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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Downsizing... Part 2

So here are my two main organizing/downsizing strategies.

The first is that I pick one spot in a room, then I go around the room as though it were a clock and I'm the minute hand just moving from the beginning of the hour all the way around until the end of the hour.

It makes it seem doable as opposed to looking at the room with that "deer in the headlights" look.  It's easy to see an overwhelming amount of "stuff" and just freeze into inaction.  The clock method helps.  It's like putting blinders on and staying focused on task, even if the immediate task is just little... just that one little spot in front of you... then moving to the next tiny spot.

The second thing I do is compartmentalize.  I take between 3-10 boxes (depending on the task) and label them.

Sometimes they're labeled with the names of other rooms: Bathroom, Bedroom, Garage, etc.

Sometimes they're labeled with categories: Papers, Not This Room, Clothes, etc.

Those "category" boxes can be further sorted later.  But in the interim, if you have to find something this gives you a better chance of finding it.  For example, I needed my DMV registration form and it was so much easier to just grab my one box of papers and go through that until I found the letter than it would have been to search through every nook and cranny of the house for a letter with piles of papers everywhere, stuffed in drawers, laying on top of book cases, etc.

This "downsizing/cleaning/organizing" that I'm doing is being done in my spare time, which for someone who takes care of 3 acres, a senior citizen, a 2000 sq ft house, and 3 cats... while trying to run a business that includes working at a gallery, teaching, making jewelry, marketing, and running a jewelry makers' organization (whew!) is kind of a joke.  But we do what we gotta do, right?

At least that (the above) might help to explain how things tend to get out of hand.  I just finished two shows.  One was three days, the other was two days.  I was prepared for neither so lots of last minute creating and packing.  Which means that a lot of other things didn't happen... like baskets of clean laundry didn't get folded and put away, mail didn't get sorted and dealt with, labels that didn't work didn't get sorted for salvage, accoutrements for sending out orders didn't get put away, etc.

As I said yesterday, nothing's really dirty or dangerous... just stuff ends up piling up into a center of the rooms like a magnetic vortex or something.

So here's today's progress.  Unfortunately I don't have a good "before" photo of the computer corner, but here's a bit of it...

So I took everything out of that corner of  the room, one at a time, cleaned each item (I do have a dust problem) then put back only the things that belong there.  I put my new power strip down (yay!), removed some electronics I wasn't even using, taped some of the cords to the back of the computer desk (I hate all that stuff on the floor)...

... and here's the corner now.

I added some aloe plants because I have no plants in my room and I don't mind having something in there that produces oxygen.  Aloe is supposed to be an air purifier too (see NASA's clean air study).

I moved my label printer and my postage scale to much more convenient locations (get a surge protector with lots of holes!).  Actually, let me show you which surge protector I got.  Aside from lots of holes, the holes are in different directions for optimal use AND there are two really nifty latch holders on the end that keep the cords down.  Really spiffy.

And notice that thing on the wall to the right of my desk.  THAT is perfect for tiny homes.  It's a 2-dimensional (okay, not really, but nearly) file cabinet!  All my important and often used files are there.  I got them on Amazon.

 WAY better than this...

And while it's true that the traditional file cabinet will hold more, it takes up way too much space in my prime real estate.  I keep my 3-dimensional file cabinets in the garage, while all the papers I deal with frequently are on my wall at my fingertips and out of the way. 

This one I did yesterday.  Took some of the things that I wear frequently so don't want to "put away" (I hate putting things away... so much work) and here they are... again, at my fingertips.  This was a bit of empty wall space in my living room so I just put some Monkey hooks into the sheet rock and voila!  I don't have to LOOK for this stuff that I use every day and they aren't cluttering up my bedroom.  IMO there's no point in putting things out of sight if you use them every day.  This is neat enough a solution for me.

Here's something I spent about five minutes debating about.  It's a set of glass coaster that you can put photos into.  But I can't justify keeping them because I've HAD them for over a year and never did anything with them.  Ugh!  I was originally going to put poppy images in them then give them to my mom, but I think she's already got coasters.  I don't need coaster because I have a glass table and if I did want coaster they wouldn't be glass... my glasses and coffee cups would be lethal with glass coasters.  I'm NOT a gentle person.

