Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making a Personalized Hand Made Charm Bracelet

Photographs!  I have a computer full of photographs I’ve taken and I bet a lot you do too!  While I love to look at them and remember the events, emotions and friends, I want to do more with them.  Since I make jewelry, I’ve been experimenting with ideas.  That’s what I do- experiment with ideas and then turn them into wearable art – jewelry.
So as I went through my photos one day, I saw that I had a lot of animals.  Especially animals from Africa (what a surprise since I only brought home hundreds of photos from Africa!) and I decided to make a silver bracelet with a cat family.  I had great photos of a cub, a lion and a lioness.  I experimented with photo sizes and charm sizes and eventually figured out I could use 3 charms on a bracelet and have room for tiny beads. 
And then I realized that this bracelet had endless possibilities. It could have photos of birds for a birder.  It could be a friendship bracelet.  It might be a reminder of a trip.  Mothers and grandmothers might like to have their children and grandchildren’s pictures.  Might be a great gift for bridesmaids.  I needed to really think about and plan the process for this piece and future pieces of jewelry.
First I decided to make the charms about ¾ inch x 1 inch.  Yes, that was kind of an arbitrary size but it seemed good.  The second challenge was to make the photographs the correct size.  I love to use Google’s Picasa as my photo editor but this time I knew I would need to use the dreaded Photoshop Elements.  I’ve had Elements for a long time but have not found it user friendly.    My cousin is quite proficient in Photoshop but she lives in Texas and I’m in Arizona.  And I know she will suggest an online class when she reads this post!  I dug out the Elements ‘how to’ books and played with the editor and organizer and figured out how to do what I thought I needed to do to get the correct size.  It took a while!
The photograph would need to be protected and I just learned how to use resin. I had my idea and was ready to go.  I could stop writing now and just let you look at the pictures of the bracelets but it is important to me for you to understand the general process.  I want anyone who purchases my handmade jewelry to know a little about why I made it and why it is different from machine manufactured jewelry.  We are so used to seeing something, liking it and not thinking about the process.  I find a piece more valuable if I know a little about the artist and how it is made.  I hope you do too.
So here are the basic steps in making this personalized one of a kind fine silver charm bracelet!
1.       Make the charms out of silver clay.  To do this I made cutters made of polymer clay and copper strips so that the charms would be the same size and be easier to produce.  I needed 2 cutters – one for the back and one for the frame.  Definitely reminded me of cookie cutters.  Once the two pieces were cut, textured and put together, I embedded rings on each side so I could connect them to each other.  Then I fired it in the kiln and finished the silver by sanding and polishing.  Liver of sulphur gave the finished metal some depth and contrast. 

2.       Prepare the photograph.  I measured the finished charm opening and sized the picture to fit. Metal clay shrinks about 10% when fired so the finished measure is important.  Then I printed a laser copy of the photograph on presentation paper. The ink in laser copies does not bleed like inkjet.  I sealed the photo even though it might not have been necessary.  Wasn’t taking any chances!  Sometimes when you pour resin over an image, it soaks into the paper. 
Then I cut and glued the image into the opening.

3.       Apply the resin (a clear two part mixture of epoxy).  It has to be mixed in equal amounts, stirred a prescribed amount of time and poured carefully at the right temperature.  The goal is to have a hard clear no bubble layer over the photograph.  It not only protects but enlarges the image.  Very cool technique.  After much practice it worked!

4.       Attach the charms to beads or wire wrap each one to the next charm and attach the toggle clasp.   The length is about 8 inches. The finished bracelet is a great conversation starter and some bracelet owners hang them as art when they are not wearing them.

Now, don’t you want your own?  





Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Difference is in the Details - Line

My camera and I keep capturing images that inspire my jewelry making.  This time it’s about LINE!
My mother was an artist and a teacher.  She taught me that line is the foundation of art and that there are unlimited kinds of lines.  Some join to make a shape.  Some intersect.  Some wander.  I learned about vanishing lines where the land meets the sky and you aren’t quite sure where.
 Mother made line drawings of people that told wonderful stories.  This is one I found in her sketchbook. This line drawing was made during a faculty meeting and I can imagine just what each person was saying or thinking.  Bet you can too!
In one of my college art classes, we were to make 5 drawings using only line to depict recognizable objects without drawing an outline of the object.  See if you can draw a broom using only parallel lines! 
I’ve been thinking about lines and how we use them in our daily life.  Think about and look for the lines in your life.  I’d love to hear some of your experiences with daily lines.  Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll add yours to my list below.

