Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fixed the Kiln and Started Creating Stations in my Workshop

Setting up "stations" in the workshop.  I find this very exciting.  No more "setting things up" if I want to solder or enamel or polish.  Will takes photos when the room is done.

Went to fire a batch of metal clay pieces this morning and noticed the kiln wasn't heating up.  Called JenKen and they suggested I replace the relay.  Was REALLY happy the suggested I buy a spare relay the first time I broke my coil and ordered a replacement.  So that relay's been sitting in my storage unit for over two years.

After opening the control box, I took a photo.  I'm very meticulous about putting things back together the way they were and since that black thing (where the red arrow is pointing) beneath all the wires was what I had to replace, I knew I'd never remember where all the wires went back.

I grabbed the masking tape and as I removed each screw, I taped the screw to the wires because three of them had multiple wires and I needed to make sure I put the right pairs back together.  I also wrote a number on the masking taped wires that corresponded to a diagram I'd drawn of the screw holes to make sure I put the right wires back where they were.

Going to storage to get my relay, running to the hardware store to get a 1/4 inch nut driver, and then actually replacing the relay took less then two hours.

I was so happy to see the kiln start up.

Here's what's in it (next blog post I can show you how they came out).  Still working on that riveted cuff.

I want to try some inlay (enamel, resin, whatever) so I made those two recessed framed pieces.  The teardrops I am testing out if I like them drilled vertically or horizontally.  The triangle is a garbage piece I think... just testing a pattern.

I consider this a happy day.  I repaired my kiln.  Yay!


Monday, January 26, 2015

First Day of School

This will be short because I'm running behind.

Today was the first day of class (at my local college).  Just to be clear, I am TAKING a class there, not teaching one.

The class is "jewelry making" and before you question this, let me say that I've already picked up some pointers on our first day.

Yes, it's true I've been making jewelry for years, but when you have no formal education (are self-taught) there can be gaps here and there that you missed out on that could be very helpful to your work.

Also, talking to others (teachers, students, peers, etc), there's always some little trick you learn that you didn't know about before.

This morning we went over safety and the class outline/syllabus.  Then we got a wire-wrapping demo and set off on our own wire-wrapping adventures.  Sitting to my right was someone who does wire-wrapping for a living which was nice.

We each got a piece of fused glass and some 20 gauge copper wire and then we got to play.


So far, I learned a different way to make a loop in a wire and I learned an interesting way to make a bail with wire wrapping.

We then watched a Tim McCreight video that (to me) had some pretty involved creations but I guess it's always fun to see the possibilities of the techniques you're going to learn.

The section on the rolling mill got me excited to use mine again (it's been ages).  On my way out of class I picked up some leaves that I think would make beautiful impressions.


We'll have more homework in this class than I did in my welding class.  Our first assignments (due in a week) include designing and making a piece of alternative art jewelry (as in made from non-typical materials... think of Project Runway's unconventional challenge).  The second thing is to design the first thing we'll be saw piercing (we have instructions to use our initials for this first one).

Okay, the day is ending and I still have a lot to do.  Talk to you later... and all of you on the east coast take care with blizzard Juno heading your way.




Saturday, January 24, 2015

Enamel Earrings, Hair Color, Firescale, and a Proud Mama



Hi Guys…. I didn’t accomplish too much yesterday but at least I spent some time in the workshop.  Knocked out a couple pair of my new enamel earrings and made new sample swatches (not shown) for the new colors I got earlier this month.

Finally listed the red pair…
http://brackendesigns.com/catalog/earrings

But my two blue pair are only half photographed.  I was originally going to make them one listing and just offer color choices, but for some reason I changed my mind and decided to make each a separate listing.  Maybe I feel my shop is on the lean side.  Shrug.
http://brackendesigns.com/catalog/earrings

Look at the backsides before I add the counter-enamel.  Aren’t they lovely?  I almost hate scrubbing that pretty heat pattern off.

