upcoming Cold Connections class that I’m teaching. It has a nickel silver back disk and I used a scrap book punch to cut the star hole out of a light gauge piece of copper which was dunked in liver of suphur. I riveted this to the silver. Then I got a little carried away with this star idea. I riveted a couple of other disks and wired more stars to the piece. I wanted a “Texas” Starry Starry Night. The beads are turquoise briolettes and spiney oyster barrels. The components hang from a purchased black chain.

Part of the difficulty with a piece like this is figuring out when to stop. I prepared more riveted stars and considered using more little silver components, but enough was enough! Two of those pieces are now earrings. I’m trying to learn that one consideration is designing a piece is the size of the person who will likely wear it. I wanted to wear this piece and since I’m only 5’1’’ I can’t have anything too big. This is about all the dangle my neck can handle!

This is the first time I’ve made a true “theme” piece. I supposed as a Texas necklace it might have included boots and an armadillo, but that’s just a bit too themey for me – don’t you think? Would Van Gogh be disgusted by the idea?