Sunday, December 22, 2013

Arts and Crafts Inspiration and William de Morgan in particular, Turquoise and Copper Spiral Earrings, Some Haight Ashbury Inspiration, Heat Patina Steel, Halstead Bead Coupons, and DIY Jewelry Displays



Didn’t get any jewelry done this week because Monica’s visiting from college and we took a trip to San Francisco so she could get on the ice with her brother and help coach some young goalies.

I did, however, pick up another used book on the arts and crafts moment...
... and made a couple sketches of ideas I want to try in jewelry design. 


I was just telling someone today how I’ve never been able to draw, paint, carve, or sculpt, but I have found the benefit of trying to put down on paper an idea when I get the inspiration.  Otherwise, it’s just too easy to forget it no matter how many times I tell myself I won’t.  Let's just say I rely heavily on the notes I make in the margins.

So here’s the “stick drawing” version of my sketches from the weekend.  Hopefully I’ll be able to translate some of my ideas into jewelry form (and then we’ll compare them to the original sketches).


In that book, there is a really cool fish vase (not this one) by William de Morgan.  Want some inspiration?  Do a google image search of him (or click here).


BTW, I wanted to thank all of you who leave comments on my blog.  I love hearing from you.  Thanks!

Last week, I showed you a pair of earrings that will go along with an upcoming tutorial.  Here’s is another pair that will be in a tutorial (maybe the same tutorial) as well as my next eclass.  If you're interested in purchasing them (or seeing more photos), click here.
http://www.brackendesigns.com/servlet/Detail?no=1392

They’re distressed copper spirals with Turquoise charms. 


Oh, also, when I was in San Francisco yesterday…
… while strolling around Haight Ashbury, I saw a dress in a store window and had to snap a pic of the fabric. 

I could totally be inspired to make something in neutral colors with pops of red like that.

Then I saw a row of houses and looking up at the pop-outs thought of an idea for a necklace.  Theory doesn’t always translate well into practice, but I’d like to give it a shot and see what I get.



From the Internet (snippets I collect as I go):

Here’s an interesting article about adding heat patina to steel, click here to read the article.  Here’s a photo from the article.  Pretty cool, huh?  And while you’re there… just look around and drool.

I don’t know how many of my readers shop at HalsteadBead.com, but here’s a link to their latest coupons (click here for link).  They have free items and discount items that change every week.  I always make sure to nab the free item when I place an order and about half the time the discounted item is something worth ordering as well.

Belong to Pinterest?  Here’s a great board Robin Johnston put together showing various ideas for displays at craft shows.  Click here to access the board.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Cracked Gingko Leaf, My Next Enameling Project, Earrings for the GBK Golden Globes Celebrity Gift Bags, Free Jewelry Crimping Tutorial, Bracelet Giveaways, And MORE



Is It Worth Repairing?

I’ve only made one thing since I’ve been home from Berkeley (my Golden Globes earrings took priority).

Here it is (before and after brushing), copper and bronze, but the bronze cracked a bit during the firing so I’m going to see if I can repair these and refire.  

I have to admit I’m not a fan of trying to repair cracks in a textured or patterned area of the clay, but this just gives me more time to try to learn to do it.

Inspirational Photo

Here’s a sunset we had the other night.  

I’m thinking I’d like to do some enameling like that with an oxidized silver saw-pierced pattern over it.  I’ve always been a fan of bright colors beneath a silhouette.

I’m afraid my enameling has taken a definite back seat this month.

Production Earrings

In my last post, you saw me mid-production .  Here are my Golden Globes earrings (click here for more photos):
http://www.brackendesigns.com/servlet/Detail?no=1396

I’m participating in an invitation-only luxury celebrity gift lounge hosted by GBK Productions on January 10-11, 2014 at an exclusive location in Beverly Hills, California, in honor of The 2014 Golden Globes Nominees and Presenters. All attending celebrities will receive a pair of these earrings in their swag bags.

Those earrings are featured in an upcoming tutorial, but I’m still wrapping up some December commitments before I put the finishing touches on the tutorial.

My Free Online eClass on Jewelry Crimping (and bracelet giveaways)

In the meantime, I think I forgot to mention that a couple months ago I posted my first (free) tutorial(s) on the CraftArtEdu site.  My class was supposed to be about the basics of crimping, but being the over-achiever I am, my instructions ended up being longer than would be appropriate for one class so it got broken up into two classes.

