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Etched Nickel Components

It’s been a quiet summer in my studio.  My little ones are home and it’s a slower time for sales, plus there are things going on behind the scenes that have hijacked my attention, so I enjoyed having a little break from making jewelry.  But preschool is starting back up and I’m itching to work on ideas that have been swirling around in my head.

I have etched copper using chemicals or saltwater, but there is an unused sheet of nickel silver that has been sitting in my studio for years.  I bought it on a whim back when I used to be able to hop on a train and shop for supplies in New York City for the day.  (I laughed out loud when I saw how little I had paid for it!) Because it contains nickel, an element that causes a skin irritation for some people, I hadn’t used it in any of my metalwork yet.  It’s not as soft as sterling, doesn’t actually contain any silver, and doesn’t polish up as brightly either, so it is kind of the black sheep of the white metals family.  But I remember making a note to myself that this stuff can be etched like copper with supplies found at Radio Shack, unlike silver.  And thanks to my trolling Pinterest during summer break (ahem), I got the idea to make etched nickel silver components for drop earrings.  The earwires would be sterling silver, and no other part touches skin.

I had another unused product I had bought a while ago, a StazOn ink pad, which is supposed to stick to all kinds of non-paper surfaces.  I applied it to a rubber stamp, then stamped that on the cleaned surface of the metal.  After that dried I filled in a little with a fine Sharpie, then let it go swimming in ferric chloride.  (Parents, please do not let your children swim in ferric chloride. It will stain their swimsuits.)

After etching and neutralizing I oxidized it with Black Max, which was surprising because it doesn’t work on copper, but I prefer it on silver because it’s faster, easier, more color-neutral, and less smelly than liver of sulfur (and reusable).  Then I polished off the raised areas and am really tickled with the results.  I can tell which leaves were added with the marker, but I’m okay with that.

I had intended to make fat rectangles for the earring components, but after I cut one I decided it would look better (and go further) halved into long rectangles.  I like linear earrings anyway; they’re more flattering to the face and less likely for the nickel to touch the skin as well.  I don’t mind the muted gray of the nickel, as opposed to the bright white of the sterling silver.  It pairs well with labradorite, which has its own interesting, stormy look going on.

Here is another pair with white freshwater pearls.

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Spring collection

I love birds.  My husband kind of scowls but laughs whenever I bring anything else bird-themed into our house.  (He gave me bird things for Christmas, though, so I think he’s catching on that they’re not going anywhere.)  And bird stuff is everywhere, so apparently I’m not the only one who loves it.  Again this year I did some bird-inspired pieces in my spring collection for Simply Charming Boutique.

Of course there has to be a little pink & green for our beloved Apple Blossom Festival, too.

Brenda (from the shop) encouraged me to do some more artisan-looking pieces like my Elements line, so there is a larger presence of wirework…

…and birthstone stacking rings that are made to order.

I also played around with some empty sterling bezels on copper.  I could fill them with polymer clay or resin, but I liked how they looked with just the metal.

Happy Spring!

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Since Fall

Hi again!  It has been a while since I updated this so thanks for your patience.  It’s not because all my free time is spent on Pinterest, I promise.

Starting in September I rented studio space downtown close to where my kids go to preschool.  It was glorious being able to drop them off and then walk to work, making jewelry for hours on end without the distraction of the computer or housework (ahem) until my alarm told me to go back and pick the kids up.  I showed you a little of my Sedona line, and after that I did a grouping with Swarovski-set components (like this focal) as part of my Facets collection.

I am still working with colored stone briolettes for my Facets collection as well, and I hated to see this pair of cluster earrings go…
Purple, pink, and orange!
Also I can’t get enough of those big honkin’ Chinese crystals, so I did some long necklaces and wire rings featuring those for the holiday season.
But after Christmas change was in the air.  The pedestrian mall was torn up for an infrastructure upgrade and facelift, and it has been interesting to watch all the work going on just outside my studio.
Cutting down “my” tree, piece by piece

 

Along my commute
I decided not to renew my lease downtown after my spring collection was delivered to the shop, but instead move my tools back home again (for now).