So now they're in the give-away pile.  Yay me!

Oh, look what I found when I moved my computer desk out.  A Labradorite and a Moonstone.  Whoohoo!

So here is (a side view) of the couch in my bedroom.  Well, it's just a little love-seat but I call it a couch.  It's not FILTHY... I just end up piling stuff on it.  In this photo I see clean clothes, winter things (that I ended up putting on those Monkey Hooks), my surge protector, mail that I have to deal with, and stuff I use to wrap out-going packages.

And here's the couch after I dealt with that stuff.

I still have a short stack of books I need to deal with, but at least a person can sit down now.

Watched a couple more episodes of tiny house stuff while I was doing this organizing.  There are some cute ideas.  I think the "tiny house" aesthetic can (and should) be utilized everywhere, not just necessarily in 200 square foot living spaces.

To see the start of this journey, go to PART 1.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Downsizing... But Not Really (part 1)

I recently got a desire to watch some of the "tiny home" shows on tv.  For those who don't know what a tiny home is, it's a home that is very small.  Very VERY small.  Usually around 200 square feet.  Sometimes they're on wheels so you can be mobile.

It's very trendy at the moment so there's lots of info about it all over tv and the internet, etc.

Here's just one (of many) Facebook pages dedicated to them.

And other sites:

While most seem to be on the extremely small side of things, some tiny homes are as big as 500-600 square feet.

My first home was 827 square feet.  Lived there as a family of four, so not sure how 600 qualifies as tiny.  I guess it's all relative.  They say the average home in America is 2300 square feet.  To me, that's ginormous... and that's just the average.  That means a good portion of these houses are 4000, 6000, 8000 square feet.


I can see why people want to downsize.  Maybe some are learning, however, that a true "tiny home" was too much of a change for them.  After watching a couple of the tv shows on tiny homes, I know it's not for me.  And the thing is, at one time I could have thought it'd be up my alley.

I can easily see how there are many like me... who thought, "Hey, what a great idea.  I can do this!"  Ah, the bane of being an idealist.

That being said, while I can't see myself ever by choice living in a tiny home, I can fully embrace the idea of downsizing.... my stuff.

My kids and I have had some living conditions that could be similar to some of the things a tiny home owner has to deal with.  For over a year I had no bedroom, but opened a sleeper sofa every night and closed it back up every morning.  There were also a couple of years where I slept on the couch and my daughter slept on the floor of the living room.  I spent three years sleeping in a cot in my workshop too.  I currently cook (fabulous meals so I'm told) using 2 on/off burners and a toaster oven.  These are the kinds of things you do out of necessity and they are generally temporary.  I have no desire to make a sofa bed every day for the rest of my life or to sleep on a living room sofa.

So that's part of my reasoning for not wanting to consider a tiny house.  One of the other reasons is that I run a business and with that comes "stuff".  I can't "downsize" my workshop.  Well, I can, and I have been, but there's still going to be a lot of stuff... and continually more and more stuff.  It's a business.

Also, I like to entertain.  I want friends over... I want family to stay the night, etc.  That is SOOOO hard to do in a tiny home.

So my plan is to go through my current living conditions and "downsize" my stuff.  I want a clean, clutter-free living environment and I want to be able to find anything I need within seconds.

Follow along with me as I begin.

I'm starting in the bedroom because that's where my computer is (yes, I still use a desktop for 99% of my computing).  A couple months ago I bought a high end surge protector because I live in a rural area and when we get storms, we sometimes lose electricity and/or have brown-outs and none of that is good for my computer.

But that surge protector has been sitting on my couch waiting... waiting... waiting.  I can't GET to my computer plug.  Ugh!

And so it begins.

If I get up the nerve to let you see before pictures, I'll post them when I get to the after pictures.    You see... I run out of time... and then I put things down and say I'll deal with it later.  but later doesn't come because I'm still pressed for time.  It just goes on and builds up.  And while it's not dirty or dangerous, it's clutter and inconvenient.

So let's do one issue at a time.

