Monday, March 31, 2008

What a week!

Crazy busy!

My biggest accomplishment was completing this freeform peyote cuff bracelet, which I have named Firewheel. I started it several weeks ago, completed half of it, then put it down and just couldn't make myself pick it up again. Not sure why - I had never done freeform peyote before, and it was a lot of fun! Maybe it was because I felt pressured to finish it - it was designed for the April EtsyBeadweavers Challenge, and the deadline was fast approaching! The theme this time is Fire and Flower, and voting will begin April 7 @ the EBW Blog. I hope you'll visit the blog and vote for your favorite (me!)

It took me over 45 hours of beading to complete Firewheel, and it is now available in my Etsy shop. Other challenge entries can be seen on Etsy by searching the tag and title section for EBWC.

I made this gorgeous beaded necklace this week, using lampwork discs from bluhealer and fabulous mint green vintage lucite beads. I also made a cute pair of matching earrings. I will probably list these as a set either tonight or tomorrow - I have never listed my matching earrings and necklaces together before, and the earrings always sell, leaving the necklaces behind. Thought I'd try pairing them up this time.

In addition to finishing the freeform peyote cuff, I have been a busy busy beadweaver this week. I have been on a right angle weave kick, and made this copper-colored cuff on Thursday, listed it on Etsy that night, and it sold on Saturday afternoon!

I made and listed this gorgeous woven cuff on Monday - it is another right angle weave, this time with shell-pink freshwater pearls, hot-pink metallic seed beads, and mauve Czech fire-polished crystals, and complemented by an antique-look button. This is a knock-out combination of colors and textures!

I also taught a spiral beadweaving class on Friday afternoon, and ended up with a great bracelet myself - green and blue matte square and round seedbeads plus grey-green Czech crystals. Haven't listed this one yet, but it is a great casual bracelet for jeans.

I took another wire-wrapping class last Sunday, this one on rings. We did two very different techniques.

One involved cutting several pieces of wire, then binding them together with more wire, then forming the loose ends in the bundle around the stone. This makes a great looking ring, and the technique can be adapted for either a bead or a cabochon, but I am going to have to work on modifying the pattern a bit, because it calls for having 8 wires in the bundle, which makes the shank 8 wires wide, and that is too wide for my short stubby fingers!

Remember how I posted awhile back about having found a tutorial on the internet on making a wire-wrapped ring, but I wasn't happy with the way mine had turned out, so I was going to ask the wire-wrapping teacher about it? Well, I had asked him about it a couple of weeks earlier, and his answer had been "practice, practice, practice." So, I was really surprised when he changed his mind about the second ring style he was going to teach on Sunday, and decided to teach this very ring that was be-deviling me! He taught it in a different way from the tutorial, and I achieved a better result, and got quite a few pointers along the way.

These are the 2 rings I completed in class on Sunday. The one on the left is the second technique. There is a lot less formal wire-wrapping in this style, as the wire is more casually wrapped around the base of the bead.

I took my new knowledge home, and made this cute ring - now available in my Etsy shop.

And that's it for my week. Whew!

Monday, March 24, 2008

More Art Clay Silver, and a Little Venting

Before I get into the meat of this post, may I just vent for a moment about how irritating the blogger login process is?

First of all, I carefully copy and paste my e-mail address in, because if I type it in, blogger ALWAYS rejects it as invalid.

Then I carefully type in my password, and without fail, blogger tells me it is invalid, and makes me type it again. I mean, every time, every single time. They do the same thing to Bailey. What is the deal?

But this is my favorite: Then I get the error page, that tells me this:
"Your browser's cookie functionality is disabled. Please enable JavaScript and cookies in order to use Blogger."
Which of course is complete horseshit, because my cookies ARE enabled, and then I have to go to my favorites and click back to my blog page, and now I am logged in. Blogger login sucks.

OK, I'm done.

I've taken a lot of classes since the last time I posted, so here is the scoop:

I told you I was going to take a few more Art Clay Silver classes, and I have.
A couple of weeks ago, I took Enameling on Art Clay Silver. Our class projects were a pendant and a pair of earrings. In this picture, the organic binder in my pendant burns off in the kiln.

This picture shows everyone's projects firing in the kiln. This stage takes 8 to 10 minutes. Once the pieces have fired, we will sand them, and then apply the enamel. Did you know that enamel is glass? I didn't, until this class, that is!

Yep, the enamel is actually fine particles of glass that we fuse to the metal.

This is my pendant, after it fired. I had just finished brushing it with this wire brush, so all the silver molecules are now "standing at attention." Prior to brushing, it looked like a piece of pottery.

Here are both projects, right before I started applying the enamel.

They are sitting on the different sanding cloths used to smooth them.

There are 2 different ways to apply the enamel. (That's why we had 2 class projects!) One way is called sifting, and that is how we enameled the earrings. Fine, dry particles of glass frit are placed in a very small sifter, and sprinkled over the pieces, just like sifting powdered sugar over a cookie.

The other enameling method is called Wet-Pack, and I forgot to take a picture of it. In this technique, the fine glass frit is mixed with a small amount of distilled water to make a slurry, which is then applied with a very small paint brush to your piece. This technique gives you more control over where your color ends up. Whichever technique you use, the piece is fired in the kiln again, to fuse the enamel to the silver.