Lines that make or imply a shape


Drawing a line in the sand

Shadows of a bicycle rack
Lines that give direction - park your bike here!
                                                               
Parallel Lines

Crooked Lines
             
Hammered wire with free- hangning stone Necklace
Crooked Lines


Lines of communication - pictograph
 

Where a line divides the image symmetrically
Lines of Symmetry
                                       
Rays - parts of lines
Windmill Necklace - photos, resins, mixed metals


Stained glass- San Diego CA
Intersecting lines
                                                               
Death Valley
Vanishing Lines
                                                      

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Observing the Details - Circles

I love to take pictures.  My Nikon 7000 goes with me most places.  I try to be aware when something catches my eye and find what caused me to stop and look.  Usually it is in the details!

Today I'm sharing some photos I've taken of circles and their many origins.  I keep a file so I can review and many times I use the textures, rhythm, color, lines and themes for my jewelry.  I hope you enjoy the details of these circles too!

Stacked Sewer Pipe

Farm Equipment

Rows of Feathers

Flamingo - the difference is in the details

My Gourd Purse patterned from a flower in circle

Christmas Ornament

Glass Balls
Take time to really see - not just look-at the beauty of the details.  These are circles but more important is what we find within those circles.  Lyrics not just words. Visual poetry.  The details of Life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Difference is in The Details


Male Bluebird
Have you been to one of those memory classes where they ask, “How many dresser drawers do you have?” and did you know? Or care?  It seems that details, seeing them, creating them and remembering them opens the worlds around us.  Details are the difference between the mundane and the wondrous.  They are the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, between good and excellent. 
Details amaze me or maybe it’s my ability or inability to observe and remember details. About 6 years ago I started birding.  I met a man, my Peter, who was an avid birder and, of course, I became one also.  I thought it would be a breeze.  I was used to looking at and creating details in my interior design work. 
Booted Racket-tailed Hummingbird
I saw him in Ecuador and look at his details!
I started out knowing there were big birds and little birds, colorful birds and plain birds, birds that flew and birds that stayed on the ground and I knew I liked to watch birds. I loved to listen to them.  But I did not know many of their names or their field markings or which songs belonged to which birds.  I knew a hummingbird but never realized there were so many kinds until we went to Ecuador.  Peter had a lot to teach me!  Maybe this was not going to be a cakewalk! 
Over time, I’ve learned to look at bird beaks to see what they eat and to tell what family they belong to.  I’ve learned that birds look different in different seasons and that usually male birds are more colorful than females (I already knew that!). And that identifying them requires accurate observation and knowledge.  One day we were driving and saw several birds flying in the area.  I remember having a rather lengthy, somewhat heated discussion about them because Peter said they were Blue Birds.  I said, “They can’t be because they are not blue!”  Well one thing led to another and I had to look in the birding book and of course, he was right.  Female bluebirds are not blue.  It’s a story that is still told at our house! 
Female Eastern Bluebird
photo by Glenda Simmons Dec 2008
I would see a bird, look at it closely, come home and try to find it in the birding book. But I had not looked for the details that made it different from other birds (field markings) and could not find the correct bird.  Frustrating.  We would go out birding and Peter would say, “There’s a cardinal!”  And I would say, “Where?” and so I learned to observe details and instead of saying, “In the tree” I would try to describe the area.  Seeing the details is one thing.  Sharing them so someone else can see them is another thing entirely and just as important.   
Male Cardinal - look at his beak
Becoming a birder started because I wanted to be part of Peter’s world.  Now I’m a birder because I see the beauty and the exquisite details.   There is so much to learn from the world of birds.  Because I am aware of those details, I appreciate even more details around me.  I pay attention to the details in my art and know that I am better because I do. 


