Tag Archives: jewelry

I Still Exist!

And I’m still making things!

I won’t linger over the details anymore, but I’ve been busy in the metals lab since I stopped keeping up with this blog. Here are a few things I’ve completed.


This is a labradorite bead riveted into a silver frame. I like the look of these riveted projects but I’ve become tired of trying to find long beads that are drilled through cleanly and without chips around the ends (which can cause the rivet to bend and distort.) I had to really ream this one out–but it was so worth it.

 

 

Ah, I finally found something to do with the copper “crazy quilt” disc I made a couple years ago when I was experimenting with copper solder. I really like how this turned out (and I also recently made a bead with nine little texture samples on each side like this, but don’t have a picture.)

 

Here’s a bit of fun made with some scraps. I got the color with a power stripper.

 

Malachite is always good for some drama, I think.

 

Inevitably, when you get a reputation for making jewelry, friends and coworkers come up to you with broken jewelry, hoping you can fix it. This piece is pretty much a copy of a cheap, plated bypass ring that someone I work with wore for years until the band snapped at the point where it adjusts to size. She’d hoped I could fix it–nope. But I thought about it, and made a band that night with a piece of sterling wire and a hammer and a mandrel. From there, I got the OK to recreate the ring (tip: get the shell bits out by heating the back with an alcohol lamp until the epoxy weakens and they fall right out.) She was really pleased with it, and I am too. It was a good learning experience (and I made the band thicker so it won’t break this time!)

 

After I finished the above piece, I still had bypass rings on my mind, so I hammered out one for myself and tried out different stones until I fell in love with the look of this red agate. Soldering was tricky, but I’m getting better all the time.

 

I bought this stone a few years ago and made a few failed attempts to design a pendant and set it (remember?):

 

Well, here she is now! That brass framework was a real . . . challenge. I bought my own solderite board to bring to the studio–perfectly flat, and with grooves carved into it to hold those pieces exactly where I needed them. The end result comes close to what I had in mind all this time. Still waiting for the chain to tarnish a bit, though. I randomly melted some silver solder around for an old, industrial look (note the solder around the joined areas) but it doesn’t quite show up on the links yet.

 

Here’s a fun scrap piece I made with some wire bits I melted together some time ago but never knew what to do with. At one point last spring I was making a simple ring with this stone (and, for the first time, adding a jump ring inside the bezel to make the stone stand taller) when I held it up next to the scrappy bit and thought, “Wow! Perfect!” And that’s how this happened.

 

Remember these old dudes I hammered out back in the day? The two on top became earrings, and I hung onto the big piece for a long time, trying to think up a good necklace idea. A little extra piece and a little crochet later:

I rather wish I hadn’t punched holes in the corners, but I did, and that made what I ultimately came up with a bit more difficult than if, say, I had soldered loops on the back. Still, I’m loving the simplicity of this one. I’m glad I waited on it.

 

I sketched this out last October, hoping to make use of this neat sardonyx cabochon I’d been holding on to. This piece turned out a bit difficult due to its size (and trying to solder on square copper wire bits without silver solder blorps everywhere!) The back has a pin mechanism that was a bit tough–the pieces are so tiny and need to be placed exactly, and you have to be sure not to clog up or fuse the catch during the process . . . but I pulled it off. I even made a pin/pendant converter with a piece of tubing and wire.

 

My teacher, Bob, was recently given a huge box full of jewelry supplies, casting stuff, sterling silver, you name it, from a donor who had retired from jewelry making and didn’t want the stuff anymore. Among the treasures was a spool of 30 gauge argentium which he had no idea what to do with–but knew that I would, as a knitter/crocheter. I ended up buying it off him (with proceeds going back to the studio) and made this crochet cuff with some beads and a sterling frame I made myself. It’s got a bit of beginner’s wonk to it, and I ought to have practiced more before making the real thing because one side of the strip is looser and sloppier than the other, when I started really getting the hang of it. But this was interesting–and I’m in the middle of using the remainder to make a kind of mesh amulet bag from instructions I found in an old Lapidary Journal from the 90s.

And last but so, so not least. Remember when I started futzing around with wax to carve rings?

I finally got these both finished after months of inactivity, messing up one and doing it over, and just generally worrying about doing something wrong and ruining all that work. Last week, they were cast in silver.

