Monday, September 1, 2014

EtsyMetal Blog Carnival: Organization

The theme for the current EtsyMetal Blog Carnival is "ORGANIZATION".  So I'm going to show you a wee bit of how I organize some of the things in my workshop.

After watching Hellen Buttigieg’s show a few times (Hellen is a personal organizer with a tv show called “Neat”), I began to understand that not everyone can organize the same way.

For years I never understood how I could get these great organizing systems (filing cabinets, storage boxes, shelved closets, etc) and still end up with piles and heaps of things everywhere.

Then one day Hellen was analyzing one her customers and assessed her as a “piler”. One who needs everything in plain site and within easy reach… and the normal way that comes in to being is by making piles.

Piles of papers to be filed, to be sorted, to be dealt with. Piles of books to read, piles of supplies to put away, piles of pieces to be polished, etc.

And so I’ve adopted for my workshop the same system Hellen used in that episode so that the woman no longer had “piles” as her filing system. Everything is organized but it’s all out in the open and within easy reach.

I think this is also explains why I prefer open-concept loft living rather than compartmentalized housing. I want everything around me, visible and available.

The first thing I ordered after this revelation was the kind of paper organizer you see in school office's.  Here's mine.  The overflowing cubby is business receipts (yes, I spend too much).  I love storing my sandpaper in here.  It's at my fingertips within seconds.  I also store my photography backgrounds here.

So to answer some of the questions for the blog carnival:

1) How do you organize your tools…

I have lots of different places for my tools, but they’re all group into logical places (as far as I’m concerned)

Some of my smaller items are in pencil holders and other jar-type containers. They’re grouped by things like: brushes, tweezers, hammers, etc. 

I made a spur of the moment purchase at Joann’s once when I saw this carousel on sale. It’s been one of my best workroom purchases. It spins (of course) and has three drawers at the bottom. One of those drawers is marked with an “x” and is dedicated for silver scrap. So when I’m working on a project and have a bit of silver for the recycling drawer, I just slide it open and dump. SOOOOO much easier than when I had to open a twist top box that was inside another box that was stored in a drawer. See, with that much work, I just won’t do what I’m supposed to do when I’m supposed to do it. With everything out in the open and within easy reach, things get put into their proper places immediately (which means “to do” piles don’t build up). 

My most recent acquisition was a couple of magnetic strips. I love these! It’s so great to have my tools right there, not in a pile, not in a bowl or box. Just right there… and so easy for me to put them away when I’m done too. I love my magnetic strips!!! 

I have a hanging shoe storage thing that houses cables, goggles, rags, and other things that I need in plain sight.

I’ve got other tools (not shown) in various places about the workroom that makes sense to me. The only thing I’m still lacking is a decent stand for my flexshaft.

2) How do you organize your shop…

My shop is one work table in the center and then tons of storage items against every square inch of wall space.
I use a large dining room table that I put a piece of plywood on top of. When I do hot work, I add steel sheet over that.

Over the years I’ve discovered the joy of skinny drawers. I was putting things away one day into a drawered cabinet and realized that some drawers were so tall that unless I piled things one on top of another in a totally inconvenient way, I was wasting a lot of drawer space, which meant in turn a lot of room space.

My first “skinny drawer” purchase was two tall plastic cabinets.

My most recent skinny drawer purchase is these awesome half-size wooden cabinets on wheels that just happen to fit right under my work table. As you can see, they hold the same trays I’ve been working with for years… those ½ inch jewelry display trays… with and without compartments.  These are so convenient for keeping my ongoing projects in order.  Also, I don't skip things when it's time to tumble, patina, or solder.

I love my label-maker, btw.

3) How do you organize your finished work…

Because most of my work includes metal, I keep all finished work in airtight plastic bags and then in drawers based on what it is (earrings, bracelets, etc).

I do seem to keep a few pieces on necklace busts distributed about the room, but most of my finished work is sealed and drawered.

4) How do you inventory it?

I use a database (in Access). I created a file about 12 years ago and add a tweak here and there every so often, but otherwise it’s still the same file. I create a new section for each year. I can run reports on anything I want and filter the info in a bazillion different ways. I’d be lost without my Access file. 

So it may not be pretty, but that's my workroom.  Not going to end up in House Beautiful, but very functional and practical for me.  A place for everything and everything in its place.

Check out the other EtsyMetal Blog Challenge Entries:

Debbie Ritchie:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Picasso and Afremov Inspired Jewelry, Linking Pinterest with Facebook, Argentium Silver Price Comparison

I’ve finally started teaching out of my workshop. I like not having to pack things up and then put them away (twice). I like not forgetting something crucial and then having to do without. I like having everything at my disposal so we can go off on tangents if we want.

