Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Solder Filled Sterling Silver Wire, Check Your Website for Mobile Readiness, and Copper Cuff Bracelets

The good news is, I got a new product and tested it out and rather like it (one caveat I'm still trying to determine the importance of).

But the bad news is that I forgot who mentioned this product and got me excited to try it.  I "feel" like it was one of my metal clay buddies, but oh my gosh my memory is a sad, sad thing.

Anyway, the product is solder-filled sterling silver wire.  What they've done is taken fine silver (.999 pure) and given it a solder-filled core, so that the make up of the metal still equals .925 pure silver and hence is absolutely technically still sterling silver.

The thing *I* am testing, however, is its malleability.  There are a lot of things I don't make out of fine silver because it's just too soft a metal.  The prototype of my Fairy Ring is a perfect example.


BTW, I have since started making these in sterling silver, but I'm still working on polishing them up.

And guess what... next comes a tutorial on the project!  Whoohoo!

Oh, where was I?



Ah yes, soldering this.  Since I only got 18 gauge to start with, I was worried I'd fry right through my first attempt to solder the wire.  I made a ring-sized loop in the wire, cut it, and filed the sides.  Then I laid it on my soldering block.

I recalled reading an article or tip in a magazine that talked about instead of heating the whole piece, just aim the flame onto the soldering block right in front of the join.  So my pick is pointing to where I'm going to aim the flame.


Here you can see where the flame is in relation to the join.


Within seconds I saw the join flash. I removed the heat, quenched, and it was good to go... no pickling.

But even after hammering (work hardening), it still felt like 18 gauge fine silver (even though it's technically sterling silver).  Too soft for anything but earring components.  I will, however, see if I can order heavier gauge and we'll see how that goes.


Are you mobile friendly?

How "mobile-friendly" is your website?  Test it out here.



How's school coming along?

Had fun making these copper cuff bracelets yesterday.  I decided to give them different patinas... both liver of sulfur only, though.


And the garden?

Apparently we're growing cats this year.


This is the view from outside my workshop window.  Normally, it's a vegetable garden, but mom cleared almost everything out for the winter... leaving just the right spot for Tennie.

And remember, no matter how awesome it is to have your alone time, also schedule together time with someone at some time this week.  It's important.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Starting with Wax Carving, Discussing Calories, and A Couple of New Jewelry Pieces

Found something that frustrates the heck out of me.... carving wax for casting.

After 15 years of making one of a kind items, I was thrilled at the prospect of making something I could send out for casting and y'know... continue to sell with a minimum of time investment that could otherwise be devoted to the one of a kind items.

But wow, I'm so uncoordinated at it.  Granted, part of the problem MAY be a lack of anything but the most basic of wax carving tools (an alcohol lamp, an exacto knife, and some sharp pointed dental tools).  But I don't want to blame my tools if it's really just my own inability.

Here's what I have to start off with...


I find it daunting to even THINK of a design.  In theory, I want something I couldn't do with sheet metal or through metal clay.  But any design I thought of could be make easier and more quickly with those methods.

What what what can I make from wax that I can't make from the other stuff?  BTW, that's a rhetorical question.  I know there's a TON I *could* make... but I don't have the skill/ability to do any of those.  Ha ha ha!

I had to go out and walk, clear my head, think for a bit.  I'm back now but have no better ideas.  Sigh.

So let's talk about walking then.

It's been just over two weeks and I can't say I have any more energy.  At first, I thought I did, but now I'm just tired.  I was so tired yesterday, in fact, that I didn't even walk.  ARGH!

I wake up... tired.  Of course that COULD have something to do with not being able to get more than 6 hours of sleep at night.  I guess instead of watching tv after 9pm from now on, I may just read... that should put me to sleep earlier seeing as how I get up around 5am regardless of when I go to sleep. 

The last book I started, I lost interest in.  I need to find something that will captivate me. 

That being said, it's only been two weeks (we're back to talking about walking now).  I don't think the disappearance of three pounds would give me a ton of energy.

And even if I don't drop weight... I am eating so much better... and that's saying a lot because I did eat way better than your average American even before I started really taking note.  Now, though, since I only want 1200-1700 calories a day, I have to make them meaningful.

Here, for example, is today's accounting.  The percentages in blue are the recommended daily suggestions from the Mayo Clinic.



And I'm not even worried that I went over a bit on percentage of fat eaten today because it was olive oil for my salad and walnuts for my afternoon snack.  At least those are nutritious fats.