They’re still not done (clearly), but man, is it a relief to have gotten this far! They are heavy as hell–I wish I’d carved away more wax on the interior but the wax was getting delicate and I was nervous about breakage. I shouldn’t have been, though. The thing on the left, if you’re wondering, was a slice of ring wax that I’d carved into with a new set of wax working tools as a kind of technical exercise. I figured if I made the design well enough, I’d cast it. And so I did–with a different design on each side. It’ll be a reversible pendant when I’m done.

And that’s about where I am on the jewelry front. As for knitting, I haven’t bothered all that much. I’ve got two pairs of socks made with crazy rainbow yarn I tried to dilute with solid colors, and a clone of my cat.

Pattern: SlipStripe Spiral

 

Pattern: Ugly Duckling Socks

 

Pattern: The Parlor Cat

And that is . . . probably . . . all for now! I’m sure I’ll catch up again in a few months. Until then, keep crafting!

 

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Filed under amigurumi, beads, bracelet, casting, crochet, knitting, metals, necklace, pendant, pin, ring, riveting, socks, soldering, stones/gems, wax carving, yak yak yak

Hammertime!

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Here’s a little something that turned out better than I could have hoped! I came up with the design shortly after finding that beautiful central agate at a rock, gem, & mineral show in October.

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fivesketch

(As you can see, I opted for the second idea.)

There were some design challenges here. And some funny moments, like when I soldered the big bezel on using a brand-new solderite board. The silver kept sliding around as I worked, like a sweating glass on a wet tabletop. Never had that happen before!

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Getting the three discs on the bottom soldered onto square wires was a particularly tough challenge, especially since the central one was thicker than the sides. I had to work from the back (heating from the front would only make the solder on the bezels flow again, plus I wouldn’t be able to see when the solder flowed in back.), and getting the pieces lined up straight and pressing against each other was a bit of a challenge; I’m used to working with pieces that have a flat side so it’s easy, and this was not so. I ended up blorping on more extra-easy solder than I might have liked, and while I was able to grind a lot of it away, there’s still a color mis-match on the back of those discs, and with extra-easy it only takes a day or two for a tarnished look to pop up again.

But live and learn. And speaking of learning, I had to figure out how to set the stones. For some of them, putting wooden blocks behind them on either side of the central wire worked really well (like the uppermost, round agate.) For the lowest, smallest ones, not so much. It was very tough using hand tools to set those stones without bending or warping anything; I tried setting the whole piece on a sandbag, but that was of limited use. Also, I nearly f’ed up setting the big stone.

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Here I used a common trick to test the fit: lay down a bit of dental floss, insert the stone, and use the floss to lift it out again. Well, that worked fine, so I popped the stone back in without the floss. Only THEN did I realize I forgot to take down the corners of the bezel first.

Oops.

And that stone wasn’t coming back out.

So, I carefully drilled a hole in the back. I was afraid of hitting the stone, but you can definitely feel when the bit is done with the silver, so that was fine. I pushed the stone out easily enough with the other end of the drill bit, filed down my corners, and . . . wait, what about this hole now? I had to think about it. I drilled three more, and sawed out little squiggly shapes around each one so it would look like a deliberate design. Well, it worked well enough, and gave me an idea for another project later, so that part made me happy. But–

I just could not set any of those stones to my satisfaction with bezel pushers and rockers and burnishers. For one thing, I’m starting to develop pain in my hands, especially around my thumbs, and this didn’t help. Also, like I said, the wires in back were different gauges and I had a hard time getting just the right support underneath the pieces to be able to apply so much pressure without ruining anything. So when I got done setting them all at home in my basement workshop, I just felt depressed about the whole stupid thing because it didn’t look right at all, and I was a big failure, and all that.

But I took it to class anyway, and Bob knew exactly what I needed.

handpieceAre you there, Santa Claus? It’s me, Jennifer.

Here’s a bezel pushing tool I had dismissed as a silly gadget for lazy people, because I am a closed-minded, short-sighted, and stupid person. Sometimes. This hammering attachment for the flex shaft is exactly what I needed to get into all the awkward angles and push down those silver bezels exactly where I needed to. AND there was no need to worry about putting pressure DOWN–the force just goes horizontally from metal to stone (and if you’re worried about damaging the stone, as I was, you probably don’t need to be. These agates and carnelians took it well. Maybe an opal wouldn’t, I don’t know. And don’t forgot to protect their surfaces with masking tape, just in case.)