Superb Starlings
Seen in Tanzania
“It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.”
Aesop

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Forest Walk Inspired Me

I walked through the forest on a sunny day.
Butterflies flitted from flower to wildflower gathering nectar.
Bird songs filled the air.  I took a deep breath and was at ease with the world.
Sunshine flowed through swaying pine branches.
Rocks glittered with the light. Moss grew in the shade on the north side of the trees.
Wildflowers scattered color and scent among the stones and trees.
The yellows, greens, browns, rust and gold fed my soul.
Here I sit with my beads, my wire, and my photographs. I dream of that walk again and create my ‘forest walk’ necklace.  The silver clay setting has a small polished dark stone surrounded by memories of flowers and leaves in relief.  A little engraving of vines and a hint of yellow (Gilder’s Paste) complete the silver part of the design. 
My picture of a butterfly on wildflowers is set in the upper bezel protected with Ice Resin that magnifies the details.  Small tumbled beads, the colors of my walk, are amber, glass, malachite and turquoise. 
The necklace looks a little old.  I could have conjured it up on my walk.  Perhaps I did.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WLWSSC - Whole Lotta Whimsy Sunday Social Club - Create, Collaborate, Communicate

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, I will be turning on my computer and signing into Facebook.  Jewelry artists from around the world will be meeting on Tonya Davidson’s Whole Lotta Whimsy Sunday Social Club.  We meet every Sunday and often during the week to share experiences, seek answers, gain inspiration and build friendships.  I had no idea when I signed up for this Sunday event how much I would enjoy and look forward to interacting with these creative people. You might like it too!
If you are an artist and want to increase your network, learn new things, get inspired and see what is going on in the world, please join us.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/119787814767278/

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To Connect, Create, and Collaborate





When groups of people combine their energies and talents, great things can happen.  The jewelry artists from Whole Lotta Whimsy Sunday Circle are no different.  The circle on Facebook formed by Tonya Davidson http://www.wholelottawhimsy.com  consists artists from around the world.  This group (and yes, I’m part of it) shares experiences, talents, friendship and the commitment to ‘connect, create, and collaborate’.  Take a look at the fan page to see how to join https://www.facebook.com/WholeLottaWhimsy
It did not take the group long to realize we could make a small difference in not only our community but the world community.  So we decided to create a project to benefit the victims of the Joplin, MO EF5 tornado that struck at 5:41p on May 22, 2011 killing at least 154 people, and injuring at least 900.  Our Collaboration Charms for Charity project was born. 
More than 20 artists from the group produced unique handmade charms to create 6 charm bracelets to be auctioned at E-Bay.  The first bracelet was successfully auctioned and the second bracelet is now being auctioned on eBay Charms For Charity: The Joplin Project Bracelet 2 | eBay  You are just in time to see it!  And keep watching for the remaining 4.
Read more about the bracelet and see photos on eBay.
Every cent of the proceeds from this sale will be donated to Joplin Relief Fund through the Catholic Charities of St. Louis, MO. If you'd like to make a direct donation please follow this link: Catholic Charities St. Louis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bogged Down in the Details or My Obsession with Bezels

Have you ever started a project and all of a sudden you realize your concentration is focused on a part of the project and you aren’t progressing?  You’re just stuck thinking about the same thing over and over?  Well, as most of you know, I make jewelry using silver metal clay.  I like to put the Mojave Stone cabochons that my dad cut and polished in bezels and design around the stone.  Let me share with you how I got stuck in the process.   

Bezel shaped to fit a stone

I decided that I would make the bezels (the thin strip that goes around the stone and holds it in place) out of the same silver metal clay as the setting.I made a mold for the stone by pushing it into polymer clay (plastic clay that holds its shape) and carefully removed it.  Then I poured jeweler’s investment (that is a type of plaster) into the mold, let it dry and used it as a plug.  The plug holds the space for the stone and can be fired with the clay in a kiln.  Some stones can be fired in the kiln but Mojave Stone is not one of them. 

Plug in fired setting


I made the ¼” wide clay bezel strip the length I needed and attached it to the clay leaving a little extra room for shrinkage.  The high temperature fuses the micro pieces of silver and the piece comes out being fine silver (.999).  I sanded and finished my piece of jewelry and put it into my kiln.  I love taking the piece out of the kiln after it cools.  It is the color of white and when I take my brass brush to it the color changes to silver.  Magic! 
 All that sounds like I was doing everything by the book.  At least I thought so.  But when I put the  stone in the fired bezel, it did not fit.  In fact the bezel shrank and was too small for the stone.  Fortunately I have several sizes of stone and I was able to ‘save’ the necklace.  Perhaps I should say I redesigned it with a turquoise stone that fit!   
redesigned necklace
  Metal clay shrinks about 10% when it is fired which I thought I had compensated for. Hmmm!   So I continued to work on bezels and more bezels.  I also used sterling silver bezel wire and became so involved in bezels that I was not designing jewelry.  I was just making holders for stones. Not creative. Just frustrating.   
Bezel Wire - Holders for Stones




The light went on in my head and I decided to stop.  I needed to design jewelry and relax about the bezels.  I needed to find the fun again.