SRAJD Weekly Jewelry Making Challenges

I’m still taking part in the SRAJD weekly theme jewelry challenges when I can. I’m sad to have missed a few of the weeks in July as the theme was iconic painters.

I did manage three Picasso-inspired pieces. I was having so much fun learning about Picasso’s art while reading up on this challenge that I went ahead and explored some designs based on three different periods of his painting career.

The first piece is inspired by Picasso’s “rose” period. This followed his famous “blue” period and instead of the cold colors with somber themes, his paintings took on the warm red, pink and orange hues with more cheerful themes. My charm bracelet features these colors accented with the stark black and white of the harlequins that Picasso added to his paintings during the rose period. The clasp is homage to my joy of Picasso's sunflower paintings. 

My second piece was created after I read about Picasso’s influence of the movement that included collages in fine art. Some say the term collage was as a direct result of Picasso. For this simple piece, I chose the theme of famous artworks, mostly women’s faces, and just made a miniature collage pendant, sealed with domed resin. 

For my final piece, I chose one of Picasso’s most iconic periods of art, cubism. For this piece I first cut a piece of rose bronze sheet then soldered small, cut out bits of copper sheet to it, flattened it in a rolling mill, then repeated the process for a second layer. I then added a patina. 

Then I missed the week for Piet Mondrian.

Got back in the saddle with inspiration from Leonid Afremov. BTW, here’s what his paintings look like. 

And my entry.

I’m attracted to the vibrant colors of Afremov’s work and in a perfect world would have loved to enamel on top of these rings, but I was pressed for time so ended up doing colored resins instead, giving them more of a Monet appearance than Afremov. I’m still happy with how they turned out as this was my first time trying to make rings like this based on a tutorial from Jewelry Making Daily. It was a bit tricky since I don’t have a square ring mandrel, but I improvised. After cutting, filing, and annealing the copper tubing, I formed the squares and stamped (can’t really see that) textures on three sides of each ring. I then added a patina and decorated the tops of the rings with colorful designs reminiscent of Afremov.

I’m so sad to have missed the final week which was Henri Rousseau.

And all these things are still sitting in my overflowing drawer entitled “Things to List”. I have an equally overflowing drawer called “Things to Photograph”. Yes, I’m a wee bit behind. Will try to put my nose closer to the grindstone this fall.

Linking Pinterest and Facebook

With social media marketing being both important and time-consuming, I wanted to share with you a tip that you may or may not feel like enlisting.

I don’t always have time to hit up each social media site on a daily basis so I do cross-post a lot and I use whatever technology I can for that.

There is a feature on Pinterest so that each time you pin something to a board, the will also become a post on your Facebook timeline.

The good thing is that this can save you time.

The bad thing is it posts to your personal FB page, not your business/fan page.

This is okay by me because I’m not much into separation of art and personal… I’m one all rolled into one. But I know a lot of my readers prefer to keep their work/art and their personal lives separate.

For those who don’t, here’s what you do…

  1. If you click on your icon/name in the upper right of the Pinterest page, it will show you a drop down menu. 
  2. Click on the second option “SETTINGS”.
  3. Scroll down past Account Basics, past Profile, and past Email Notifications (unless you want to turn that off while you’re here… I personally HATE email notifications for Pinterest and/or Facebook).
  4. On the section for Social Media Networks, just click on the white box next to the word “no” (which would then reveal the word “yes”). If you’re already signed in to Facebook, which most of us are, you should now have a “yes” there and all you have to do is click SAVE SETTINGS at the bottom of this page now. You may also set it up to post to Twitter and others.
  5. When you do a pin and get the PIN pop-up, in the lower left of the pop-up there is a check-mark box and it says posting to Facebook. If you do not want to post that pin to FB, just uncheck the box. Whatever you last do is your new default. Meaning if you remove the checkmark, it will be removed the next time you pin something. And if you HAVE the checkmark, it will be there the next time you pin something.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) versus Etsy Search

Speaking of getting seen, I don’t think internet search engines (Bing, Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) look at the "tags" we use in our Etsy listings.

They're looking at the title and the first few words/lines of your listing description. So you need to think from both perspectives when selecting title, description, and tags. Don’t put all your eggs in the “tags” basket.

If you want to rank higher with the general search engines then give equal attention to title and first lines of your listing description.

Now a Trip Into Fantasyland for a Second

Except, for these home owner’s it’s not fantasy at all. Lucky people! Check out these totally awesome houses by clicking here.

Here’s just a taste… 

And I've figured out one more way to describe the house I'd like to live in in the future... a house designed like a loft.

Argentium Price Comparison

The other day I was shopping for some Argentium wire. Look at the widely different prices I found. 

Alright… talk to you later! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Perfection in Jewelry Making, Leather Clasp Ends How To, and Mobile Card Readers


I was working on a piece of jewelry yesterday and noticed that the metal curved a bit. My intention was for it to be straight. We’re talking about a curve of maybe ½ a millimeter. But do you know where my brain went immediately?