If you like to view these free eclasses, click here.

And, if you leave a comment on this blog before my next eclass goes up, you will be entered into a drawing to win either of the bracelets demo’d in the class.

Featured in the first class, “Jewelry Crimping: Basic Toolsand Techniques”, we’ve got a bracelet of totally cool Jasper disks with sterling silver.

Featured in the second class, “Jewelry Crimping: TroubleShooting and Variations”, we’ve got a bracelet of sterling silver, peridot, and lapis.


From the Internet (snippets I collect as I go):

So here’s an article called, “The Career Benefits ofBoycotting Charity Art Auctions”.  It starts off, “There is a tradition of auctioning original works of art donated by artists to raise money for charitable causes. There are many good causes that hold such events. No matter how good the causes, though, I have come to the conclusion that artists must stop donating to every single one of them…”  To continue reading, click here.  Post a comment on my blog to share your opinion.

Here’s a cool resource for people who enjoy learning.  800 free online courses from the world’sleading universities.  “This collection includes over 800 free courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Download these audio & video courses straight to your computer or mp3 player….”  Click here for more info and to see the courses available.  I gotta tell you, I love that some of these are podcasts.  I’m always looking for interesting stuff to listen to while driving.  So far it’s only been books on tape and NPR Science Friday podcasts.

Here are the ones I’ve bookmarked and will download when I have time:
  • Photography
  • The Elements of Drawing
  • Existentialism in Literature & Film
  • Creative Writing: A Master Class
  • A Romp Through Ethics for Complete Beginners
  • Heidegger: Being and Time
  • Introduction to Astrophysics
  • iPhone Application Development 
  • Modern Theoretical Physics: Quantum Mechanics 
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



Friday, December 13, 2013

Finally Awesome Sintering, The Wisdom of Project Runway, The Value of Production Work, and Sharing Time



So what are the best ways to test metal clay for optimal… optimal everything.  Optimal sintering, optimal strength, optimal good looks.  

When I last posted, I was running some test to determine the highest temp I could go for phase two of my firing schedule because I believe finding the highest temp where your piece still looks good is better than finding the lowest temp where you piece appears to be sintered.

Until convinced otherwise, I believe pieces can appear fully sintered based on superficial tests/appearances and conversely, fully sintered pieces can appear unsintered based on tests that may have nothing to do with sintering.  I also feel like the porosity of a piece diminishes with higher temps.

Anyway, got the results of the final test strip from my last batch of tests.  It was only one piece, 7-cards thick.

Ramp 1                         500°F/hr
Holding Temp 1          1420°F for 1 hour
Carbon Under              ½ inch
Carbon Over                ½ inch
Ramp 2                        full
Holding Temp 2          1460 (was previously 1470) for 2 hours

Everything seems okay.

Between that last test and now, I discovered that I was using an out-dated instruction manual for Hadar’s clays.

So now, instead of a slow ramp for phase one, I’m going to do a full ramp, but only to 1000°F where I’ll still hold for an hour.

I’m keeping the carbon under and over the same.

Between then (I wrote the above back in November) and now, I’ve had continued success firing with the following changes from before (way before, when things weren’t going well):
1)  I only use ½ inch (or maybe a smidge more) of carbon under the pieces
2)  Holding temp for phase 1 is 1000 degrees

Earlier this week, I ran my first mixed metal test and it’s the first time the pieces EVER came out flat and showing no signs of over-firing with phase 2 being only 10 degrees less than the instruction manual.  Could having a thick layer of carbon beneath the clay have THAT much to do with changing the firing temps?

Anyway, I finished my year-long course and am now a fully accredited teacher of Hadar’s clays and techniques.  I hope to start classes after the new year.

Here are a couple of my latest pieces.  Those who follow Hadar’s books may recognize some of the techniques used to create these.  Everything you see here is stuff I’ll be teaching (in the Sacramento area).

BTW, the texture on the first pendant was made using one of Hadar's new molds.  If you're interested, you can purchase the mold from her site.









