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.


Angela Crispin said...

It came out beautifully, Lora! Love how the little stones balanced out the chain visually! This piece is you with a twist, love it!

Anne Bellissimo said...

It takes a lot of skill and time to make those adjustments. You have a great -looking piece and you're to be commended for not taking every shortcut in the book when faced with a tight deadline. I like that fact that you laid out your decision making process. Techniques are easily come by (ha!) but problem-solving is tougher.