“Okay, here’s one for the garbage pile.”

Then I stopped myself and realized I was going against everything I believe in…. and I’d been GOING there for awhile now.

Here’s what I tell OTHER jewelry artists, “It’s not SUPPOSED to be perfect. You don’t WANT it to look like it came out of a machine. So long as the piece has structural integrity, and that any ‘flaws’ do not limit its intended use, it is a perfectly good piece of jewelry… perfectly good, if not better.”

And here I was, ready to toss out a perfectly good ring because there was a slight curve where I’d intended things to be ruler straight.


It’s a fine line I walk.

I think part of the problem with my mentality is that my design aesthetic is usually for very stark and minimalist pieces with precise lines and shapes. Sometimes it’s much easier to spot flaws in minimalist jewelry than in more elaborate pieces.

Then serendipitously, a framed piece of wall art fell off my workshop wall today and as I was putting it back, I read the artist’s statement printed on the back of the painting. Here’s an excerpt:

“[Katsumi Sugita] was trained in a variety of media, but he settle on brush painting because of its directness and immediacy. Because it is not correctable, it expresses a feeling directly to paper.

“”It is deceiving in its simplicity and its apparent ease. When a painting is simple, it is easier to see the errors. The simpler the painting, the more flawless it must be. My paintings express a feeling of simplicity. This comes through the expression of one feeling, not conflicting feelings, in each painting.””

It suddenly dawned on me that I’m betting one of the reasons I love minimalist art work is because my inner me is always striving for simplicity of life.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I look for when admiring jewelry in a store, at a show, or online.  And if I think about it, that's all I have to do to my jewelry too.

Here are the things I look for:
  1. It must not look machine made.  It must look/feel like something that someone used their hands to make.
  2. It must look high quality.  Just because something is made by hand rather than spewed out by a machine does not mean it should look like a third-grade art project.  I must be able to discern a certain level of technical skill from the artist.  Quality materials usually play into that too.
  3. It must be unique.  I want something that resonates with my personal aesthetic and not be the latest trend on the block.  A piece of jewelry I would have something to say about if asked... a story behind the piece whether that story is the inspiration or meaning behind the design or if it's a sharing of the technique involved in the making... or maybe even just information about the artist.  My jewelry has to have a story of some sort.

If that's what I look for when *I* want jewelry, it makes sense that that's the kind of jewelry I should be making too.

Leather Clasp Ends

Now, onto other things. The other day, we were discussing something in the SRAJD forum. Someone casually mentioned they were looking to purchase the kind of finding that goes on the end of those necklaces like those multistrand Native American chokers.

I cut a circle(ish) from a piece of scrap leather that I already had in my workshop. I use pieces of scrap leather and suede between things like my jewelry and my vise or my jewelry and my anvil… to keep tool marks to a minimum.  Like this.

The piece I used seems to be about 1½ mm.

I folded it in half and cut a sort of half circle.

Then I marked five dots on the inside along the center crease and used my hole punch to punch 1/32” holes. That’s where you would end your strands. The knotting, crimping, or headpin ends get hidden once you fold the leather over.

Then I used the 1/8th hole punch to go through near the top of the leather (still folded so the holes are even). That hole is for the leather/suede thong/string.

Then I took a piece of leather thong and strung it through the 1/8th holes.

I put headpins into the five stringing holes so you could see how it works, but if your necklace/bracelet ends with string, you just put the end through the holes in the leather and crimp or knot as usual… those parts don’t show.

If I were doing this for real, I’d clean up the edges of my cutting a bit better.

Amazon and Square Mobile Card Readers

Just keeping my readership up to date on the latest card reader news.

First off, I’m assuming most of you have heard that Square (and PayPal possibly, I didn’t research that yet) will be coming out with a new card reader soon to accommodate chip-based (EMV) credit cards (an almost universal type of credit card in Europe and slowly happening in the US now). You can read more about this here.

Important to note: “… the party that has lesser technology will be responsible for the liability of card fraud.”

There is a charge for the new card reader (card readers were previously free), but Square assures us it’s a very small charge.

And still on the card reader front, there’s more news…

Amazon has a card reader and their percentage rate is lower than Square or PayPal (all credit card processing services charge a percentage of the transaction)…. Sort of. If you sign up before Halloween of this year, you get the nifty 1.75% rate until the end of next year (Dec 31, 2015). Starting in 2016, the rate is 2.5% (still a smidge lower than the other two which are currently 2.75% and 2.7%).

The unit costs $10 which you get back in credit when you start using it.

If you’re interested, here’s the link to the item.

The Amazon card reader will only swipe mag strips. It does not process via EMV chip cards (although chip cards have mag strips so can still be processed… it’s just not the more secure way we’re all heading… my guess is Amazon will come out with a new chip reader eventually).

