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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…

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