This is a good example of how my thought processes get me in to trouble. The cotton robe on the left is the one I use every time I take a shower.  The one on the right is similar if not nearly identical, but I don't need two... I can only use one at a time, right?

But then my brain says things like, "But what if you have company and they need to borrow a bathrobe?"

Oh seriously?!  I'm supposed to store a bathrobe indefinitely on the off chance that someone may someday say, "Hey, do you happen to have a spare bathrobe I can borrow after my shower?"

Then I argue, "But it's 100% cotton and really good quality.  You can't just throw that away."

Wrong. I need to learn to get rid of things that serve me no purpose EVEN IF THEY ARE GOOD QUALITY.

The blue thing in the middle... I guess that would be referred to as a housecoat.  How often do I use it?  Hm.... If I'm running around in my pajamas (which is often) I could put it on if I'm cold.  but I could also put on a sweater (and I have several of those).

Does the housecoat serve an important role?  I don't think so.  And it's butt ugly.

Remember that rule we've all heard? If you haven't used it in six months, you don't need it.

I'm sure I haven't worn that housecoat since last year.

How about if I put BOTH of those things in a box and put the box away for a year?  Then if I don't need either of them, I can get rid of the contents of the box after a year.

But I think I'd rather make a decision now and not store a box of stuff for a year.

Okay, they both go.  I'm trying to downsize.

Oh, two comments regarding that photo... the walls were NOT my choice.  I inherited them and just haven't gotten around to doing something to cover-up/remove the wall paneling.  Also, hooks... are awesome!  I need more hooks and shelves everywhere.

New Jewelry Creations at Bracken Designs

Just catching you up on some of the pieces I've made in the past few months.  The ones that are still available are listed on my website so if you want to see more info about any piece, just click here.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Be Judicious With Your Newsletters

A couple months back, a friend came to visit and during that visit we ended up going to a Sur La Table store in order to buy a crème brûlée torch.

At checkout, I was asked my email address.  I was distracted (not difficult to do) and without thinking overly much about it, I gave it to them.

I was not told why they wanted my email address, nor was I asked if I wanted to sign up for their newsletter.

Here is a screen shot showing the unsolicited emails from Sur La Table from Sept 10 - Sept 17 of this year.

I don't know about you, but I consider this obscene.  On what planet would a company seriously think I could ever be interested in reading 2-3 emails from them each day?

Do I blame Sur La Table entirely for overloading my email inbox?  No.  After all, I am the one that stupidly responded to the question asking for my email address.  I'm used to checkouts asking for my zip code (which makes more sense) and I just wasn't thinking too much about what they were asking for.  My bad.

That being said, 17 emails in 8 days is overkill.

So what's my point?

My point is, they lost an interested party.  I had to unsubscribe and/or set up a filter so these all bypass the inbox from here on out.

This means I will never see a Sur La Table newsletter.  Had they sent one a month, or even one a week, I probably would actually read it.  I'd still be a bit miffed that I never opted in to receiving their newsletter, but that seems like SOP for a lot of businesses these days.

So having been on the receiving end of "this is too much!!!"... fellow artists, my advice in regards to newsletter is:
  • Make sure your list consists of people who requested to be on your mailing list
  • Don't send too many newsletters to your mailing list
This is just my opinion, but I have the feeling many people feel as I do.

I send out one email per month (btw, if you want to sign up for it, here's the link).  I try to make it short and to the point and I try to put something interesting in it.

Do you send a newsletter to your customers?  Do you receive and read/enjoy any particular newsletters?  What's your experience on the subject?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show How To Advice and Tips

A month or so ago, I was perusing Facebook and saw a thread (probably in a metalsmithing group) about the Tucson show.  (schedule)

This is one of the biggest and most well-known shows in the jewelry-making industry. Days and days and miles and miles of workshops, vendors, buyers, sellers, stones, jewelry components, etc.

Anyway, the person posting the thread inquired about how to prepare for going to the Tucson show, and one of the responses just blew me away.

I reached out to the artist who posted the response, asking if she'd allow me to repost her info here on my blog. It's just too invaluable not to be shared with as many people as possible.

