A Little Bling Bling

28 02 2011

A Little Bling Goes A Long Way….

It can be tricky to combine the sparkle of crystal with stark metalwork, but if you keep the design sleek and simple, then the materials work together really well. Back in September, I taught a class at Hooked on Wire, and attended a presentation from the Swarovski folks… I got loads of little crystal bits (see my previous post on this HERE),  and finally got around to creating a new design, which I really love!

I designed the piece using heavy gauge sterling silver (18g), which I gave a soft matte finish, and added a preset 7mm crystal rivet cup (NOTE: click on photos to enlarge):

Simplicity - Sparkle and Silver

Isn’t this a great look!?! I cut a simple triangle from some scrap silver sheet I had, rounded the edges and the corners, and used a combination of files, sanding blocks, and polishing papers to get the soft finish. I then drilled a hole so I could add the crystal (the crystal comes pre-set in the rivet setting).

A Modern Style, A Classic Look

From the side view, you can see a bit more detail – when I drilled the hole for the crystal setting, I beveled the edge of the hole to accommodate the angle and allow the cup to seat into the silver. I curved the silver lightly to balance the formed bale – the minimalist shape provides a graceful way to hang the pendant on a chain.

Best Not Seen... The Back!

The back looks a bit messier than it really is… the tube (rivet) was quite long, so I had to cut it’s length, and then cut down the tube to create tabs to fasten it to the silver. Since the rivet is brass, I was concerned that if I manipulated it too much, it would become brittle and crack. So I simply hammered the tabs down, and added a blob of E6000 to cover the tab edges so they don’t catch or scratch (E6000 is a thick adhesive).

Just Hanging Around

I love how this pendant looks – right at the collarbone, showing on the skin. The crystal makes it pop, and with the matte finish on the silver, this is a piece that looks great jeans and a sweater, or all dressed up – since it’s Swarovski, the quality crystal  sparkles however you wear it!

I gave this one to a friend as a thank you gift, but I’ll be making a few more, maybe even with different shapes, but the same styling. I just love when the end result looks better than what I imagined!

 

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Stitches: A Fiber Show

22 02 2011

I think of my jewelry as falling into the “metal arts” category – silver, copper, hammers, and torches – yep, that’s metal arts! I sometimes use beads and gemstones, but most of the time, they are the accents, not the focus.

I have 2 major exceptions to this, which I call my “soft” side – my bead crochet, which uses seed beads, and my kumihimo, which uses colored cords and fibers. And this past weekend, I indulged a bit in my soft side, and I attended Stitches.

Stitches is a convention of all things fiber: spinning, knitting, weaving, crocheting – it is a huge meeting of the soft and fluffy yarns, the new wool blends, the natural fibers, and the hand-dyed… it is the opposite of a bead show, where all the materials are stone and glass and gems.

Aisles at Stitches (click photo for close-up)

Look at all the vivid colors – what you can’t see is the textures and the different yarns – the silks, the wools, the cashmeres, the soys, the cottons – absolutely wonderful to take in. I really love the weaving – it looks like something I could get into in the future, although I don’t know what I’d do with the fabric once woven! There were also gorgeous sweaters, jackets, socks, and blankets – available in patterns and kits… if only I was fiber-friendly!

Marion Jewels in Fiber Booth (click photo for close-up)

I spent one day roaming the floor, and checking out the goods… I bought some great ribbon style yarn, which I’m using for some kumihimo projects (I’ll do that in a later post), and I spent a day doing demo’s at a friends booth – Marion Jewels in Fiber. Marion has a great online store, where she carries an extraodinary selection of silk threads, as well as the full line of C-Lon cording. Also, she sells kumihimo kits, micro-macrame materials, tools, and my StudioDax Bead Crochet Jig.

My StudioDax Bead Crochet Jig - Demo Kit

After doing demos for a year or so now, I’ve pretty much got it down – my demo kit includes a couple of projects in different stages: the multi-purple bracelet is almost done (see the cords threaded thru the endcaps and focal bead), the solid green size 8 beads, and the 3 color spiral size 6 beads (peach, white, and bronze) are bracelets in progress, and the solid black teardrop beads that are still on the jig. The other pieces show how to remove the jig from the crochet rope (the multi-color stripes on the jig), as well as some examples of using the jig to make ropes with smaller delicas and size 11 beads. And I always have a sample of what it looks like to start a bead rope without the jig – you can see it on the right in the photo, below the awl – it looks a little like a knot of beads!

