Five Days To Go…

27 12 2010

Or… 2010, Tying up Loose Ends at StudioDax!

Well… it’s the end of the December, and no matter how I plan for the end of the year, it always seems to sneak up on me.  I like to spend a little time thinking about what I’ve done over the past 12 months – the pieces I’ve created, the classes I’ve taught, and the techniques I learned. Taking stock of the past helps me decide the direction I want to go in the future.

Bead Crochet Starter Jig - Patent Pending!

In 2010, I also made a real effort to finesse the design and tutorial for my Bead Crochet Jig (which I sell in my Etsy store), and in April, I filed the papers starting the process for a patent. I’ve been teaching classes with it, selling it online and at shows, and I’ve started wholesaling it to stores. This has been a great learning exercise, and I am looking forward to expanding my wholesale to more stores and distributors.

Like other artisan jewelers, 2010 has been a real wake up call to factors that we can’t control. I’ve been watching the silver market, and getting anxious about how I’ll be able to continue working with quality materials when the prices keep spiraling. Since I buy my sheet and wire in bulk 2-3x a year, it hasn’t had a great impact on me yet, but my next purchase will probably be double what I paid for it last time around.

About 2 Years of Scraps!

The only upside to the rising silver cost – it’s time to turn in the scraps! I usually turn it in when I get about a pound, and this shows a little more than that. So at least I’ll have the ability to buy some more without feeling the pain so much…

My final “end of year” activity is always the same – it’s clean up time in the Studio! I get very accustomed to working in my own chaos, and this year is waaaaaay worse than any previous years, so it will take me a lot longer to organize, clean, and trash my work closet. Usually my workspace isn’t nearly so bad , but take a look at what I need to get thru this week!

What a Mess!

There is absolutely NO surface space at all – I have to remove storage items and plates with works in progress in order to make room to work…. very much a PITA! I can’t even think of doing any soldering with spending 20 minutes to remove the piles first….

The mess at the back - Part I!

The pickle pot is totally surrounded by bits and pieces of silver and copper. Small things I’ve played around with and put down, not quite sure if they should be discarded or left for future play.

The mess at the back - Part II!

I seem to always have plastic ziplock bags with a few things in them – beads, and threads, and things from the hardware store…. fun things that have no home yet. I pile them onto plates, then pile the plates up, to make it easy to move them around. And sometimes when I start a project, I put all the pieces on one plate, so that I can stack it up instead of trying to put the pieces back…. it’s gonna take a real  long time to make this space usable again!

Within a week – this should be nice and clean, ready to start the New Year off with space that will inspire – rather than hinder – creativity. I promise to post a few pics once it’s done!

And until then – have a great New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Gotta Have It… Soldering

8 11 2010

Wanna Solder??

People are always looking to add to their skillset – learning new techniques is how we expand and grow our craft. And the one area that jewelry designers always have concerns with is soldering:

  • “It’s too complicated”
  • “It cost’s too much”
  • “It takes up too much room
  • ‘I’m afraid I’ll burn the house down”

These are the basics that most people come up with. So I’m going to write a few posts explaining soldering in a “real” environment – mine! This first post will look at the tools you need, and later on, I’ll post more about the techniques and how-tos.

Not as Much Space as You Thought!

I have a very, very, very, small workspace – it’s actually in a closet! So I am very careful about what I buy, making sure it is absolutely necessary. And this photo shows the items you absolutely must have to get started: You can see the can of butane (the fuel) and to the right of that is the mini torch (aka: creme brule torch). Behind the torch, you’ll see a small crockpot – this is my “pickle” pot, where I keep the pickle, which is an acid used to clean up metal after soldering. To the right of the torch, on the worktop, is copper tongs (use these when removing a piece from the pickle pot), some tweezers and pics, and tubes of solder paste. I use solder paste because it mixes the solder with the flux (a solution used to help solder flow), and in a small space, I prefer to make it as simple as possible! There is a small tripod, which has a screen laying across the top, and a charcoal block on top of that:

On the Block

The tripod is great for raising your pieces to working level, the screen is both a working surface (useful when you want to torch the piece from underneath), as well as a shelf for the charcoal bloack. I like to solder on compressed charcoal, because it holds the heat from the flame, making it easier to get your piece to come to soldering temperature. As you can see – it can get pretty messy and ashy, but it still works fine. I occasionally rub the surface of the block to even out the surface and make it flat.

This is really it – a torch, the fuel, solder/flux, something to solder on, tweezers to move and pick up the item as it heats up, and pickle to clean off the firescale.

When 2 Hands Aren't Enough

Another item that is handy (but not necessary!) is a 3rd hand, used to hold an item in position. In this photo, the ring is being held firmly on a square of silver so it doesn’t shift when the torch is applied.

Not as complicated as you thought…. and this set-up is perfectly fine to get started. I have been soldering for many years, but my space is limited (a closet – remember!), so I cannot have a more elaborate set-up. And this simple set-up is sufficient for almost all the work I want to do.

In my next Soldering post, I’ll explain more about the tools and materials, and in future posts, I’ll show how to set up your projects for basic soldering techniques.





Twisted, Wrapped, Coiled, and Woven…

13 07 2010

… just some ways to have fun with wire! I love how wire can be manipulated, and adapted for so many different looks. Basic wire skills are so important – knowing how wire bends and acts are key techniques that every jewelry designer should know. But wire work is so much more than wrapping a bead or making an earwire! Wire can be a key design element in your pieces – not just an accessory to beads. Luckily, some of of the best wire designers in the country are also some of the best teachers! For those of us looking to broaden our wire skills, Hooked on Wire (Sept 9-12, 2010) is a great venue to meet up and learn from the masters!

Fiore Selvatico with Barb Switzer

Isn’t this just a gorgeous necklace!? Barb is such an artist with wire… I love how the focal rivoli crystal and the antiqued wire are used – it reminds me of flowing vines and flowering English gardens.

Circles Bracelet with Dallas Lovett

Dallas does such great things with wire… his designs are so inspired! This intriguing design combines seed beads and wire weaving to create a bit of art deco for your arms…

Victorian Scroll Bracelet with Lisa Niven Kelly

The inspiration for Lisa’s fabulous bracelet is old style iron gates… in this detailed close-up, you can see how the scrollwork inspired a new art form as it wraps around your wrist!

These workshops teach you so much more than just the projects… they teach you the the techniques. This is the 7th year that Hooked on Wire has brought such talent together, and it’s a great opportunity to meet up with others that share your passion. If you’ve never attended a retreat like this, think of it as both a vacation, and an education… your creativity will thank you for the kick!!

And I’d love to meet you too – I’ll be there, teaching “FAN-tastic Pendent,” one one of the optional night classes, so make sure you check out the entire Hooked on Wire site to see how much fun you can pack in just 3 days!





The “Studio” in StudioDax

30 04 2010

I love seeing where people work, so I thought I’d post a photo of my shop. Since I have absolutely no room, I converted a closet into a workshop, complete with worktop, side shelves, lighting and electric, some storage (never enough!), a hook for my flexshaft, and a pegboard backing for tools. I hope you find some of these ideas useful in your work area.

The Work Shop Closet

Just for reference, this is the neatest it has ever looked! At the moment, there is about 6 inches of surface visible – the rest has projects in progress piled up on paper plates!

Soldering Station At Rest

This is just a photo of the left side – I’ve got my soldering tools (tripod, torches, charcoal, etc…) located on the middle shelf. I dream of a bigger space – there is no room to keep my soldering and metalworking tools out – but it is a great set-up in a very small space.