So that was my adventure, and the big project of this class cycle.

Just for posterity, here’s the pretty, pretty back of the agate. Because I guess I’ll never see it again, except through four tiny squiggle-shaped holes.

fiveback

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Filed under helpers and devices, metals, necklace, pendant, soldering, stones/gems

More Teeny Tinies

My mother’s birthday has come and gone again, and I’m still trying to make small, lightweight earrings for her.

I thought I had a winner with these:

smalls1

I’ve made similar ones before, but these are a touch more elaborate . . . and I guess kind of heavy. I don’t see my mother very often, and I never realized she’s–well, she’s 75 now, and her earlobes hang in a way they didn’t used to. So after I gave her these, and saw how they droop on her, I came home and started working on another, tinier pair with hopes of getting them done by Thanksgiving when I’d see her again. I think this time I have a winner.


smalls2

These are very small, and thin, and lightweight. It’s hard to see here, but there’s a subtle stamp pattern on them, underneath the crossing lines I put in afterward. I think these might work very well. Can’t decide if I want to blacken the lines, though, or keep everything shiny.

A few more things are in the works, as always, including a project that’s been on the back burner for three years. I’d hoped to show it by now but I got to the very end and screwed up big time. Or I thought it was big time. Now I’m not so sure. I can’t work on it until I feel better and know what to do next.

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Filed under earrings, metals

Lazy Chain (and other news)

I had several ideas for making my own chain for this piece I’d been carrying around for a while, but in the end I bought a couple lengths of prefab at the local bead store, twisted them together, popped on a clasp, and called it done.

hornedtoadpendant

The copper bit was a piece I fished out of the studio base metal recycle bin ages ago and hammered up. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with it, until Bob gave a me a couple of white bronze horned toads he cast years ago from some ready made wax models. I tried one out and the pieces went together perfectly.

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from 2013!

So my big thing lately has been an attempt at a Sydney Lynch-esque box bezel for a beautiful, faceted rutilated quartz stone I bought at the gem and mineral show last year. It was quite the challenge, as I needed to make a step bezel inside to keep the stone in place. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the stone were, say, round or perfectly rectangular, but all four sides have a bit of a curve to them, and making a perfect fit was a challenge I kind of failed.

quartzpendantfirsttry

I made both inner and outer boxes from two bent pieces–think L7–soldered together. Only, the inner bezel slipped, so you can see the corner doesn’t meet up properly. And, somehow in all the soldering, the corners of the outer bezels popped open just a bit (and no, trying to fill them with solder didn’t work, and by that time I had got the bail on with a ton of sloppy, extra easy solder, and trying to fix one would just make the other melt and fall off again . . . you get the picture.) The upshot is, I totally could set this stone right now if I wanted to and have an adequate piece of jewelry that no one would really notice the flaws of. But I think the stone deserves better. And I think I learned a few things on this one. So, when I have the energy and drive again, I’ll just do it over. And better.

One last thing on my bench–actually two things. Wax rings I’m carving all by myself.

waxmodels1

So far, so good. I found a good tutorial in an old issue of Art Jewelry magazine and I’m following it step by step. I’m more invested in the ring on the left with the lapis stone; the one on the right I’m using for practice, just in case I do something stupid (and I did, once, accidentally start carving the outer edge before it was time and that messed up my ability to measure other areas a bit.) If things continue to go well . . . ah, but I won’t jinx it. I’m just having a really good time working on jewelry lately, which hasn’t been true for a while.

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Filed under metals, necklace, practice, ring, soldering, stones/gems, wax carving

Feeling Better, or: Something Old, Something New

purple1

A couple weeks ago I made a trip to the local bead store to do a little impulse shopping (actually, there was one thing I needed . . . and I’ll get to that in the coming days . . . ) and these are some beads I took home and strung up. A bit more expensive than I usually do, but I really liked the iridescent daggers and thought I’d just go for it. I like to have beading breaks in between classes, although this time around we had studio time every single week right up until fall session started.