The response came from metalsmith and jewelry artist Jill Sharp.

To see Jill's amazing jewelry, check out her shop by clicking here!  


Anyway, here is Jill's exact post response in the FB thread. I really appreciate Jill for taking the time to post her thoughtful FB response as well as for letting me repost it for all of my followers. If you find this info helpful, please leave a comment. 

If you go, it will help tremendously if you pre-register for the shows you want to see (assuming those shows are wholesale only; there are also many ‘open to the public’ shows that don’t require a wholesale license).

You’ll want to figure out your lodging early. Tucson hotels book up often a year in advance; not only from all the people coming to buy and coming to sell, but some of the sellers stay in / sell from hotel rooms as well. So usually even the inexpensive chains are either booked or quite pricey. You can stay in Phoenix and drive down and back each day, but that’s a 90 minute (at best) commute which adds a lot of time to the day. There may be other places to stay closer to Tucson, but I don’t know about any. I stay with a friend, so hotels are not an issue for me.

As far as “best” options for cabs or beads…that’s so subjective that it’s impossible to say what the “best” would be. Everyone’s preferences will be different. The best thing to do is start attending the different shows and make excellent notes on what you like / don’t like and from whom you buy, so you can plan to buy from them again if their inventory suits your needs. I always go to the Holidome, GJX, and JOGS, and then some of the smaller, open to the public shows too. I used to go to AGTA, but that’s mostly very pricey faceted stones and jewelry, and you’ll have to provide a lot of documentation (and show that you’ve spent a certain amount of dollars on inventory in the prior year) to qualify. So I’ve skipped it in the last few years.

Shuttle vs. rental car: I have never gone to the gem show WITHOUT getting a rental car. The shuttles can be helpful, but you can find yourself waiting…and waiting…and waiting in line for the shuttle. That’s fine if you’re just going for fun and a little spending, but I am buying most of gem stock for the YEAR. I don’t have the time to wait. Also sometimes the shuttles don’t go where you think (or you’ve been misinformed, either by a new shuttle driver or someone else) they’re going. So you can get stuck. I have had this happen, and waited for two hours for the shuttle – that’s utterly lost time for buying. Also I have had to call a taxi when a shuttle just never came back…even before they were supposed to stop running. So I really don’t even shuttle anymore. I just drive. It’s an extra expense – and this you would want to book early too, as I have been to Tucson, picking up my rental car, and heard the reservations people telling folks that they’re all sold out during the gem show – but it’s worth it for me.

What I bring: copies of my business license. Plenty of business cards. I actually make up stickers that have my information already on them – and I give this to the sellers when I purchase (when you’re buying wholesale, the sellers must take your information for their tax records). I simply hand them my sticker with all info and it’s much faster than them having me write my info (name, address, phone, tax id) over and over again when I make a purchase. Checkbook, plus cash. Sometimes (though not always) you can negotiate a better deal for cash. Not if you’re buying like $15 worth of beads, but if I am spending, say $500, I will ask if there’s a discount for cash. And sometimes there is. Especially if I’m a repeat buyer (and some of the sellers – especially the US sellers – will remember you from year to year.)

What else do I bring? A small backpack and a wheelie bag. I promise you, your neck and shoulders are going to get tired and sore after a day of bending over those tables and perusing potential purchases. And if you’re buying a lot of beads or metal (bead) or gems, the weight of carrying those around *will* add up. So I bring a wheelie and bottled water, protein-based snacks for those low blood sugar moments, hand wipes because your hands will get ridiculously dirty handling all the gems, and I bring "extras", depending on the weather. I’ve been in Tucson for the show when it was (unseasonably, but it does happen) 40 degrees for the high. And with driving to each show, sometimes there’s a good bit of walking from your parking area to the event. So I bring gloves, a scarf, usually a windbreaker. If it’s going to rain you’ll need an umbrella. Usually I bring two pair of boots, to be able to change them out midweek (I’m usually shopping for 3 or 4 days) to give me feet a break. Mostly boots (though I keep a pair of flip flops in the car for when the weather warms up). I’ve also been to Tucson when the parking lot was so muddy and flooded that you could barely walk through it without boots. I also bring a small travel umbrella. So check the weather before you go and if it looks iffy at all, bring whatever extras you might need.