In the meantime, I came across Lisa Barth’s book Designing from the Stone.   I was ready to read it and try the method she describes.  Her instructions are very clear and her jewelry is lovely to see.  So this week I designed a pendant and used the tabbed bezel wire she recommended.   It is pretty cool stuff and I have another method for making bezels.  I made sure the bezel was the correct size, poured the jeweler’s investment as a plug and fired the piece last night.  This morning I took it out of the kiln and the stone fits!  So now I am putting the finishing touches on it and have a success!  I am much less frustrated because I am looking at the whole process instead a obsessing over a part. 

Checking the fit of the stone

 
Fired Setting
   
I don’t expect anyone to run out and make a piece of jewelry from this explanation.  I am hopeful you will appreciate the process of making jewelry from silver metal clay more. Mostly I hope the next time you and I get bogged down in the details we stop, take a step back and look at the big picture.  Find the fun again.  The details will work out.  
Finished Necklace Using Tabbed Bezel Wire
 


 
 



 
  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Art Unraveled -My gift to My Creative Self

Art Unraveled is a gift I give to my creative self.  Linda and Chuck started this art workshop in 2003.   A variety of classes are scheduled all day and evenings.  It lasts a week in August in Phoenix AZ.  Hot! But we are all inside the hotel playing and learning.  

Deryn's Balanced Bangles
This year I met my good friend Judi from Tucson.  We roomed together for 2 nights and had catch up friend time.  We also took Deryn Mentock’s class “Balanced Bangles” on Friday and went shopping at the ‘Shopping Extravaganza on Saturday.  The attendance has grown to 400 people and I’m sure will continue to expand both in number of people and classes.  The website lists the classes and instructors and also has the information on ‘Adorn Me’.  www.artunraveled.com

Deryn's Work Table and Her Tools



My Stash for Charms



I took my tools, hammers, pliers, torch, wire, found objects, charms and more. 

 We drew beads on 14 gauge bronze wire, then hammered and annealed. Of course, there was not enough time!! I wanted to make 3 of each style!  Instead I made one and part of another, taking notes, watching and hoping I grasped the concepts and skills.  It is always fun to see what each person creates with the same set of instructions. It took Judi and me half the class to realize the title ‘Balanced Bangles’ had a lot to do with balancing weight. 
Judi's Steampunk Bangle


We did two or three different styles of bangles following Deryn’s great instructions!  I’m going to make more bangles at home with the same techniques but with 12 gauge wire. I think I will like the weight of the finished product better and  I will use map gas to draw a bead. Wearing 3-4 of these at once is a great look.


Shopping is always fun at these events. What was for sale? Lots of paper, vintage charms, fabrics, clothes from vintage laces.  Dyed silk fabrics and ribbons, awesome chainmaille necklaces, some stones – cabs and tumbled, several artists showed and sold their work, and lots of stamps, ink, paints.   Lyle Rayfield http://www.lylerayfield.com/ had her silver metal clay birdhouses for sale.  There were tools, found objects, cold connections and so much more.  I bought a few things….a dimple tool that is also a hole punch, a couple of stamps and then I found the stamps that were 1” wide and 6” long.  What a great idea for metal clay impressions. www.lost-coast-designs.com  I also bought a few found objects and some reproduction pieces in brass from ancient Indian and Afghanistan jewelry.  http://www.ashes2beauty.com/bronze-tablets.htm  They were very well done and I thought they might give me some general inspiration when I start carving my clay.  We will see! 
One evening Judi and I went to a book signing with artists and their books. Each author shared a few of the inspirations.  After listening to Michael Demeng discuss his experiences that led to “Dusty Diablos, Folklore Iconography Assemblage Ole” I bought it!  Good reading!  He does share some how to make rusty things and bottle cap Milagros but the book is about his trip to Mexico and how it changed his life.  The book is filled with local folklore, Dusty’s stories and his assemblages.  Good book for reaffirming how our inspiration is built on our life experiences. 
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making a Personalized Hand Made Charm Bracelet