I wanted to do a third pair using one of my transparent colors, but tried to fire my new undercoat white was a nightmare.  The other colors range from 3-5 minutes in the kiln for each layer of enamel, but the white was in there for over 10 minutes and still was way before the orange peel stage.  My little kiln has its limitations for enameling... and my big kiln is awkward and sooty.  But plenty of other things to do/try... no need to have everything at my disposal.

Ah, here’s a picture of my new hair color.  After the move I found a bottle of hair dye and had  no clue what the result would be but figured it would HAVE to be better than my gray.  It shocked me at first.  I looked in the mirror and exclaimed, “OMG, I’m a Weasley!”.  But I’m getting used to it now.

Here's a photo of the view when my friend and I go on a walk.  I'm so lucky to live where I do right now.

BTW, Monica had a great game yesterday… stopped 47 of 49 shots (including a penalty shot) helping Brown to net their first win in quite some time.  Here’s the write-up.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Staging Jewelry for Photographs (the bane of my existence) and an Awesome Secret to Quick and Easy Sales (especially at shows)



So what’s new?  Let’s see… It took me 30 minutes with my new camera to figure out how to stop having the shot focus on the background texture rather than the earrings.


After 30 minutes of photos that looked like that, one after the other, I finally achieved this.

My weirdo brain is still not settled on how I want to stage my jewelry for photographs.  Part of the problem is that I adore change.  But change is not always good for a website.  People are more comfortable with the familiar.  If I keep changing my backgrounds, my website may lose that sense of familiarity and it will certainly lose any sense of cohesion.

Like I said.... all over the place.  It's bad enough that I am so much of an experimenter, my jewelry styles are all over the place.  The least I could do would be to have a consistent background.  Ha ha ha!

I'm pretty decided that I don't like stark black.  I don't like the textured brown and I don't like the slate rock.  I mean, I love slate rock... just not for my jewelry staging.

I don't like the marble-y white background and I don't like the very fast gradient of black to light gray.

The white's not too bad, but a lot of white jewelry photos look too catalog-y to me.  

Well, I'll just continue and keep you posted.

And while I don't generally like to photograph on black, I really like my black leather jewelry bust.  It doesn't show up stark black and it doesn't get covered in lint/dust like my other busts.

I'm going to share a little secret with you now.  If you make and sell jewelry, adding a large lampwork focal bead to a necklace gets SOOO much attention at shows (and online).  I can't tell you how many of these necklaces I've sold.  People eat 'em up.

BTW, if you know anything about me, you know I'm NOT talking about mass-produced import glass beads.  Beware of those as the quality is inferior in just about every way possible.  Remember, your customers want VALUE, not bargain.

I buy orphan lots of Alex Spinglaschell beads.  Alex is a lampworker out of Santa Cruz, California.  Her little masterpieces are fully kiln-annealed and properly cleaned.  Click here to see what she has for sale at any given time... and keep checking back because you want to buy, not only her singles, but her orphan lots.  

Here's a batch of orphans I added to Chinese knotted silk cords.  Click on the photo to see close-up images of the beads.
http://brackendesigns.com/

Super easy, yet each finished necklace is one of a kind and totally eye-catching.  This is jewelry that will spark conversation, and then you get to talk about how the artist makes each bead in a torch, adding one color after another of molten glass.

Next I'm going to take another batch of Alex's orphan beads and put them on sterling silver chains.  Stay tuned for those.

Value vs Bargain... the choice is always yours


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Collating Ideas and Inspiration, Keeping Track of Work Progress, Enamel Earrings, and Keeping Up With or Rather Ahead of The Joneses

Still busy with the after effects of the move (sorting, cleaning, catching up on things I put off, etc), but wanted to stop in and say hi.

I'll have the kiln going next week so I'm thinking I'll dedicate next week to metal clay.

The following week will be enameled earrings. I made a pair for myself and loved them so much that I made three other pair (before the move).  I want to pick up where I left off so I can offer a great variety of color to my bold, color-loving friends.