I appreciate all my customers that buy from my StudioDax shop , and I love when they leave me feedback letting me know how much they enjoy using the jig, but it’s great fun doing demos to show how easy it is to use, and having people buy the jig on the spot… instant gratification!!





Tools That Delight

13 02 2011

I’ve wanted to to post a review feature on tools for a while, so I decided it’s time to do it! This is the first in a series called “Tools that Delight” and they will be tagged for easy searching in the Categories menu to the right…

As a tool junkie, I mentally rate my tools into different categories depending on how much I want them. It is not unusual for tools to change the category they are in, especially when I learn new techniques:

  • Must Have: these are the tools I can’t work without
  • Gotta Get: these are the ones that I really want, that I will use alot
  • Cool Tool: usually very specific for one unique purpose
  • Next Level Tools: usually really expensive versions of tools I have
  • Big Boys: the tools that are really expensive, or take up alot of room!

First up… the nylon faced bracelet former pliers!

Cool Tool ----> Must Have

I considered these pliers a “cool tool” for many years, but over the years, they’ve become part of my “must have” toolset (yes – they are still really cool!). These pliers have nylon jaw pads that are shaped to easily bend thin metal and wire in a light consistent curve.

Smiling Jaws!

One side is convex, the other concave, so that they fit together when closed. Many of these pliers have replaceable nylon pads so that when you ding them up (and you will!) you can easily fix them – note the nylon screws that are holding them to the jaws.

Ready to Shape

These pliers are great for shaping both narrow strips of metal sheet, as well as wire. I can easily shape up to 12g – for reference, the copper strip above is 16g, and the wire is 14g. And using them is so simple – it doesn’t get any easier!

  • STEP 1: lay wire into nylon jaw
  • STEP 2: close pliers
  • STEP 3: repeat as needed

Shaping Wire

Shaping Wire from a Bend

So simple, and the results are so clean and nice and consistent! You can easily shape wire for a bangle, or to create a “frame” which can be hammered and wrapped.

Shaping Flat Stoc

For this piece, I had already finished the copper strip design with some letter stamping, texturing, and hole punching. I am going to use it as a link for a bracelet… look how easily it gets formed!

Curved Metal Strip

Doesn’t this look great?! Nice and even, with no warping or damage, and the nylon ensures that the strip doesn’t get scratched. I am planning on antiquing the copper to bring out the details, and will add some chain, or maybe attach some leather cord, to make up a bracelet.

Hopefully… I’ve shown reason why this pair of pliers has moved into my “Must Have” list – I have a few pairs with slightly different shapes – all of them are well loved!

I’ll be posting more photos of my favorite tools, as well as some info on how they are used – let me know if there’s anything is particular you’re interested in, and I’ll try to oblige!





Loving the Business… of the Business

2 02 2011

I love being an independent jewelery designer.

I love to design pieces and make jewelry – bending wire, hammering metal, playing with fire… it is so satisfying to indulge in chaos, and to just create. I can lose myself for hours reading my jewelry technique books, and I always keep a notebook with me so I can jot down my latest ideas when inspiration hits. I am a tool junkie of the worst (best?) kind – I covet all the latest new jewelry tools, and prowl the aisles of Harbor Freight and Home Depot, thinking of creative ways to adapt all their tools to suit my jewelry making.

And I love to teach too… I was “drafted” as a teacher many years ago, and surprisingly, I discovered I enjoyed it alot, and was pretty good at it. Luckily, I”ve been able to combine both my love for jewely making with my love of teaching – it’s great fun to develop new projects for classes, and very satisfying to see my students create and expand their skills. And I learn from them too, all the time.

I have been creating, teaching, and selling for 5 years now, and I still appreciate so much when someone is willing to part with their money, to own one of my pieces, or spend time with me to learn what I have to teach. It is always a thrill for me when I get a new customer or a student, and a real joy whenever a customer or a student returns back for more.

People always ask “why do you blog?” For me, this blog is an extension of my teaching and creating. I don’t post that often, but I try to post on topics that people will find interesting, and hopefully useful too. And just like with my customers and students, I get a little thrill every time I get a new reader, or a returning one…!