Photographs!  I have a computer full of photographs I’ve taken and I bet a lot you do too!  While I love to look at them and remember the events, emotions and friends, I want to do more with them.  Since I make jewelry, I’ve been experimenting with ideas.  That’s what I do- experiment with ideas and then turn them into wearable art – jewelry.
So as I went through my photos one day, I saw that I had a lot of animals.  Especially animals from Africa (what a surprise since I only brought home hundreds of photos from Africa!) and I decided to make a silver bracelet with a cat family.  I had great photos of a cub, a lion and a lioness.  I experimented with photo sizes and charm sizes and eventually figured out I could use 3 charms on a bracelet and have room for tiny beads. 
And then I realized that this bracelet had endless possibilities. It could have photos of birds for a birder.  It could be a friendship bracelet.  It might be a reminder of a trip.  Mothers and grandmothers might like to have their children and grandchildren’s pictures.  Might be a great gift for bridesmaids.  I needed to really think about and plan the process for this piece and future pieces of jewelry.
First I decided to make the charms about ¾ inch x 1 inch.  Yes, that was kind of an arbitrary size but it seemed good.  The second challenge was to make the photographs the correct size.  I love to use Google’s Picasa as my photo editor but this time I knew I would need to use the dreaded Photoshop Elements.  I’ve had Elements for a long time but have not found it user friendly.    My cousin is quite proficient in Photoshop but she lives in Texas and I’m in Arizona.  And I know she will suggest an online class when she reads this post!  I dug out the Elements ‘how to’ books and played with the editor and organizer and figured out how to do what I thought I needed to do to get the correct size.  It took a while!
The photograph would need to be protected and I just learned how to use resin. I had my idea and was ready to go.  I could stop writing now and just let you look at the pictures of the bracelets but it is important to me for you to understand the general process.  I want anyone who purchases my handmade jewelry to know a little about why I made it and why it is different from machine manufactured jewelry.  We are so used to seeing something, liking it and not thinking about the process.  I find a piece more valuable if I know a little about the artist and how it is made.  I hope you do too.
So here are the basic steps in making this personalized one of a kind fine silver charm bracelet!
1.       Make the charms out of silver clay.  To do this I made cutters made of polymer clay and copper strips so that the charms would be the same size and be easier to produce.  I needed 2 cutters – one for the back and one for the frame.  Definitely reminded me of cookie cutters.  Once the two pieces were cut, textured and put together, I embedded rings on each side so I could connect them to each other.  Then I fired it in the kiln and finished the silver by sanding and polishing.  Liver of sulphur gave the finished metal some depth and contrast. 

2.       Prepare the photograph.  I measured the finished charm opening and sized the picture to fit. Metal clay shrinks about 10% when fired so the finished measure is important.  Then I printed a laser copy of the photograph on presentation paper. The ink in laser copies does not bleed like inkjet.  I sealed the photo even though it might not have been necessary.  Wasn’t taking any chances!  Sometimes when you pour resin over an image, it soaks into the paper. 
Then I cut and glued the image into the opening.

3.       Apply the resin (a clear two part mixture of epoxy).  It has to be mixed in equal amounts, stirred a prescribed amount of time and poured carefully at the right temperature.  The goal is to have a hard clear no bubble layer over the photograph.  It not only protects but enlarges the image.  Very cool technique.  After much practice it worked!

4.       Attach the charms to beads or wire wrap each one to the next charm and attach the toggle clasp.   The length is about 8 inches. The finished bracelet is a great conversation starter and some bracelet owners hang them as art when they are not wearing them.

Now, don’t you want your own?  





Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Difference is in the Details - Line

My camera and I keep capturing images that inspire my jewelry making.  This time it’s about LINE!
My mother was an artist and a teacher.  She taught me that line is the foundation of art and that there are unlimited kinds of lines.  Some join to make a shape.  Some intersect.  Some wander.  I learned about vanishing lines where the land meets the sky and you aren’t quite sure where.
 Mother made line drawings of people that told wonderful stories.  This is one I found in her sketchbook. This line drawing was made during a faculty meeting and I can imagine just what each person was saying or thinking.  Bet you can too!
In one of my college art classes, we were to make 5 drawings using only line to depict recognizable objects without drawing an outline of the object.  See if you can draw a broom using only parallel lines! 
I’ve been thinking about lines and how we use them in our daily life.  Think about and look for the lines in your life.  I’d love to hear some of your experiences with daily lines.  Leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll add yours to my list below.