All that being said, you may want to check out the reviews before placing your order.

My Recent Work

Here are some metal clay pieces I’ve been working on.

We’ve got a hockey bedroom in solid copper.

A road trip on Route 66 in copper, bronze and steel.

And a bracelet I made for the Angkor Wat weekly challenge that I just sent off today to its new owner. But then a friend came over and asked how I made it so I demo’d that and decided I really like this bracelet and want to make it a regular in my shop. So more are to come and it’s a class I’ll be teaching too.

Until next time…

Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's My Birthday

Today’s my birthday.

I know I haven’t posted much lately but this is going to be a vapid enough entry that it won’t count as anything yet anyway. Soon, though.

Two days in the year I like to whatever I feel like doing and being extremely lazy (if I so desire) and not feeling guilty about anything like not working, staying in my jammies all day, eating what I want, etc. My birthday and Christmas.

I did sleep in a bit, but I go dressed as soon as I got out of bed.

I’m actually enjoying cleaning my workshop. I do so very slowly, taking many distraction breaks (Facebook, playing with the cat, getting a snack, etc). So I did that for awhile then went to my dad’s for a visit and lunch.

From there I went to watch my daughter play in a tournament. The game went back and forth and at the final buzzer it was a tie so they went into a shootout. Monica’s team won. Nice birthday present.  (Mon is the yellow goalie)

Back home, more SLOW organizing and cleaning then I’ll make a salad and veg out in front of the tv.

I received hundreds of well wishes on Facebook and that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Yes, I know FB notifies users of their “friends’” birthdays, but these people made the effort to post on my wall and for that I am grateful and honored.

On a down note, the sealant testing isn’t going so well. I’ll probably do an update soon.

And... a new guy has shown up.  Of all the fosters and ferals we've taken in, I think this is the scruffiest, saddest looking cat I've ever seen.  Skin and bones and just NOT good looking (healthy-wise, I mean).

He's been here pretty non-stop for about five days now so I'm guessing he's making himself at home.  Runs away as soon as he sees a person, but otherwise gets along with the other cats (thank goodness).

The dude empties the cat food bowl pretty routinely.

Hope everyone else had a great day and talk to you soon!

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Metal Clay Sealants Testing Finally Begins

I realized too many of my projects were being put on hold because of my indecision about sealants so I decided to put everything on the back burner and get on with the testing.

Here are the five test pieces. Created as equally as I could. Each piece has an unpolished steel backing (more on that in a minute), and three panels in front that are from left to right: bronze, steel, and copper.

I added a patina to the copper because I often patina my copper metal clay pieces and I need to know how the sealants work/react in real world applications.

I’m also testing out a theory that one of the spray sealants I was using was creating little dots on my copper.

The reason I didn’t give the backs of my charms a high polish (like the fronts) is because sanding and polishing metal clay burnishes the metal and makes all the metal molecules lay flat (I’m probably not saying this correctly) thus creating more of a water-tight barrier.

I’ve done plenty of experiments and water will totally soak into a non-polished piece of fired metal clay, while a burnished surface will repel water.

I recently coated some non sanded pieces because I wanted to see if I could “lock in” the cool kiln patinas I get. The problem is, 99% of these pieces have to remain unpolished and I’m just not sure how that whole absorbent thing works with sealants… do they also sink right into the interior of the fired piece? If so, that defeats the purpose of the sealant. I'm watching those recently coated pieces to see if there are any changes over time.

Now back to this experiment…

While I’m saying what type of sealants I’ve used on each charm, I’m not giving exact brand name for two reasons. One, I think half the fun of learning is doing your own experimentation. And two, I don’t want my results to encourage or dissuade anyone from any particular product. Your own experimentation is the best for you because you may apply a coating completely differently than I do.

For the liquids, I dipped the entire charm into the solvent. If I end up liking this sealant, I will try brushing on as sometimes dipping is less than optimal.

For the aerosols, I coated according to the directions on the cans

What I’ll be looking for is:
  • What the sealant looks like on the piece (does it make the piece shiny, tacky, dull, etc?)
  • How well does the sealant resist water (I work with a lot of non-stainless steel)
  • How durable is the sealant (will it last a long time?)
I will wait 24 hours for the coatings to cure, then I will attach the charms to a sterling silver chain and wear the bracelet non-stop except for during the stress tests.

Come back for the results of that.

For now I’ll assess my first impressions.
  • Charm 1 (non-lacquer solvent-based liquid): too glossy
  • Charm 2 (lacquer spray): fine
  • Charm 3 (acrylic spray): fine
  • Charm 4 (lacquer spray): fine
  • Charm 5 (acrylic resin spray): a bit too matt… lost some of metal’s natural gloss

Let the testing begin!