Goodbye, studio

It actually isn’t because of the construction. This is the time of year when I get to focus on other things!  For example, my jewelry friend Judy and I recently played with CopprClay, a copper version of PMC that will likely be paired with turquoise in my Sedona collection in the fall.

I love the torched patina on the left one
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Sedona sampler necklace

When I don’t know what to make, or I don’t have enough of any one component to make a whole necklace, I make what I call a sampler.  It’s not really a sampler per se, more like a charm quilt where every square is made from a different scrap of fabric.  But to me “charm necklace” still conjures up images of plastic charm necklaces from the 80s so I use the term “sampler.”

I digress.  I’m on a turquoise-copper-silver kick right now, so the latest addition to my Sedona line is this necklace.

It started with this pendant, which is a section of copper water pipe with a nugget of turquoise pinned on silver wire.

Pinning, in this case, is using a torch to ball the end of a wire, trapping something on it.  If you use a lame torch like the one on my bench that is really meant for caramelizing the top of crème brûlée, you might burn your stone before balling the wire.  Not that that ever happens to me.  (Note to self: Get the oxy/acetaline Little Torch out of the shed because it would be awesome at pinning.)  I have a habit of losing interest in a necklace once I finish the pendant, and then I just stick it on a chain and call a day.  Either that or my kids wake up from their naps and my creative streak is curtailed.  Anyway, I thought this pinned pipe pendant deserved something more than a chain, something more artful and creative, so I created the sampler necklace.  But then it became so busy and visually heavy that the pendant was better off being showcased on a chain.  And so I made a different pendant, slightly larger and plainer, for the sampler.

This picture was taken in my studio, and I purposefully didn’t crop out my tan line to prove (to my mother who reads this) that I have a dress on.  See that little swatch at the bottom edge?  Also in the background you can see my card catalogues, which make awesome bead-strand storage.  (My local library in Delaware went digital around the same time I was making jewelry there, so I taught beading at summer library camp in exchange for their old card catalogues.)

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More Sedona

The next pieces in the Sedona series…

Etched copper caps

 

 

Raku glazed ceramic

 

 

 

The last pair is my favorite so far, inspired by what Kristi Bowman did with her copper components.  The copper components have oak leaves and acorns, and sterling silver rivets attach it to the turquoise wheels.

It took me as long to photograph, post, and describe those earrings as it did to actually make them.  This is why I am so grateful to outsource my selling.  That being said, I’m building up my inventory for a fall grouping at the shop, which means these will be sitting in my studio until then.  If you’re dying to have something, let me know.   Earrings are around $28-36 to give you an idea.

A word about Sedona…  Although featuring copper and turquoise, I don’t intend for this line to look “southwestern.”  The turquoise isn’t the bright, clear stuff from Sleeping Beauty mine that is commonly found in inlaid Native American jewelry.  There will be no silver feathers, squash blossoms, or scalloped bezels.  I wanted it to have more of a “western” feel… My inspiration includes horses, their leather tack and silver stirrups, a little bit rustic and rugged.

Here’s a question for the lurkers: Would you wear copper earwires?  For example the raku glazed ceramic earrings above have only copper so I think it might look odd to put sterling hooks on, but I think some people are unable/afraid to wear anything but gold or sterling (which is silver+copper).

Stay cool out there and THINK FALL!

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Sedona debut

Just talking about the copper and turquoise had me itching to make some.  So after the kiddos were in bed last night I had a go.  I have several designs swimming around in my head, and I actually have some paper sketches I made in a frenzy after I *dreamed* about this.  (My dreams tend to vaporize the moment my feet hit the floor.)  Dreaming about jewelry is more of a sickness, really. It doesn’t go away at night like so many people’s jobs.

Enough talk, here are some pictures.

Copper, bronze, turquoise nuggets
Torch-enameled flower buds, copper plate

 

 

Raku ceramic, boro lampwork, copper
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Sedona

Hi, gang. I know it’s been a while since I checked in, but it’s summer and I have even less bench time than usual. But it’s summer! And it has been so mild and beautiful. What better time to think about fall?