Lines that make or imply a shape


Drawing a line in the sand

Shadows of a bicycle rack
Lines that give direction - park your bike here!
                                                               
Parallel Lines

Crooked Lines
             
Hammered wire with free- hangning stone Necklace
Crooked Lines


Lines of communication - pictograph
 

Where a line divides the image symmetrically
Lines of Symmetry
                                       
Rays - parts of lines
Windmill Necklace - photos, resins, mixed metals


Stained glass- San Diego CA
Intersecting lines
                                                               
Death Valley
Vanishing Lines
                                                      

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Observing the Details - Circles

I love to take pictures.  My Nikon 7000 goes with me most places.  I try to be aware when something catches my eye and find what caused me to stop and look.  Usually it is in the details!

Today I'm sharing some photos I've taken of circles and their many origins.  I keep a file so I can review and many times I use the textures, rhythm, color, lines and themes for my jewelry.  I hope you enjoy the details of these circles too!

Stacked Sewer Pipe

Farm Equipment

Rows of Feathers

Flamingo - the difference is in the details

My Gourd Purse patterned from a flower in circle

Christmas Ornament

Glass Balls
Take time to really see - not just look-at the beauty of the details.  These are circles but more important is what we find within those circles.  Lyrics not just words. Visual poetry.  The details of Life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Difference is in The Details


Male Bluebird
Have you been to one of those memory classes where they ask, “How many dresser drawers do you have?” and did you know? Or care?  It seems that details, seeing them, creating them and remembering them opens the worlds around us.  Details are the difference between the mundane and the wondrous.  They are the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, between good and excellent. 
Details amaze me or maybe it’s my ability or inability to observe and remember details. About 6 years ago I started birding.  I met a man, my Peter, who was an avid birder and, of course, I became one also.  I thought it would be a breeze.  I was used to looking at and creating details in my interior design work. 
Booted Racket-tailed Hummingbird
I saw him in Ecuador and look at his details!
I started out knowing there were big birds and little birds, colorful birds and plain birds, birds that flew and birds that stayed on the ground and I knew I liked to watch birds. I loved to listen to them.  But I did not know many of their names or their field markings or which songs belonged to which birds.  I knew a hummingbird but never realized there were so many kinds until we went to Ecuador.  Peter had a lot to teach me!  Maybe this was not going to be a cakewalk! 
Over time, I’ve learned to look at bird beaks to see what they eat and to tell what family they belong to.  I’ve learned that birds look different in different seasons and that usually male birds are more colorful than females (I already knew that!). And that identifying them requires accurate observation and knowledge.  One day we were driving and saw several birds flying in the area.  I remember having a rather lengthy, somewhat heated discussion about them because Peter said they were Blue Birds.  I said, “They can’t be because they are not blue!”  Well one thing led to another and I had to look in the birding book and of course, he was right.  Female bluebirds are not blue.  It’s a story that is still told at our house! 
Female Eastern Bluebird
photo by Glenda Simmons Dec 2008
I would see a bird, look at it closely, come home and try to find it in the birding book. But I had not looked for the details that made it different from other birds (field markings) and could not find the correct bird.  Frustrating.  We would go out birding and Peter would say, “There’s a cardinal!”  And I would say, “Where?” and so I learned to observe details and instead of saying, “In the tree” I would try to describe the area.  Seeing the details is one thing.  Sharing them so someone else can see them is another thing entirely and just as important.   
Male Cardinal - look at his beak
Becoming a birder started because I wanted to be part of Peter’s world.  Now I’m a birder because I see the beauty and the exquisite details.   There is so much to learn from the world of birds.  Because I am aware of those details, I appreciate even more details around me.  I pay attention to the details in my art and know that I am better because I do. 


