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Simplicity

Historically I tend to make whatever jewelry designs I feel like at the moment.  Maybe I find a strand of gorgeous turquoise or I have a wire design in my head that I want to work into a sampler link necklace.  This game plan offers a ton of flexibility for me because I can explore lots of different techniques from etching and metalwork to silver, copper, and polymer clays.  Sometimes I can combine different skills in one piece, like soldering custom bezels to showcase pretty papers under protective resin.  This is something I had been playing around with in my head while I was on hiatus in Sweden, and after moving into my new studio space this fall I got to play around with different soldering methods (soldering iron, torch) and be reunited with my paper collection after it had been tucked away in storage while we were gone.

2015-09-17 17.35.27

Unfortunately I realized that my epoxy resin needed to be replaced before filling the bezels, so while that was on order I got to work doing what I “should be” doing.  You see, not having many design boundaries leads to an eclectic look when you see lots of my pieces together, but jewelry tends to sell better when there is a cohesive look to the display.  So the designs I planned while brainstorming and playing with wire in Sweden finally came to fruition this month.  I wanted to create pieces that were a little less funky and chunky, more modern and sleek so they would be able to layer together nicely and appeal to customers who tend to wear delicate jewelry.

Small Infinity, Silver Curve, and Smooth Bar Necklaces

The simple designs are a lower price point and allow me to create when I can fit it into my family’s schedule.  The Simplicity Collection is available by clicking here.  My favorite piece right now is this sweet little bow I form from wire and hammer for dimension.

Silver Bow Necklace

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A little rusty

First of all, I want to apologize to my new blog subscribers if I filled up your inbox this week.  I recently designed a new website with blog and jewelry in one, but I didn’t want to lose all my old blog entries and so I was so excited to find a plugin to import the old entries into the new blog.  While still patting myself on the back my dear sweet friend Kerry sent me a text to let me know that she had recently subscribed to my new blog and just got nearly 700 emails notifying her of “new” AnneMade Jewelry blog posts.  I wanted to crawl in a hole right there, totally mortified.  I’m very thankful if you’re still with me as I am gearing back up to be a jewelry designer again after living in Sweden.

Back to my regularly scheduled post…

9After filling Christmas orders at the end of 2013 I started to focus on our upcoming move to Sweden, so other than a few little projects here and there I haven’t picked up my jewelry pliers for almost two years. It’s not that I didn’t think about jewelry, but living in Europe brought the opportunity to more easily see some things on my bucket list so it was fun to focus on something else for a change. If you’re a small business owner or a designer of any sort you may be able to relate to the illness I have of never being able to turn off that part of my brain. I would admire the shape of olive leaves, arches, and ironwork, all while mentally recreating them in wire. It’s a sickness.

Many people ask why I haven’t created jewelry in Sweden like I did back in the States. At first I was just enjoying the break, perhaps a little burned out from the pace of Christmas and then the move itself. Then I slowly started noticing shops around Gothenburg that might be a good fit for the look of my jewelry. When we went home for a visit I was excited to start creating jewelry again so I brought back tools and beads and my restocked wire organizer. I created some pieces for a Swedish friend, but each time I got my tools and supplies out on the dining room table I knew I had to put everything away before dinner. I didn’t have a dedicated space to work in our apartment, and I am the sort of person who thrives in a messy studio.

This is my old studio before it was packed away in storage for our time in Sweden…

studio

In Sweden, having to clean up and put everything away was really discouraging to my creative process, just like the knowledge that I’d be moving back to the States before long kept me from pursuing client relationships.  Plus I loved my expat life with the PTA walking group and tennis lessons and fika and international Bible study and traveling around Europe, so I decided to enjoy it while it lasted. And sure enough, the time has come to head back to a new-to-us home in a different part of Virginia, the moving details are falling into place, and I am chomping at the bit to meet my new studio space.

The time off has given me a chance to process and think about what I want from my business, where I want it to go. Starting a new chapter gives me a chance to make some changes, and I’m excited about unpausing and moving forward. I even dragged out my tools and wire to check the feasibility of some new designs I sketched, and I realized that my wirework skills are a little rusty. My hands wouldn’t do the thing my brain was telling them, at least not the first time. Practice, practice!

wire doodling

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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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Tree of Life

When I get a fun custom order I like to share the story behind it.  Recently I was contacted by Keith who wanted a special piece of jewelry made for his wife. “We married on Oct 8th 2011, and my wife included my two daughters, Morgan and Paige in the ceremony (along with our 12 other nieces and nephews).  The day was beautiful and my wife made everyone weep (including me) when she surprised everyone by making vows to my two daughters also.  She vowed to always be there for me and my daughters, because she was not only marrying me and committing to me, she was also marrying my daughters.  My daughters realize how lucky we all are to have her in our lives.  I only hope part of her rubs off on my girls and being with her makes them strong, independent, kind, caring, selfless women someday.  As I blabber on……I hope that you can help me……I am desperately trying to find someone who will make a special piece for my wonderful, loving wife.”

How could I resist?  Plus, unlike some well-meaning sweet husbands I work with, Keith had a good idea of what he wanted.  “My thoughts were a chunky rectangular bracelet or necklace with a family tree design, with possibly the kids’ names and/or birthstones somehow incorporated.  I want the center of the piece to simply state ‘BLESSED’, because everyday we are blessed to have her in our lives.”  He even sent me pictures of different jewelry pieces he liked so I knew we were on the same page.  I sketched (a rarity – I usually just start sawing and stamping)… 

…and he tweaked the design, and finally this is what I created.

