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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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Color inspiration

Do you ever get in a rut with color?  For me I get stuck on robin-egg blue for spring, and burnt orange in fall.  The color wheel is just not that inspiring for me, so if you told me to use a triadic color scheme I wouldn’t get much beyond this.

Bright orange, purple, and green.

Sometimes I just have to see just the colors in question together to get excited about it, and sometimes it takes a version of the color to inspire me, like coral instead of bright orange.  Today (ahem, during the sermon at church) I couldn’t stop staring at my paisley belt.  I never would have put plum, olive, sage, salmon, and orchid together but it totally worked.  And look!  It’s almost the same triadic combination, but a springy fresh version of it.

And then I was thinking about how the jewelry version of the belt would be something from Laura Gibson.

Brandi Hussey is a whiz with color and has written a tutorial on how to use a picture to create a color palette in Photoshop.  So I tried it.

When you’re looking for new color combinations, take your camera to a store that sells fabric or fine stationery.

Notecard from PaperSource

Or find a fine art image, like the monthly challenge over on Art Bead Scene.

And then make a palette from it, even if you just do it in your head.  And then make jewelry that incorporates colors from that palette.  Mix some colors and don’t worry about the rules!

Update:  Molly has a great suggestion down in the comments (Thanks!):
May I also suggest using this amazing tool from Sherman Williams for creating a color pallet from any image. It’s called Chip It! And you can add it to your tool bar just like the Pinterest “Pin It” button. You can check it out here: http://letschipit.com  It is a designers dream!!

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Jewelry making: The gift that keeps on giving

I got this email today:
“Dear Anne,

I would like to buy a quality kit and tutorial for my 14 year old niece who is very creative. However, I can only spend about $30.00. Do you have any suggestions?  Thank you for your help.
Warmly, Jennifer”
First of all, it sounds like Jennifer is gunning for Cool Aunt status.  What a neat idea for a Christmas gift.  I suggested she keep it simple and stick to one type of jewelry: earrings.  Simple drop earrings are a really basic technique but one can do a lot with it just by varying the size, shape, and color of the beads. Maybe add a bead cap, or with a pair of beads try the big bead on the bottom vs. the big bead on the top.  I suggested that Jennifer print out the supply list my Earring Basics tutorial and head to the craft store. 
If you want to put together a kit for someone on your Christmas gift list to make simple drop earrings, she’ll need round-nose and chain-nose pliers, wire cutters, packages of headpins and earhooks, some practice wire around 20-24 gauge and (if there’s room in the budget) a small assortment of beads.  That way you’ve provided what the recipient needs to practice making loops and then several pairs of earrings.  Then she can pick out more beads on her own to suit her taste.  Plus, with that practice wire and her extra beads she can make a Link Bracelet (free tutorial download).
Jewelry making: The gift that keeps on giving!
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New tutorial

I have been making Puffy Hearts, these awesome sparkly beaded crystal pendants, for years now.  Once in a while I’ll get an email from somebody requesting something different — another shape or color pattern.  So here is my latest jewelry tutorial ready for download…

Puffy Heart Addendum: Center Gradient
(Click there to go to my jewelry tutorials page.) 

In other news, having a baby on the way (boy! October 21) requires me to gear back on certain areas of my business.  The silver market is in the $40s this week, which has made it difficult to keep my kit prices affordable and sterling wire in stock, so I’m suspending my kit offerings and just doing tutorials for now. 

Hope you’re having a fun summer!

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Flower Bud Earrings Tutorial

My brand new Flower Bud Earrings Tutorial is finished and available for instant download here
This is the first of my tutorials I have classified as “metalwork” as it didn’t quite qualify for wirework as we start with sheet metal.  As an added bonus I talk about how to make your own ball-head pins using a butane torch.  I’ve come to realize that I can do most of my soldering projects with this little guy while my oxy-acetylene outfit now sits, unloved, in the shed.  Figures.  We aren’t soldering in this project, however; it involves cold connections and these little flower buds actually aren’t that difficult to make.  And with silver passing the $40 mark I am trying to tastefully incorporate some alternative metals like copper and brass.
Happy Spring, y’all!
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Spring is here

Hi, gang!  It’s been a busy spring here in my studio, on account of the miserable weather we’ve had.  A new collection of pieces is looking happy at the shop downtown

I’ve also been able to work on some other projects like…

…the PMC Round Box Pendant tutorial!  It is a pretty simple and straightforward design, but I take you through step-by-step with little tips on things to look out for along the way.  I also show you how to modify the design to make your own resin blanks. 

This is a snippet from a map of Gothenburg, Sweden, in case you’re wondering.

More tutorials are in the works!  See that pair of flower bud earrings up there?  Hint, hint.

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Puffy Hearts

I just delivered a group of Puffy Heart necklaces to the shop downtown.  I weave these together from 73 Swarovski crystals and they are perfect for Valentine’s season or just to add a little bling to an otherwise plain outfit.  I am in love with the top color, Indian Pink 2XAB, an orangey pink with two coatings of Aurora Borealis, or AB.  Basically, gold is held in a flame and the resulting fumes land on the surface of the crystal to make a shimmery rainbow coating.  Clockwise the colors are Indian Pink 2XAB, Light Siam AB, Indian Pink AB, Fuchsia AB (bottom), Rose AB, Crystal AB (off to the left), and Siam AB, with Cyclamen AB in the center.

These take some time to make and I still have to follow the tutorial, but it is fun to see it puff out on the final step, and they are so sparkly in person.  I brought packs of crystals, a spool of illusion cord, and nail clippers with me on vacation last week so I could make hearts on our day at sea or in the airport.  (My husband snapped this shot of me in our stateroom.  The bracelet is by Hope Gibson, a fantastic lampworker I met in St. Croix.) 

My tutorial for the Puffy Heart Pendant is available for download here if you want to give it a go, or you can email me if you want to order a puffy heart in any color ($49 with chain).   Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all!

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Two New Tutorials

Custom Texture Sheets for Metal Clay or Polymer Clay

Remember this custom pendant I created from a wedding invitation?  Now you can make your own raised monograms, or you can type out a phrase in a pretty font to use again and again instead of stamping each letter individually.  Like this.
Vertebraid Bangle
This is a square/round (as opposed to flat) braid created with doubled strands of fine-gauge wire.  It makes an interesting base for sliders or Pandora beads.  Click here for the tutorial.
I had this braid sitting on my desk all summer; I’d pick it up and work on it when my computer was busy processing so I don’t really know how long it took me to braid. I think it takes less time than Viking Weave, but then again it depends on your proficiency at each.
Enjoy these new projects!