Same thing goes for carbs.  If I'm gonna have 'em (and I am!), they're going to be from things like sweet potatoes and brown rice... not from breakfast cereal and corn chips.

If nothing else, I'm really enjoying the scenery on my walks...
 
 


Now back to work...

Totally loving these two bracelet parts I made this week.  My idea is to add some "manly" beads and clasps and then I've got more men's jewelry.  Yay!






And I'm trying to decide what to send as my second submission for consideration for the tv show Cedar Cove (have to mail the package tomorrow).  Since they chose my first submission to be worn on Grace, I wanted to try to design for that character again.  Here's my first idea for this second submission.


I may try designing a necklace tomorrow.  We'll see.

For now, I'm going to search for a good book and try to get to bed early so I have lots of energy tomorrow.




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tracking International Shipments and Men's Chainmaille Bracelets

Now, where was I?  See, this is the problem with having too many days between posts.  I forget what I've actually told you versus what I dictate via internal monolog.  Yes, I'm actually talking to you all the time and only a fraction of it gets transcribed into type. 

I need to get started on my wax carving for class.  I think I'm putting it off because... well, because I'm afraid.  I have ONE piece of wax and if I mess it up, that's it.  I'll definitely keep you posted on this project.

Other than that, I finally got my chainmaille bracelets listed.  Byzantine design (on top) and Inca Puno (bottom photo).
http://brackendesigns.com/product/bronze-byzantine-chainmaille-bracelet-large-size-patina-handmade
 http://brackendesigns.com/product/bronze-inca-puno-chainmaille-bracelet-men

I like making "man jewelry".  I find it much harder to make than women's jewelry, but that's changing.  So many pieces are unisex now because there aren't such hard and fast fashion lines.  I like that.

Tracking International Shipments

Y'know how sometimes when you look up the tracking number through USPS of an international shipment the info just kind of drops off as your package left the U.S.? 

Well, turns out there MAY be another place you can get info.  Here's a link that on occasion has more info about the whereabouts of your international shipment.

Quilting Instead of Prozac

And here's an interesting article (that I think may relate to beaders and other forms of jewelry making) about how these kinds of activities may act as therapy.

My Upcoming Photography Tutorials

I feel like such a slacker because these tutorials (three in all) are taking so long.  The problem is I'm working on them in my spare time.  Well, you all KNOW what that means.  Yikes!  Yeah, what spare time?

So since the move is settling down a bit, I'm using my afternoon workbench time to finish up the tutorials.  I think I've got the first two 99% complete.  Yay!  Just one more to go and I'll be golden. 

After that, I go back to jewelry making tutorials... much easier in a myriad of ways.

Speaking of jewelry making tutorials, I got the nicest feedback this week for my tutorial of a basic net-weave bracelet.

As I mention in my tutorial, this isn't a weave I made up... almost all bead weavers know about it and use or have done it.  I learned this weave from several different sources.  All I've done is documented the steps for someone who may want my version of hand-holding during the process of learning the weave.

Here's the feedback: "Beautiful pattern and Laura is a genius with directions, even I could follow it! I can't wait to make a second one. Thank you so much!"

I couldn't be more thrilled.  That's exactly what I want... to teach something to someone who didn't think they could they could do it.

These are the bracelets the tutorial instructions make:
http://brackendesigns.com/product/diy-tutorial-instructions-only-swarovski-net-weave-embellished-cuff-bracelet

The Walks

The walks have been great.  The land around here is so lovely and the climate is ideal.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Resin-Filled Pendants, Shining Up Bronze, and Earbuds That Stay In My Ears

So back to that last batch of metal clay... I made two bronze bezels and filled them with various stuff (like poppy seeds and KaƱiwa) and resin.
 


These I love...
... but just like any highly polished metal (including what you get from Zales, etc) they will dull when worn and exposed to body oils, fingerprints, elements, etc.  It's just a matter of shining them back up occasionally.  I truly hope my customers understand that.  I want them to be able to shine up their jewelry when needed with very little fuss, muss, or expense.

Here's a photo of a hammer-textured bronze ring pendant that I wore non-stop for a couple months. 

The image on the left is right after I took the pendant off the chain.  It's dull because of water, soap, elements, and body oils.  After less than half a minute of polishing (the image on the right), not only does it shine but you can actually tell the metal has a texture.

And now just a bit more sharing of my morning adventures...