Superb Starlings
Seen in Tanzania
“It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.”
Aesop

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Forest Walk Inspired Me

I walked through the forest on a sunny day.
Butterflies flitted from flower to wildflower gathering nectar.
Bird songs filled the air.  I took a deep breath and was at ease with the world.
Sunshine flowed through swaying pine branches.
Rocks glittered with the light. Moss grew in the shade on the north side of the trees.
Wildflowers scattered color and scent among the stones and trees.
The yellows, greens, browns, rust and gold fed my soul.
Here I sit with my beads, my wire, and my photographs. I dream of that walk again and create my ‘forest walk’ necklace.  The silver clay setting has a small polished dark stone surrounded by memories of flowers and leaves in relief.  A little engraving of vines and a hint of yellow (Gilder’s Paste) complete the silver part of the design. 
My picture of a butterfly on wildflowers is set in the upper bezel protected with Ice Resin that magnifies the details.  Small tumbled beads, the colors of my walk, are amber, glass, malachite and turquoise. 
The necklace looks a little old.  I could have conjured it up on my walk.  Perhaps I did.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

WLWSSC - Whole Lotta Whimsy Sunday Social Club - Create, Collaborate, Communicate

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, I will be turning on my computer and signing into Facebook.  Jewelry artists from around the world will be meeting on Tonya Davidson’s Whole Lotta Whimsy Sunday Social Club.  We meet every Sunday and often during the week to share experiences, seek answers, gain inspiration and build friendships.  I had no idea when I signed up for this Sunday event how much I would enjoy and look forward to interacting with these creative people. You might like it too!
If you are an artist and want to increase your network, learn new things, get inspired and see what is going on in the world, please join us.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/119787814767278/

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To Connect, Create, and Collaborate





When groups of people combine their energies and talents, great things can happen.  The jewelry artists from Whole Lotta Whimsy Sunday Circle are no different.  The circle on Facebook formed by Tonya Davidson http://www.wholelottawhimsy.com  consists artists from around the world.  This group (and yes, I’m part of it) shares experiences, talents, friendship and the commitment to ‘connect, create, and collaborate’.  Take a look at the fan page to see how to join https://www.facebook.com/WholeLottaWhimsy
It did not take the group long to realize we could make a small difference in not only our community but the world community.  So we decided to create a project to benefit the victims of the Joplin, MO EF5 tornado that struck at 5:41p on May 22, 2011 killing at least 154 people, and injuring at least 900.  Our Collaboration Charms for Charity project was born. 
More than 20 artists from the group produced unique handmade charms to create 6 charm bracelets to be auctioned at E-Bay.  The first bracelet was successfully auctioned and the second bracelet is now being auctioned on eBay Charms For Charity: The Joplin Project Bracelet 2 | eBay  You are just in time to see it!  And keep watching for the remaining 4.
Read more about the bracelet and see photos on eBay.
Every cent of the proceeds from this sale will be donated to Joplin Relief Fund through the Catholic Charities of St. Louis, MO. If you'd like to make a direct donation please follow this link: Catholic Charities St. Louis

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bogged Down in the Details or My Obsession with Bezels

Have you ever started a project and all of a sudden you realize your concentration is focused on a part of the project and you aren’t progressing?  You’re just stuck thinking about the same thing over and over?  Well, as most of you know, I make jewelry using silver metal clay.  I like to put the Mojave Stone cabochons that my dad cut and polished in bezels and design around the stone.  Let me share with you how I got stuck in the process.   

Bezel shaped to fit a stone

I decided that I would make the bezels (the thin strip that goes around the stone and holds it in place) out of the same silver metal clay as the setting.I made a mold for the stone by pushing it into polymer clay (plastic clay that holds its shape) and carefully removed it.  Then I poured jeweler’s investment (that is a type of plaster) into the mold, let it dry and used it as a plug.  The plug holds the space for the stone and can be fired with the clay in a kiln.  Some stones can be fired in the kiln but Mojave Stone is not one of them. 

Plug in fired setting


I made the ¼” wide clay bezel strip the length I needed and attached it to the clay leaving a little extra room for shrinkage.  The high temperature fuses the micro pieces of silver and the piece comes out being fine silver (.999).  I sanded and finished my piece of jewelry and put it into my kiln.  I love taking the piece out of the kiln after it cools.  It is the color of white and when I take my brass brush to it the color changes to silver.  Magic! 
 All that sounds like I was doing everything by the book.  At least I thought so.  But when I put the  stone in the fired bezel, it did not fit.  In fact the bezel shrank and was too small for the stone.  Fortunately I have several sizes of stone and I was able to ‘save’ the necklace.  Perhaps I should say I redesigned it with a turquoise stone that fit!   
redesigned necklace
  Metal clay shrinks about 10% when it is fired which I thought I had compensated for. Hmmm!   So I continued to work on bezels and more bezels.  I also used sterling silver bezel wire and became so involved in bezels that I was not designing jewelry.  I was just making holders for stones. Not creative. Just frustrating.   
Bezel Wire - Holders for Stones




The light went on in my head and I decided to stop.  I needed to design jewelry and relax about the bezels.  I needed to find the fun again.


