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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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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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Use what you have

There’s a decorating concept called “use what you have” which is a low-budget way of drawing from your current accessory stash to freshen up the look of a room in your house.  It forces you to be creative instead of shelling out money for more components.  I needed to make a grouping of earrings to take to the shop, something to fill in and coordinate with my summer and fall collections, so I challenged myself to draw from the components I already have instead of ordering parts. 

I chose to draw from various sizes of jump rings left over from when I used to sell chain maille kits.  I didn’t want to make chain maille earrings per se, but I did hook rings together using a mixture of different textures to make it more interesting.  Added some goldfill bubble chain and rings into the mix for a bimetal look, and voila.

There are some shaggy loops and subtle nods to Japanese maille, but not really any chain maille patterns. I also cut discs and washers from my precious patterned silver, which I have been hoarding for years.  (Actually, I think it’s considered hoardering since I can order more.  No, hoardering is not the act of ordering multiple drinks right before happy hour ends, but ordering more of the prized items in my bead stash just so I don’t have to use them up.)

What do you have in your (kitchen, closet, studio) that you can use instead of buying more?

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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

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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New at the shop

I brought a new collection of jewelry downtown to Simply Charming Boutique, so if you’re in Winchester, Virginia go have a look!  For everyone else, here are some highlights.  Some themes are lampwork, brass & copper, orange-y red, and electroplated leaves.  It’s hard to hide my excitement for fall…

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Bead Table Wednesday

I’m not very good at telling you guys what’s new in my studio, but it happens to be Wednesday and I have seen other jewelry artists participate in this, so I thought it would be fun to post about what’s on my bead table today.

Trying to stockpile pieces for fall, I’m working in series rather than my usual, “make what I feel like making today.”  The current series is (begrudgingly) utilizing my stash of Koy Glass lampwork beads.  Some of the donuts have rather large holes, and usually this doesn’t bother me because I stick a bead cap over it or a bead in the hole and it looks more polished.  But donuts are worn with the hole showing, so I chose to line them with silver or copper tubing, which I get in the plumbing department at Lowes.

This is one of several “bead tables” in my studio, so maybe another Wednesday I will show you the organized chaos of my real bead table.  Here are the copper-lined big-hole-beads I did today.

And with all the tap-tap-tapping I woke up my studio partner, who was napping across the hall.  So I put her to work stringing beads.  Here is her bead table.
What’s on your table?