And speaking of studio time, I’ve decided it’s time. Time to learn how to do this.

waxring1

Hoo boy. I’ve heard that it’s good to always be a novice at something; keeps the brain sharp. Well, here we go. I tend to suck at subtractive processes–I can add bits together to make something, but to see it in a block of wax and carve away the excess? No, I don’t have any innate abilities there. But maybe I can get some experience. Anyway, I’m excited. The project is a very simple ring and surely I can’t . . . no, I won’t jinx it.

And in other news, I hit the annual gem, fossil, and rock show and scored (among a few other things) these beauties, which remind me of nothing so much as vintage 1970s art:

stones1pretty sure that bottom one is a sunset from an old Sesame Street cartoon

I’d like to sit down and draw up some sketches for what I could do with these stones, and as luck has it, it’s now October, which you might know as #Inktober. I’ve been meaning and meaning to get back into drawing again, but my efforts have been sporadic and my hand has gone to crap. Really, I’m terribly out of practice, and my writing/drawing hand is now just my mouse hand and it shows. So, every day this month, I am going to draw. Maybe not always with ink. Maybe I’ll just doodle or do exercises some days, I don’t know. I’m not going to bother posting them anywhere. I just need to do it and be that person who draws again.

And one last thing I’ve been doing: I set aside the crafty business books for a while in favor of some guides with titles like “Art and Fear” and “Staying Sane in the Arts.” So far they’ve been very helpful for me in deciding what I want to do and how I want to go about it and how to get and sustain the mental energy I need to accomplish this. More on that as I go.

And more posting in general. I might go back to, indeed, posting my works in progress instead of waiting until something’s finished. It seems to keep me going some days when I don’t feel like it.

 

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Filed under beads, casting, drawing, necklace, stones/gems, yak yak yak

Finished Business

As 2016 winds down, I’ve been making strides in finishing up some projects and ideas that I had set aside for . . . oh . . . two years or so? Three? I’ll start with the one I’m most excited about:

copperwashernecklace

This little everyday-wearable copper beauty is made of washers. Hardware store washers! I hammered and stamped and domed and drilled them back in summer class my first year of real jewelry making:

coppercirclesnecklace

And now that I finally have a chain I like, and the patience to make some jump rings, well, it’s all done now. Three years later.

Here’s another thing from that era, me playing around with links made with some lovely glass beads from my local bead shop:

glassbeadsandwire

They are finally necklace material now.

glassbeadschain

And while this, technically, isn’t something I started and stopped years ago, I have been meaning to do it for some time.

glassbeadsaluminumchain

The (aluminum!) chain is Sam’s Chain from Spotlight on Wire, something I’ve done before and wanted to revisit in larger link form. The beads . . . well, I’d hoped to wire-wrap them back in the day, but meh.

And now back to new things, as summer 2016 draws to a close and I need to clean up some silver pieces I made in class.

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Filed under beads, necklace

That Thing I Was Agonizing Over

purplejade

This thing. It’s done. Currently, it’s sitting in a case at the Illinois State Fair. Which went well, by the way.

purplejadeISF

I got beat out by a couple of (admittedly fantastic) woodworkers, because the division is simply “crafts,” not “jewelry” or “wood” or “textiles” or “ceramics” or anything. As awesome and ego-boosting as my third place win was, I’m left wanting a more meaningful competition. Perhaps it’s time to look into jewelry magazines (if any of them are left), juried shows, I don’t know. Maybe just start preparing to go into business. That’s competition enough.

Anyway. Here are some progress shots. I did everything metal–the setting, the end caps, the chain. And I even braided the cord. The hardest part was figuring out how to get the side and bottom bars on. Overlap them? Cut them? Inlay one into the other? In the end, I cut off the ends of the bottom bar and soldered them on to the sides using the world’s tiniest mortise and tenon joint. Whee!

 

benchmess1

The sketch.

 purplejadepiecesThe plan.

 

purplejadesoldering

The soldering.

purplejadejoints

The swearing!

purplejadeback

The sawing.

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The caps–two sets, just in case.

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The cord.

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The whole shebang.

Coming soon: socks. Because yes, I still knit sometimes.

 

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Filed under necklace, pendant, soldering