Dillion is Irish, meaning “faithful”

I love the oxidized sterling, the chunky chain, how the focal piece is curved to fit her wrist.  I even used the compound leaf* stamp for probably the first time since I bought it several years ago.  The trunk was created with I and Y stamps, and I added serifs to the B to make the block capital look prettier with the lowercase Kismet font stamps.  Most importantly, Keith loved the finished product and gave me permission to share his sweet words about his wife.

*See?  I’m totally using my Biology degree. A compound leaf is one in which several leaflets share a single petiole.  I bet you didn’t know I was a plant nerd.  Don’t get me started on whorled leaves!

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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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Polishing without polish

Fall is in full swing here (!) and along with decorating with bittersweet and baking apple and pumpkin recipes, my traditions include plugging in the instant-hot-water faucet that I’ve unplugged over the summer.  It was one of the unexpected things when we moved into our house that we’ve really enjoyed.  I can make tea, oatmeal, and hot chocolate in an instant.  I can warm up a baby bottle without the microwave.  And today I found yet another use. 



Wire Crochet set (tutorial here)

I have a few pieces of jewelry that have been in my personal collection for a little while, and try as I might they wind up tarnished.  Normally I use a silver polishing cloth, silver dip, or throw the items into the tumbler to polish up the sterling silver, but these particular pieces contain turquoise and freshwater pearls which are easy to harm with traditional polishing techniques.  And the wirework prevents me from reaching all the nooks and crannies.  I remember back a few years reading about a method using hot water and baking soda, so I tried it. 

I lined a baking dish with aluminum foil, then poured in a few teaspoons of baking soda and salt.  Then I filled it with water from my instant-hot tap (you can boil water separately and pour it in), stirred it up, and put my jewelry in.  It can take a few minutes, but I could see the change right away.  Bright, sparkly silver with no damage to my turquoise or pearls, and no chemicals.

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Leather wrap bracelet

I love making jewelry, but I don’t tend to wear the jewelry I make.  Part of it is because none of my jewelry is sacred, so even if I love something after creating it, eventually it makes its way into my inventory.  Another reason is to avoid what I call the Amway Effect: My friends know I sell things as a business, so if I tried to sell products to my friends they might wonder whether I am only friends with them because they are potential customers.  So if I wear my jewelry it could be seen as advertisement, and my friendships are way more important to me than my sales.  (I have friends who actually give me a hard time for not advertising in this way; I can’t win.)  But my sales are just fine without nagging my friends, and if they want to buy something they know where to shop.  And then I can indulge in other people’s jewelry and support some of my fellow artisans.

Enter the wrap bracelet a la Chan Luu.

I want one, but haven’t found anything like it locally.  On Etsy they cost more than I want to spend, especially since I know how much the supplies cost (or don’t cost, as it were).  So the other day I pinned a tutorial and collected the supplies.  Still in Sedona mode, I chose chocolate brown leather and a silver button, but then I couldn’t decide if I wanted turquoise or bronze beads, so ultimately I decided to make a triple wrap using three different colors of Czech glass.  Not as ambitious as the quint-wrap pictured above, but still more interesting than a single.

So here and there I’ve stolen some precious kid-nap time to create this thing.  About three beads into the thing I was kicking myself for starting with a triple wrap, which meant my sewing thread was about 9 feet long.  Finally as I got to the third color of beads my thread was a reasonable length and I felt like it was easier.  I imagined Vietnamese women laughing at me as they cranked these things out for Chan Luu.  Now I know why the price of wrap bracelets on Etsy is so high, and after putting this much time into it I’m definitely wearing it around for a while.

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The most wonderful time…

This morning was cool and crisp, sunny with a few puffy clouds.  Gorgeous!  Perfect fall weather.  It was my kids’ first day at preschool, and I am renting a space nearby for a studio so I don’t have to drive home between drop-off and pick-up.  !!!

My building

As other parents were taking pictures and hiding tears I made a quick exit and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I walked by the coffee shops to say hi to other preschool moms.  (There will be plenty of time for good coffee; I was already wired.)  I walked to Simply Charming Boutique to check on my Sedona collection and show them some new graduated turquoise strands I bought.  (They are my middle-man, so they know the customers and I don’t.  I like getting a read on things when I can.)  I love being downtown!  Finally I unloaded a box of stuff at my studio, only to realize I forgot to pack my pliers which is like forgetting my hands.  I had been a little disappointed at the thought of being cooped up inside on a day like this anyway, so I drove home and enameled beads with my torch.

Blurry, but you can see some of the colors

For the enamel nerds: I’m testing colors from my sample pack from Rio of Milton Bridge transparents, and I really like that Ruby transparent bead toward the center.  And over to the right there’s Autumn Brown.  And several of the others have Autumn Brown layered over something bright (Turquoise, Nile Green from Thompson, etc.)  Some of the deeper green-blues have Mallard Green in them, another MB I like.

We didn’t have much cool weather over the summer (my bench is in the garage) so it was nice to have a chance to experiment with color layering and bead-gripping techniques.  Torch-fired enameling is tricky for me because I don’t want the bead to rotate on the mandrel, but I do want to get it off easily when I’m finished.  And now I can work on that because it’s the most wonderful time of the year.