Tuesday, October 6, 2015

If It's Tuesday...

I'm busily preparing for a last minute jaunt to Belgium with Miss Donna Penoyer. Donna is teaching, and I'm tagging along for the ride! We'll go to Ghent, Bruges, Temse (where Donna is presenting a whistle class), and then a fast visit of Paris. Get ready for lots of inspiration.

I'm also really pleased to say I have two registered artists for Make Your Mark and one for Metal Clay Immersion. If you missed my last post, I'll be teaching four workshop intensives at my Richmond Virginia Studiolo in 2016. Read all about them here.

Last week I started work on a little amphora which I thought I'd decorate with a carved design. It was 5 cards thick, and very dry, but as I worked on it - it shattered into 5 pieces! After a quiet little temper tantrum, I decided to put it back together like Humpty Dumpty, and fire it anyway. Here's to perseverance! Can I get an Amen!! It's not exactly what I had imagined, but didn't turn out so very badly. I think I'll keep it.

Have a great week, and thanks for visiting.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Path to Perfection

I'll be doing my first craft show in 4 years this November. I used to do the Contemporary Crafts Market twice a year in Los Angeles, but since I moved to Richmond - I got out of the habit. Earlier in the year I applied for the one, really high-end show here. The Craft and Design show put on by the Visual Arts Center where I teach. It's a difficult show to get in to, and I sent in my application just to re-wet my craft show feet, thinking that I wouldn't actually be accepted. But I was! Fancy that. Woo Hoo! (Exhibit your excitement for me here). All very well and good, but since I've been focused on teaching and not making - I don't really have very much jewelry to fill my 8' x 8' booth.

So I've been making new pieces and trying to re work old ones, and in my search of ancient bits and bobs I found a tiny box that used to be a class sample for a workshop that I taught as far back as 2006 or 2007. And my brain's gears started turning... I decided to transform it into a pendant set with an antique photograph of somebody's relative (not one of mine). Since the box was already fired, I had to think carefully about what I wanted to do to it, and in what order the tasks needed to be performed. It was meant to be a table top trinket, so it needed some way of hanging it, it needed a chain, it needed a bezel. So the question became how would I accomplish each, and in what order. And as I worked I came up with a few more decorative details I wanted to add, like the two little beads on the bottom.

First I made the bezel, and soldered it inside the box, next I soldered two jump rings to the back of the box to act as the chain connections.  I was initially thinking of setting two little pearls on the bottom of the box, so I drilled two holes to fit 20 gauge wire into, and then soldered the wire into the holes. Then I stopped and thought some more about how I was going to construct the chain.  Was I going to use leather? Or ribbon? Was I going to wire wrap chain to the jump rings? Solder? I decided to use a handmade clasp that I had fabricated a few weeks before, and wire wrapped the whole thing together, just to see what I thought about it.

Then I started looking at my existing stock and realized that I use little pearls in my work quite a bit, and started looking through my bead containers for another option. I came upon some sliced, green garnet beads and decided to try those. Perfect! But the holes in the beads were too small for the 20g wire pegs - so I had to get out my diamond coated bead reamer to drill them out, and then used 2 part epoxy to glue them to the pegs. Then I decided that the clasp really should be soldered to the chain so that it would be really secure, and that the chain would look nicer if it were connected with a soldered jump ring too. But I had already glued on the little garnets! I knew that it would be a quick operation to solder the chain to the box, so I wrapped sopping wet paper towels around the garnet beads, and soldered the jump ring shut. Worked perfectly! What a good trick. Wish I could remember where I heard about it.

Then I decided that the chain didn't look quite right, and thought I'd attach a short line of beads to one side of the chain. I like to amend/alter commercial chain so that it looks a little more unique. Wire wrapping was the perfect way to 'string' the beads. Then it was time to set the photograph and the rutilated quartz. But how! The bezel was so tight to the inside dimensions of the box that using a traditional bezel pusher was out of the question. I ended up pushing over the bezel with a spatula, and perfecting the edge with a tiny ball burnisher, and the whole thing looks lovely.

So what's the point of this blog post? Is it to tell you my entire process? Kind of, but really it's to inspire you to think about what happens after you make your focal piece. How will it be worn? Do you have the skills to finish it the way you envision? Do you have the tools? If you don't, can you think outside the box to get the job done?

This project was actually very simple, and might have been easier if I had planned the entire thing out from the beginning, but even working as I did - kind of higgeldy piggeldy - I knew I could do it. The thing I thought about before I started was not all the soldering, or the chain design, or how to patina, but I had to know that I would actually be able to set the awkwardly placed stone. I love the way this pendant looks, and I'll try a design like this again, but with the knowledge I now have - I'll be sure to make some adjustments (like making the walls of the box shorter so that the bezel is easier to access), and to think about the work path a little more fully before I start.