Project Runway Wisdom and the Color Green

On to other things.  You all know I watch Project Runway… never miss it.  On the latest episode one of the designers made a green dress and the adviser said something like, “Oooooh, green never sells.  Haven’t you noticed there’s never a green dress on a magazine cover?”  Hm… this reminded me of something I heard a long time ago in one of the beading forums… that green is the hardest jewelry to sell.

I was shocked.  Do you have any experience with this?  Do you agree?  Disagree?

So when I heard it again, in reference to clothing, I wondered… maybe there’s something to this.






Speaking of Project Runway, here are some things I’ve learned from the show over the years that relate directly to being a jewelry artist:

  • Be recognizably you… people should be able to see your work and know you are the artist
  • Catch people’s attention… well constructed is great, but your work also needs to be eye-catching
  • Make do… be willing and able to change direction should the design or circumstances call for it
  • Be able to explain… if Tim Gunn (or anyone else) asks you about your design don’t say “I don’t know”
  • Get out of your comfort zone… if you’re good at everything you do, you’re not pushing yourself to new heights or challenging yourself enough


Production Work

A couple of things happened recently to make me realize the value of production work.  I think there was something inside of me that equated production work with assembly line work, and it’s done me nothing but a disservice.

I have recently been discovering the value (and trust me, it’s INVALUABLE) of doing production work.

When I tried to learn to solder, it was hit and miss.  I soldered like one or two days, every couple of years.  No wonder my soldering skills were so lacking.

A friend was recently telling me about when he was learning to solder.  He was told to put 100 fluxed silver disks onto his soldering block, and place 100 solder chips onto those disks, and then to start with row one, column one and solder an earring post to each and everyone one of those disks, just one after the other.

By the 100th disk, he was much better at soldering than when he started.

The value of practicing a skill over and over when first learning it is something that can’t be over estimated.

I recently had occasion to make 100 pair of earrings… so that’s 200 of the same thing.  From me.  The person who can’t even stand to make ONE pair of earrings because it involves repeating something that I just did… once.

So here I am, committed to making 200 of the same thing.  

200 times:

  • Measure and cut a wire
  • File the cut ends
  • Shape the wire into a spiral with two extra curves
  • Hammer the spiral
  • Measure and cut another wire
  • Wire-wrap a bead onto the spiral
  • Polish the spiral
  • Attach an earwire 
Tada!

84 down,116 to go...
 


Was it boring?  Mostly.  But becoming a better jewelry maker isn’t all about keeping myself entertained.  Did my skill improve?  Most definitely.  Anything else?  As a matter of fact, yes.  As I progressed, I found better ways to do things.  Slight improvements to my methods happened here and there.

In 2014, I plan to continue my explorations in production work, balanced with my usual one of a kind, time-consuming pieces.

And Photography

It’s not just about jewelry-making either.  I’ve been pretty slack on listing anything new for a month of so, so today I had like 17 or 18 pieces ready to list.

First, I decided not to struggle with photographing.  I just shot everything on a plain light gray background.  I realize the pieces would “pop” more if I used like gradient or all black or all white, but I just wasn’t in the mood today to face any disappointment or antagonistic responses from my camera  So… basic photography.

One close-up shot of each piece from straight overhead.  One angled shot of each piece showing the back and the entire necklace chain.  And one shot of each piece on a model for size reference and drape.
 




I got all the shots of all the pieces done (shot and edited) in a couple hours.  To say that’s a new record for me would be a huge understatement. 

As I go on, I will try to improve my photography, but for right now, simplicity is my friend.  Either way, production in photography is key.  No more taking an hour just to shoot one piece.

Sharing Time: Metalsmithing Videos, A (Gentle) Rant About Pricing, and Where to Find the Christmas Lights

Sharing time includes links I’m passing along to you that were brought to my attention from one of the social media sites I frequent each day.

George Goehl has tons of metalsmithing tutorials published on YouTube.  Check them out here.

Liz Smith wrote this blog post that sparked a lot of agreement by some of our SRAJD members.  It starts out: “I've been thinking lately about pricing for handmade goods. It's so tricky, one of the hardest things to calculate for makers and the first question they ask every handmade selling guru…  And it leads to the question of what to say when someone requests a discount.  To read the blog post, click here.

Totally off topic, but still important… here’s a great website that shows you where the big Christmas light displays are in your area.  And here’s a site specifically for California.

Alright, that’s it for now.  Back to work.  See you soon!