You WILL be walking a LOT. I have worn a pedometer before, and most recently my Fitbit, and I have logged on some days, 20,000 steps. Usually I’m in the 13,000 to 17,000 range. For many of us, who sit more than we move, your legs and feet (and the previously mentioned neck and shoulders) will be SORE. Bring your ibuprofen, or whatever else you need to manage that if necessary. Be prepared that it’s great fun, but also exhausting. You will get overwhelmed and you’ll stop being able to process everything, and that’s probably when you should stop shopping for the day. Because purchases made when in that state are usually the ones you might regret a bit. Ask me how I know. ;)

Know that there’s the budget, the over-budget, and the “oh my god what have I done”. If you can avoid that last one, great. But it’s not always possible. I have a budget. I usually go over it (slightly). Because there will always be that “once in a lifetime” most amazing gem(s) or price(s) that you just HAVE to take advantage of. So you dig a little deeper and find some extra money (or a little room on your credit card). You’re there, all that yummy goodness is there, and it’s nearly impossible to resist. It happens. Just know that it happens and try to be aware of it when it’s happening.

I usually, every night in my room, go through the day’s purchases and figure out what I’ve taken care of and what I’m still looking for / need to buy. If I don’t do that, I sometimes will overbuy (forgetting that I’ve bought it – or similar – already). I also total up the day’s purchases at night so I know exactly where I’m at for the next day. I keep a guesstimate of what I’ve spent in my head while shopping, but sometimes I’m a little off and it helps to know exactly what I've spent before I start out again.

I have never shipped my purchases home. The cabs and beads (back when I was buying beads) are small and I have been able to tightly pack them into my carry on and just take them with me. I don’t like to ship and I don’t want to pay the extra expense – so I make it work and then I know I have all my items with me. I have, on occasion, been stopped to have my bag manually checked. When that happens, I ask for a private screening. It’s never been a problem to have that done. It’s not like I’m buying diamonds and high value gems, but I still don’t need everyone else in line to see just how much I’ve purchased. I also fly into and out of Phoenix, instead of directly to Tucson, because I have friends there and I stay an extra couple of days in Phoenix before heading home – but I have flown through Tucson in the past and most of the TSA people know that the gem show’s going on and they’re typically very understanding that you might not want everyone to see all your purchases.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

If You're Not Failing, You're Not Trying Hard Enough

Five minutes ago I was in the workroom, nipping and filing some wire to make stacker rings.  Some of my nips were at an angle so I proceeded to file them straight (perpendicular to the piece of wire).

And my mind, in its usual wandering fashion asked, "What if instead of filing the ends of the wire straight up and down, I filed them at an angle?  I'd still be able to solder them together so long as I had two flat surfaces."

And then the other part of my mind responded with, "Yeah, but it's probably not as cool as you think it'd be.  They would most likely just look like you messed up your solder join."

And then the first part gave the response I love: "Maybe, but you don't know until you try."

I love my workshop failures.  They say to me that I am trying.  I'm trying new things, I'm working outside the box, I'm not letting history dictate my work, and I'm eager to innovate.

Both my children played youth hockey and I recall one statement by a coach that really stuck with me.  He said, "If you're not falling down, you're not skating hard enough."  It was a simple and profound message.  If you never fail, you're most likely playing it safe, not pushing yourself hard enough, and "safe" doesn't become best.  "Safe" doesn't create new inventions.  "Safe" isn't a leader.

In my workroom I have drawers and drawers of failed experiments.  These are treasures.  While they're unusable, many were stepping stones to some new technique or some new design element that needed to be worked out, thought through, and practiced.

Without my drawers of failed attempts, I would have no progress.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My First Jewelry Collection: Part 1

It's true... I've been making jewelry for 15 years and I've never made a collection.

It shows, too.  There is no cohesive look to my shop or display.

My shop...

My gallery display...

Mind you, both of these are WAY better than it used to be, but the bottom line is I like to play, I like to experiment, and I kind of have ADD of jewelry making.  Every time I see a new technique or get a new tool, I want to go off and explore that direction.  I end up with lots of directions and very little focus.