The horses and cows seem to enjoy people watching.

I have to give kudos to a pair of earbuds that finally stay in my ear.  Yurbuds, sport earphones, developed for women.  The package says "Guaranteed to never fall out". 


Inspire 100 for Women

And I can totally hear approaching cars on the road.  I'm very happy with them.

I went shoe shopping yesterday.  I figured with all this walking I should probably have some decent shoes.  Ideally two pair, but I'll work my way up. 

First I tried on a bunch of walking sneakers.  They were all too narrow.

Then I tried on a bunch of hiking shoes.  They were wider, which is great for me, but something about them made the ball of my foot hurt.

I was about to give up when my friend suggested hiking sandals.  Tada!  Got myself a pair of men's Keen sandals.


Not "pretty", but I wore them today and everything seemed fine.  Yay!

I also got a pair of Injinji socks for when I alternate with my regular walking shoes (sneakers) because when my toes are close together (as they are in sneakers) I get blisters.
RUN 2.0 Lightweight Mini-Crew
So that's my life now.  I get up (usually pretty early), eat breakfast, then hit the road.  :-)  I kinda do feel like I have more energy even though it's only been a week of daily 5-mile walks.  Even if it's psychosomatic, I'll take it.  :-)

Just go.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fitbit Flex and More Photos of Penryn


If I say, "I am having no problem getting my 10,000 steps in each day".  Some of you will know what I'm talking about.

Yes, I've jumped on the FitBit bandwagon.  Why?  Because I personally know someone who got one last year and it seems to work for them. 

Being held accountable on a daily basis is apparently what I need.

What's cool is that I don't keep track of my "steps"; the fitbit does.  I don't have to log anything... the info goes right from my bracelet to my computer (or phone).  And the food database is amazingly well-stocked.  I have yet to find an item that isn't in there so keeping track of calories in is a SUPER breeze.

For breakfast I had a Qrunch brand Quinoa burger.  How many of you have even heard of that?  But there it was so I didn't have to do any data input.

I've been wanting to up my activity level, and while I generally eat pretty healthily... watching the "calories in" has been very eye-opening. 

I want more energy in the day so I'm thinking more exercise combined with better food choices may make a difference.  But didn't I just say I eat pretty healthily?  Yes, but there's always room for improvement.

It also tracks my sleep patterns.  Tells me how long it takes me to fall asleep (usually a couple minutes), how many times I wake up in the night (usually only once or twice) and how restless I am (okay, I admit... I toss and turn a fair amount).  But tracking this can help me change things in my life that may afford me a better night's sleep if I compare sleep patterns to my evening activities (like reading before bed instead of tv before bed).

10,000 steps is the basic threshhold for daily activity.  Next threshhold is 15,000.  10,000 steps is about 4 miles (for me, anyway... I think for most it's 5 miles, but I'm short so my stride is shorter).  10,000 steps is a pretty easy goal to achieve with one good walk a day (less than an hour) and then just regular old daily walking around while life goes on.

I'm also really enjoying my early morning walks.  You saw some of the scenery in my last post.


And since I hate routine, today I went the other direction, stopped at my friend's house for a quick visit, and she walked back to my house with me.  How fun!  We timed it well too because it started to pour as soon as we got back to the house (I drove her back home as we had planned anyway).

I was looking at Google Maps and there are tons of little roads I can veer off to try to keep me from getting bored.  And after that, I can drive to places where I'll walk and see different scenery.

When you walk, you see so many things that you don't know when you're driving.  And we drive these roads every single day.

Today we stopped to look at some cool owl droppings (they're cool because they have lots of little skulls in them).  Don't worry; I won't show you a photo.

We also saw geese on top of a barn.

We noticed that the palm trees are all tagged.  And speaking of palm trees... watch out for falling leaves... sheesh!

Yesterday a wild hare ran across my path.  I don't see too many of those around here.

These, however, I do see many around.

And doesn't it make sense that if citrus trees are so abundant during winter, there might be something legitimate to the idea that vitamin C helps fight winter viruses and bugs?

Monday was kinda of a throwaway day.  They're tougher on me than other days because I process SRAJD applications and have school from 7am-1pm.  My plan was to get to school early and get my walking in before class, but that didn't work out.  Well, there's always next week.  Truthfully, I think my feet put in a private protest.  They are getting pretty blistered.  I'm going to go to REI this week and see about getting some good walking shoes and socks.  Wish me luck coming out of there under $150.