Here’s what’s on my bench…  (It’s Bead Table Wednesday.)

Copper and turquoise.  No, that’s not turquoise, but it was sitting with my photo props and is making its internet debut.  I actually don’t know what stone it is; I inherited my great aunt’s rock collection and I think it was in there.  She used to polish her own cabs — very cool.  I remember digging through her dops and tumbled rocks and such when I was a little girl, which probably planted seeds for my love of making jewelry.

Anyway, what is the copper part of that picture?  I don’t take time to do a lot of sketch-planning in my jewelry making, but I did sketch out some things to cut out and hammer and play with for my fall line, which I’m calling Sedona.  I’m planning to use hammered copper, plenty of turquoise (and other teal things), some verdigris patina on copper, and oxidized silver.  Like this…

 

Leather, copper, sponge coral, turquoise, c. 2007

Alas, my studio is across the hall from my sleeping kids so I haven’t done much hammering lately.  It forces me to plan more, which is a good thing.

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BTW

Our plumber, Glen, came to swap out the faucet in the hall bath so our 3-year-old can wash her hands by herself.  I had called him after deciding that cutting copper supply lines was outside of our DIY realm, and after Glen was finished he was collecting all the pieces and I asked if he had plans for the old copper pipes and that brass ring thingy.  When he said they were just going in his scrap bin to recycle, I was all like, “What else is in there?”  One person’s trash is another’s treasure. 

Look at that natural verdigris
I am planning to cut the pipe into segments to be sliders on Viking knitting or braided wire.  (My tutorials for Viking Weave and Vertebraid can be found here.)

What’s on your bead table this week?

Update 4/22: Glen brought me a whole bag full of those brass rings.  Yay!
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Bargain hunting with gold and gemstones

Last week I took a grouping of my Facets collection to the shop downtown, and in looking back over the pictures a few thoughts occurred to me.  High-karat gold and rich, faceted gemstones are really popular right now, even in the tough economic times and sky-high metals market.  But I’m too much of a bargain hunter to settle for jewelry designs that cost “a million dollars.” (That’s my phrase for when something is ridiculously expensive.)  Last year I introduced gold-filled (a heavy layer of gold over base metal) components as a price-savvy alternative to solid karat gold, and this past year with the gold market even higher I have found even more economical-yet-fashionable solutions. 

I buy stones according to color because my customers are more concerned with the look (Will this match my sweater?) than the pedigree (Is this garnet A-grade?).  For this necklace I could pay top dollar for flawless, earthy green briolettes (A-grade peridot, for example) but I chose cubic zirconia to go with the fall mix of citrine, rhodolite garnet, and smoky quartz.  And if a stone has a small inclusion it’s not like the Gem Police are going to be up in your grill examining as one might, say, an engagement solitaire.  So while this may not be a necklace passed down for generations, it does have the color and wear of real gold and the weight of real stones.  (Ever have the full-on Monet experience at big retailers?  It looks beautiful until you hold it and realize the beads are plastic.)
I have previously drawn the line at gold-plated components because they’re generally cheap looking anyway, and because of the thin layer of gold they’ll tarnish much sooner.  But lately I’ve put a lot of work sourcing components to get the look of high-karat gold without the pedigree, as with this laurel wreath.  It is matte 16K gold-plated brass and, while I know it’s not going to wear as tough as gold-fill, it’s in a low-traffic setting (pendant) and a heckuva lot less expensive than solid 18K gold.  And that sweet little bee in the necklace above is vermeil — 18K over sterling silver — so it also has intrinsic value without the price tag of solid gold.  Again, these may not become estate pieces, but that also means you don’t have to love them forever.  (I love yummy soft leather handbags but I never buy them because then I’d feel obligated to carry/repair/love the same bag until I’m 60, and I’m too fickle for that.)  So for $39 you get the actual color of high-karat gold along with real citrine and garnet in rich tones for fall on a gold-filled chain.

These pieces (N791, N806) are used for illustrative purposes, but may still be available at Simply Charming Boutique.