Here's the first pair I made...


One of the projects I'm doing in my spare time (ha ha ha!) is combining all my notes into one place.  I think I mentioned this in my New Year's Resolution post.

I've got stuff (inspiration and potential ideas) all over the place.  They're scribbled in notebooks (20 or so different notebooks), I've taken photos with my cell phone while I was out, and I've marked pages in books I own.

So what I've decided to do is create one file (in WORD probably) and have all my text notes and photos there.  Here's an example of one entry.


This would be a really awful rendering of a Byzantine earring from the 7th century.  It inspires me to make something similar.

One other thing I'm doing, well continuing to do, is called my end of day photo.  At the end of the work day, I gather up what I worked on a take a photo.  It's not a glamor shot.  It's just a photo that I put into a WORD document, add some text notes on what I did as I worked on the piece, date it and we're done.

Then if I need to remember what sealant I used on a pendant or how many drops of dye oxide I added to my resin, well, I've got all the info logged.  'Cause I tell ya... my memory is NOT a thing to be relied on.  There are just too many variables going on in the workroom for me to memorize all the timings and amounts and combinations of techniques, etc.

Here's an example of the earrings I was talking about earlier.  Because I took this photo, I'll easily be able to reproduce them should I need to.  I don't even need notes for this one because I included the enamel jars in the photo.


How's everyone's 2015 going so far?  I hope no one's in a rut or down in the dumps about their work or their sales.

Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle when you go to a show and every other booth is selling mass-produced imports that to the untrained eye may LOOK like a good deal, but we all know the difference between value and bargain, right?


So what can you do?

Keep moving, forward if possible.

Ask yourself, "What can I do that they can’t?"

If someone's already making something that you'd like to make, but they're making it faster and cheaper than you ever could, think about letting it go and moving on to the next idea.

No moss grows on a rolling stone.  Let's roll!  





Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Necklace as seen on The Vampire Diaries, Soldering Metal Clay to Sheet Metal, and Another Etsy SEO Tool



Orders for “The Vampire Diaries” necklace are really keeping me busy.  I may not have told you before, but back in November, the main character of The Vampire Diaries (Elena Gilbert played by Nina Dobrev) wore a necklace I designed and made for the stylist to consider for use on the show.  The necklace is made from soldered sterling silver spirals laid into a circle.  The episode aired on Nov 20, 2014 entitled "Fade Into You".



 
If you want to see the listing for it, click here (for my website) or here (for Etsy).

So did everyone have a great New Year celebration?  I wish you all an even better 2015.

We had some people over for New Year’s eve and it was really nice… including the obligatory spinach dip with sourdough bread followed by Kahlua and cream.  I’m still reeling.

Needless to say, with carrying boxes, moving furniture, cleaning and painting (from the move) there was not much jewelry making to be had at the start of this new year.  But I had class yesterday and right before class started I decided to experiment more with combining sheet metal and metal clay.

I took this copper disc...



... and turned it into a tiny bowl. 

Then I soldered one copper metal clay leaf to it followed by two rose bronze disks.  

I did find it hard to tell when my solder flashed/melted since it was underneath the metal clay pieces and hidden from view.  Tried to do the “wait for it to fall” thing, but there wasn’t much movement (I think that’s easier to see with flat pieces).

In the end, however, it came out fine. 
 

Truthfully, the first two attachments (hard solder followed by medium solder) were aces.  It was adding that third piece (easy solder) that gave me trouble.  I was explaining to my student that I’d only try it three times before giving up.

It’s not that I’m a defeatist, but on certain days certain things just don’t work and pushing it never amounts to any success.  I find this particularly true for two things… soldering and enameling.

If I’m trying to do something and it’s not working, time after time, I find that if I quit and come back to it in a day or two, things usually go swimmingly.

BTW, for those always on the lookout for more tools to improve or work on their Etsy SEO (search engine optimization), here’s one to add to the list: http://tools4etsy.com/Wall-e/Relevancy/Keyword/