I Heart Hearts!

16 01 2011

Valentines day is just a few weeks away, so I figure now is the time to post a tutorial for making a simple wire heart pendant! This is a basic heart, but once you create it, you can embellish it however you want…

You will need basic wire jewelry pliers (chain or bent-nose, round nose, cutters), a small file, a hammer and steel block. You will also need 16g wire and 24g or 26g wire, and a mandrel about 1/2 inch diameter… a fat marker works well.

Preparing the Wire

To start…. cut a piece of 16g wire 5 inches long, and file the ends so that they are flush. Then bend the wire using your chain nose pliers, so that one side is 2.25 inches, and the other is 2.75 inches.

Shaping the Heart

Now use the mandrel (ie: fat marker) to shape the sides of the heart. 16 g wire is a bit difficult to work with, so don’t get discouraged….! Start by holding the wire tightly on the marker, and then rolling (you are pushing – not wrapping!) the wire until you get a nice rounded shape – repeat for each side:

 

Shaped Heart Sides...

Once the sides are rounded (one side will be longer than the other), it’s time to turn the ends further inward, using the round nose pliers. It is very important to make sure that you don’t pull open the shape you just made on the mandrel! This may take a bit of practice since 16g wire is a bit difficult to work with.

 

Turning in the Ends

It is more effective to grasp the end of the wire tightly in the round nose pliers, and then PUSH the wire around the pliers, rather than trying to pull the wire, which will warp the shape of the sides and pull them straight.

 

Shaping the Heart

After you turn in the ends, you can shape the sides by PUSHING the ends toward each other, and gently pushing the sides out a bit, until it is the shape as shown on the right.

 

Hammering - the Final Shaping Step

Using a nice slightly rounded hammer and a steel block, flatten the heart frame – the ends may open a bit, and the sides may separate a little… that’s normal, you just need to tighten up the ends and bring the sides back together, as shown above. Next, we will use thin gauge wire to wrap the sides together, so the heart doesn’t open.

 

Closing the Heart

Cut about 4 inches of the thin wire (24g or 26g), and make a small hook at one end, then start to wrap the sides of the heart, as shown above. Wrap the wire through the loops on each side 3-4 times, and pull the wire taut, using your pliers as needed. Decide which side will be the front, and make sure that you pull the wire through, and cut both ends on the back.

 

The Wraps on the Back

The photo above shows the wraps neatly cut, and pressed down on the back… the only thing left is to add the bail, and hang on a chain.

 

Shiny... or Antiqued - Either Choice is a Winner!

I made a simple bail by wrapping a piece of 16g wire twice on the base round nose pliers, cutting and filing the ends, and hammering it a bit for texture. I then opened it and slipped it thru the loop of the higher side of the heart, so that it hangs balanced. Personally, I’m a fan of the antiqued look! If you have some wire wrapping skills, you may want to embellish the heart with additional wire wrapping, or adding some beads.

 

Bold Heart!

This photo shows a heart frame with spirals (the technique is similar), which is then wrapped with some faceted garnets… this is a class I’ll be teaching locally next month… just in time for Valentines Day!

You may want to check these posts for info on Hammering and on using Liver of Sulpher for Antiquing.

 





Consignment… the Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly!

13 01 2011

Sorry… no photos this time – just an important public announcement!

Whenever someone buys one of my pieces, I get a thrill. I admit it – there is something very exciting about having a customer part with their hard earned money to own something I designed and crafted.  All of us who sell our creations feel this way – believe me, it’s waaaay too hard to be doing it just for the money!!

Most artists and craftsfolks depend on a variety of venues for selling their items. I have my StudioDax Etsy store, and I sell at a few shows during the year, but I’ve made alot of my sales in the past by selling on consignment thru other stores. Consignment can be GREAT! It offers an audience for my jewelry that I probably wouldn’t reach any other way, and it keeps my pieces visible in places where people shop.

When consignment goes well, it is a wonderful partnership between the creator, and the seller. By focusing on the creative side, I am able to design more, and improve my techniques. The store takes care of the selling, tax collection, and marketing, and always has a supply of unique items that keeps their shop fresh. Both of us benefit – and the customers do to!

But sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and unfortunately, the artist is usually the one who gets impacted for the worse. If the store owner doesn’t have good business sense , or has financial problems, they may not pay for the items that have sold, or may not return the items that don’t sell. Sometimes, they don’t have time to manage their inventory well, or they just don’t care enough, and items get broken or stolen. And in some very troubling cases, store owners are just sleezy, and take advantage of people, with no intent to do the right thing. For these people…. I only hope that Karma wrecks havoc in their life!

I have been lucky. I’ve done consignment with 4 stores, and each one has been wonderful, taking care of my pieces, paying me on time, and returning my items when they didn’t sell. But I’ve been reading some disturbing posts about stores that have been contacting Etsy sellers, signing contracts, and the sellers send off their pieces in good faith, only to find out that they’ve been robbed.

As a business, as an etsian, as an artisan, and an honest person… these actions both sadden me, and really piss me off. So  as a public service announcement,  I am posting a link to a website that highlights the financial, moral, and legal issues that some folks have been exposed to, from working with a store called Queen City Emporium in Missouri. I hope that none of my readers have been scammed by them – if you have please make sure to connect with the site author, who is compiling complaints about this store.

There are so many great shops to consign with, and the benefits are great. Unfortunately, it’s the bad ones like this that get the attention…





How to Store It

9 01 2011

or…. where the jewelry sleeps!

I recently posted about my terribly crowded workbench, and if I wasn’t too embarrassed, I’d show you the other places I’ve been encroaching on to store my supplies, materials, and tools! The dining room has my shipping and packaging area, I keep my photo set-up in my bedroom, and I have various items boxed up in the living room, the laundry room, and the garage. I even have a bench shear on a small workbench which lives in a hallway… the house is taken over!!

But once an item is completed, and ready to be sold, I like to make sure that it is safe and secure, and easy to find. At least most of the time!! So I keep my “FOR SALE” jewelry in a case specifically made for storing and transporting jewelry…

Jewelry "Salesman" Case

This is a softsided salesman case – the trays inside can vary in depth, and have interchangeable inserts. Most of mine have velvet pads, but I also have some trays with separated compartments, and one has a foam insert for rings.

2 Half Trays at the Top

Most of my trays are full sized, but I have a few half sized trays. I like to keep my rings in a smaller tray so that it doesn’t take up much room on my show table – my ring tray has a foam ring insert, and it’s the only one I pull out and leave on the table “as-is” for selling. I have a divided tray for the other smaller tray – I currently have a few pendants and bracelets residing in there.

Bracelets, Cuffs, and Bangles.... Oh My!

It’s not a mess… it just looks like it! This is a single, deep tray, and most of bracelets “live” here, although I usually store the ones with chains in ziplock bags. I like to work with alot of different things – you’ll find metal work, wirework, bead stringing, and some leatherwork in here! I also have quite a few bead crochet bracelets, but most of them are kept with my teaching materials as samples for classes.

Earrings.... Part I

Earring... Part II

I have ALOT of earrings – and I keep most of them in these 2 inch deep trays. I made the divider inserts with heavy stock, and I’m able to store up to 15 earring cards in each section, or for hoops or dangle styles that I don’t keep on cards.

Just Hanging Around!

I am always looking for ways to store my chain necklaces w/pendants so that they don’t get all tangled up – placing them all in individual ziplock bags would work, but it takes waaaay too much time to take out and put back for shows.I think my latest method works well – each chain had a tag, and each tag is strung on a hook (see it at the top right side). I use twist ties to bundle and keep the chains together, and then store the pendants of each group in a large ziplock (I removed the bags for the photo). To set them out, I just grab the hook, untwist the bundles, and hang them up by the tags. I have 5 trays like this for different styles, but I figure one is sufficient to show you!

Everything in it's Own Compartment!

Some trays have specialized compartments that fit inside, and are used to keep items separated  – I show here one with a necklace/bracelet insert, and one with small squares that fit standard pre-fab earring cards. I use it instead to hold my extra pendants that are not on chains, or to keep the pendants on very thin chains from getting tangled up.

So – this is my method of storing my finished items once they are priced and tagged, which works for transporting items for shows. This is pretty much an industry standard for jewelry, but it took me years of using plastic shoeboxes and ziplock bags before I finally gave-in and purchased this set-up, and I wish I had done it earlier!