So I decided to put my foot down and actually create my first collection.

I also decided to vlog (video log) the experience, for better or worse... or maybe just to keep me on task.  I'm not yet familiar (in the slightest!) with my new video editing software so bear with me in the beginning please.

This first vlog entry is merely to introduce you to my idea and tell you what my starting point is.  In my next entry, I hope to explore (and show you) some hard core plans for the collection designs.

If you prefer to watch the video directly on YouTube, click here.  And if you feel inclined to leave me a comment or give my video a thumbs up, I just want you to know those are ALWAYS appreciated.  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Review of the Black and Decker 15.6V DUSTBUSTER® Hand Vac Model CHV1510

Why a dustbuster review?  As a metalsmith, I find it comes in handy.  Not only do I use it for quick clean ups, I can look in the canister to see if I vacuum up any gemstones by accident.

A dustbuster is, for me, not an entire house vacuum cleaner but rather something for mini vacuuming... spills, a patch of dust bunnies, etc.  I didn't even *care* if my dustbuster held a charge for over a minute.  Trust me, I was finished with whatever I needed to do with it in under 30 seconds. 

But just for the sake of testing (I love research!), I recently started the stopwatch and decided to do continual vacuuming with this until it died. 

Five minutes later, all the crumbs and cat hair were off the floor of two rooms and the thing was still going strong.  I decided to stop there.  There is no earthly reason I need a dustbuster to run for more than five minutes.  [Others may use theirs differently... I'm just telling you that for the reason I got it, it works great.]

My only complaint is that the extension nozzle retracts too easily.  As soon as it touches an object it starts going back into the housing.  IMO, there should be a catch so it stays extended until you purposefully retract it.

Other than that, thumbs up. 

And I leave my dustbuster on the charger 100% of the time except when I'm vacuuming. 

I've had it for about 2-3 years now.

Here is the product on Amazon.  The rating is very bad and had I read those prior to purchasing, I would not have gotten this model.  I'm glad I didn't read those reviews before buying.  It's sad to see so many people having a hard time with it not holding a charge.  Does that mean I got a reverse lemon?

On the other hand, here's a site with a beaming review.

But... on Black and Decker's own website the reviews are terrible.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kitty Help in the Jewely Making Process

The cats are no longer near my jewelry stuff, but ten years ago was a different story. I was recently sorting through some old photos and was reminded how helpful the fur-babies were.

Here's Ten looking all cute and innocent (notice the awesome ears!).

But not so innocent really, and he'd just finished playing with a necklace and batting half the beads down the heating vent.

Asia is a perfect fit in my bead box... no work until she wakes up.

Can take photos in the mean time.  Jag will help by pulling on the camera strap just as I'm about to press the shutter button.

You know they have to try out every box for size.  Ugh!  It's like me trying to get into jeans... I'll MAKE myself fit, dagnabbit!

"No, you may not take the mail just yet."

"Photo props?  I thought you brought me presents!"

Nothing like a warm kiln on a cold winter's day.

"Wait.  These earrings are out of place.  Let me adjust them for you."

"Yes, it really is comfortable with my face in your bead bowl!"

No computer work until kitty wakes up.

Kitty is awake... and ready for modeling job.  Too bad I need a jewelry model rather than a silly hat model.

"Oh, but your bags of jewelry findings feel SO GOOOOOOOOD!"

At the end of the day, it's just SO exhausting tipping over bead trays, chewing on postage envelopes, and completely disrupting the photo sessions.

Got photos to share!  Add to the comments section.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Can Jewelry Go In Water?

Should I come here and update even when I have nothing to say?

I feel I'm letting my friends down... either way.  (Ah guilt.  Isn't it FABULOUS!?)

If I have nothing to say so say nothing, I feel I'm being unfair to those who follow my blog.

If I have nothing to say and yet come in here and babble about nothing, I feel I'm being unfair to those who follow my blog. 


I come from a land of black and white.  It's very hard for me to do things part-way.  (Please stop rolling your eyes those of you who know me and know there is an endless supply from me of doing things part-way.)