In the meantime, I came across Lisa Barth’s book Designing from the Stone.   I was ready to read it and try the method she describes.  Her instructions are very clear and her jewelry is lovely to see.  So this week I designed a pendant and used the tabbed bezel wire she recommended.   It is pretty cool stuff and I have another method for making bezels.  I made sure the bezel was the correct size, poured the jeweler’s investment as a plug and fired the piece last night.  This morning I took it out of the kiln and the stone fits!  So now I am putting the finishing touches on it and have a success!  I am much less frustrated because I am looking at the whole process instead a obsessing over a part. 

Checking the fit of the stone

 
Fired Setting
   
I don’t expect anyone to run out and make a piece of jewelry from this explanation.  I am hopeful you will appreciate the process of making jewelry from silver metal clay more. Mostly I hope the next time you and I get bogged down in the details we stop, take a step back and look at the big picture.  Find the fun again.  The details will work out.  
Finished Necklace Using Tabbed Bezel Wire
 


 
 



 
  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Art Unraveled -My gift to My Creative Self

Art Unraveled is a gift I give to my creative self.  Linda and Chuck started this art workshop in 2003.   A variety of classes are scheduled all day and evenings.  It lasts a week in August in Phoenix AZ.  Hot! But we are all inside the hotel playing and learning.  

Deryn's Balanced Bangles
This year I met my good friend Judi from Tucson.  We roomed together for 2 nights and had catch up friend time.  We also took Deryn Mentock’s class “Balanced Bangles” on Friday and went shopping at the ‘Shopping Extravaganza on Saturday.  The attendance has grown to 400 people and I’m sure will continue to expand both in number of people and classes.  The website lists the classes and instructors and also has the information on ‘Adorn Me’.  www.artunraveled.com

Deryn's Work Table and Her Tools



My Stash for Charms



I took my tools, hammers, pliers, torch, wire, found objects, charms and more. 

 We drew beads on 14 gauge bronze wire, then hammered and annealed. Of course, there was not enough time!! I wanted to make 3 of each style!  Instead I made one and part of another, taking notes, watching and hoping I grasped the concepts and skills.  It is always fun to see what each person creates with the same set of instructions. It took Judi and me half the class to realize the title ‘Balanced Bangles’ had a lot to do with balancing weight. 
Judi's Steampunk Bangle


We did two or three different styles of bangles following Deryn’s great instructions!  I’m going to make more bangles at home with the same techniques but with 12 gauge wire. I think I will like the weight of the finished product better and  I will use map gas to draw a bead. Wearing 3-4 of these at once is a great look.


Shopping is always fun at these events. What was for sale? Lots of paper, vintage charms, fabrics, clothes from vintage laces.  Dyed silk fabrics and ribbons, awesome chainmaille necklaces, some stones – cabs and tumbled, several artists showed and sold their work, and lots of stamps, ink, paints.   Lyle Rayfield http://www.lylerayfield.com/ had her silver metal clay birdhouses for sale.  There were tools, found objects, cold connections and so much more.  I bought a few things….a dimple tool that is also a hole punch, a couple of stamps and then I found the stamps that were 1” wide and 6” long.  What a great idea for metal clay impressions. www.lost-coast-designs.com  I also bought a few found objects and some reproduction pieces in brass from ancient Indian and Afghanistan jewelry.  http://www.ashes2beauty.com/bronze-tablets.htm  They were very well done and I thought they might give me some general inspiration when I start carving my clay.  We will see! 
One evening Judi and I went to a book signing with artists and their books. Each author shared a few of the inspirations.  After listening to Michael Demeng discuss his experiences that led to “Dusty Diablos, Folklore Iconography Assemblage Ole” I bought it!  Good reading!  He does share some how to make rusty things and bottle cap Milagros but the book is about his trip to Mexico and how it changed his life.  The book is filled with local folklore, Dusty’s stories and his assemblages.  Good book for reaffirming how our inspiration is built on our life experiences. 
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!