What I mean is that... and this is probably one of the curses of people who have that "perfectionist" thing goin' on.  Oh, don't get me wrong, those people (of which I am one) aren't perfect.  They just want everything they DO to be perfect.

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, one of the curses of perfectionists is: If I can't do it fully the way it should be done, I don't want to do it at all.


How that translates to blog land is that I get ready to talk to you about something, but maybe I haven't taken the photographs yet... or haven't finished testing something yet... or haven't done enough research yet.  So I can't possibly come in here and do a partial job of showing/telling you anything.  I've got to have it all, and have it under my belt nice and tight, before I can spill the beans.


So, in order for me to try to break myself of that habit, I will today tell you of a recent "thing" in my jewelry making world.  (And hopefully I'll come back and give you the conclusion to this thing too.)

I had a rather interesting custom order the other day (but that part doesn't go into this story).  One of the questions that arose was, "Can this jewelry go in water?"

That's a darn good question... with multiple answers.

The piece in question was a bezel set mood stone.  Mood stones are acrylic.  The rest of my piece was sterling silver.

So I figured I'd better experiment.

My normal response to "can jewelry go in water" goes something like this: "Most metal pieces suffer little damage with brief exposure to tap water (showers, etc), but saltwater (the ocean), bleach, and pool chemicals can be harsh to metal so if possible remove jewelry before pool or ocean water exposure and before using bleach."

But that's "metal pieces"... as in sterling silver or gold.  Adding a stone to the equation changes the answer.  Adding a synthetic stone to the equation changes the answer even further.

So I figured I'd better do at least a little testing before coming up with a response.

The only bezel set mood stone I had on hand right then was one set in sterling with a solid backplate AND glue behind the stone (the bezel wire was too short for the stone and this was a piece I'd made for myself... I only use glue when setting stones under the rarest of occasions and only if there's a good reason).

I put my ring into a glass of water for 24 hours.  After that time, the mood stone looked fine... at first.  Then, when I expected to happen happened.  Well, I don't know if that's really what happened, but I expected the glue to react with the water and become something that changed the look of the stone somehow (remember, mood stones are translucent).  Adding to that is the fact that the bezel is closed, so I'm picturing water behind the stone, mixing with glue, and no way to come out or dry up.

So here's what I have a bit after removing the ring from the water...

And several hours later...

So, to determine if it IS in fact the glue (please be the glue, please be the glue... or even just water that will dry up... I'm okay with that), I went ahead and set another mood stone in silver but this time NO glue (and open-back, in case trapped water is the issue).

That's in the water now so you'll have to come back tomorrow and see the results of that test.

I really like the idea of jewelry that isn't high maintenance.  Meaning, my preference is jewelry I can wear while washing my hands, taking a shower, and doing the dishes.  But we'll see where this mood stone thing sits.

I know not all jewelry will be like that and I'm okay with pieces that need a little more care.  I just want to make sure I know the difference.

See you later!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Soldering Tube Bezel Rings

Had a friend over the other day and among other things we worked on tube settings.

Here are two rings I made and since the ring shank I used was really narrow (14 gauge wire), I want to show you the set up I used for soldering.

(BTW, that gorgeous prong set ring was made by my friend Kristi Taylor of Got Sparkles.)

Normally I solder with a third-arm holding the ring shank and then I just put the bezel on top and sweat solder.  (Like for these rings)

That wouldn't work with the tube bezels.  The bezels are too heavy and awkward to sit atop a thin piece of wire without falling.

So I got some greening pins (100% steel pins used in floral arrangements... easy to find on Amazon or at local craft supply stores).
I bent them into shape with pliers.  I bent the legs as shown and I made a dent (cubby hole or holder) in the top.  The legs went into holes in my soldering pad (you can also press them into charcoal soldering blocks).

I then placed the tube upside-down on the soldering pad and it was super easy to align the filed divots of my ring shank with the tube walls.

As I said, the pins are steel, so it's the same as when you use binding wire to hold things.

Everything stays in place during soldering.  It's wonderful!

If you try this out, I'd love to hear about your experience!  Leave me a comment.