I used the Wet-Pack technique on my pendant, so in this picture of my finished projects, you can see that the color is applied just in the swirl design on the pendant. Where I sifted enamel onto the earrings, I got a more widespread color effect.

These techniques can be combined, but that's too advanced for me!
This past Saturday I took an Advanced Art Clay Silver Class, where the project was a pendant with a bezel-set cabochon.

Initial prep of the clay is the same as with other Art Clay Silver Projects, but preparing the bezel is tedious, and must be done first (so your clay doesn't dry out). The bezel is formed from 28-gauge fine silver, and must be measured to fit the cabochon fairly precisely. Silver oil paste is used to "glue" the bezel's seam together temporarily.

Once the bezel is done, the clay is prepared, and the bezel is pressed into the clay. The pendant is dried prior to firing - the clay can be allowed to dry overnight, or drying can be sped up by using a mug warmer.

Once the piece is dry, it goes into the kiln. Here is a shot of the organic binder in my pendant burning off - that is my favorite part!

After firing, the stone is placed into the pendant, and then the fun begins (not really). The next step is bezel rolling, and this was my least favorite part. The bezel must be carefully fit to the stone in order to hold the stone in place, and this step requires 2 tools and a lot of hand and finger/thumb strength. I do NOT have a lot of strength in my hands, and this step was very difficult and painful for me.

Starting at the bottom of the bezel, a bezel-roller is pressed all around the stone to snug the stone in place. This is repeated at the top of the bezel. Then, a curved metal burnisher is used to roll the top of the bezel over the stone to really hold it in place and give it a nice finished look. This was absolutely a nightmare for my hands and thumbs.

We then painted diluted liver of sulfate on the Art Clay Silver, to give an oxidized look to the pendant. We painted, rather than dipping the pendant in the liver of sulfate, because you don't want to get the liver of sulfate on the bezel or on your stone. Following the liver of sulfate, the piece is polished.

This picture shows my pendant after the liver of sulfate but before polishing.

This is my finished pendant, after polishing.

And that's it for Art Clay Silver today!

I started this post over 3 hours ago. I had the (usual) technical problems logging in, and the (usual) issues with picture uploading - I don't know why the pics can't just load where you want them to, instead of loading at the top of the page, and having to be dragged. Good grief. And one backspace too many, and you delete a photo, and have to upload it again, which I only had to do FIVE times today. Then, Blogger crashed in the middle of my post, and was down for 20 minutes. All this whining is to get to this: poor, long-suffering, patient Bailey has been sitting beside me for an hour and a half, begging to go outside. He alternately gets up and growls, noses my left hand, and then sits back down in the exact same position, then starts all over again in 2 or 3 minutes. And I kept thinking I would be finished ANY minute, so I made him wait. Bad Mom! I don't feel too guilty, though, because I finally gave in about 10 minutes ago, and, as I suspected, all he wanted was to go bark at the workers next door again. He can be very manipulative!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Halfway There!

I'm working on a new bracelet - this is what it looks like right now. It is another new technique for me: freeform peyote. I was cruising the internet a few days ago, and found a tutorial for this technique, and decided it looked interesting.

It really is fun making random patterns with the beads. I had to make myself stop on the first half, or instead of a bracelet, I would have ended up with a sleeve! It was quite addicting, just adding loop after loop of these gorgeous beads!

I'll work on the second half tonight and tomorrow, and then decide on a clasp, and move on to my next project!

Hurray for me!

Big milestone in my Etsy Shop! I received my 200th heart on March 7th, from the delightful FletcherAvenue. I love and cherish every one of the Etsyians who has hearted my shop!

The Etsy Forums drive me crazy sometimes - lots of bickering and disrespectful disagreeing, and of course there's the ever-present self-appointed Forum Police, who dive in and start correcting and directing left and right, and often don't even agree with each other. Most times I just sit back and read and pop my eyebrows, and laugh. Have to sit on my hands a lot to keep from jumping into the fray.

I really had to sit on my hands this afternoon, when a thread was started about Forum Etiquette, ironically, by one of the most condescending posters I have run into since I joined Etsy. I love some delicious irony in the afternoon! Maybe I'll fix myself a small libation, and see if that discussion has managed to head South yet...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Before and After

Well, my instincts were spot-on about this bracelet yesterday. I took it to work today, where we were under either a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning all day long so we had no customers, but the bead shop owner agreed with me that now that the focal bead is attached, it no longer works. The focal bead is just to large and too heavy for this delicate peyote stitch. The bead is going to slide around to the underside of the arm. Too bad. So this is how the bracelet looked at 8:30 PM.

And this is the after shot, at 9:30 PM, and I strangely feel much better.

Orange and brown aren't my colors anyway.

Monday, March 3, 2008

This and That

I'm kind of bummed this morning. I have been working off and on for about 4 weeks on a peyote bracelet with a large focal centerpiece bead, and got about 12 rows worked past the focal bead last night, and decided that I hate the way the bracelet looks. That's a lot of work, folks! I'm talking single-drop peyote! I'm going to take it to work tomorrow and get some other opinions (I work at a bead store), and maybe they'll be able to talk me out of ripping it apart, but I am this close to ripping the whole thing out and scrapping it.

This is the newest addition to my Etsy shop. I actually made it one morning this week while I was at work - I know, isn't that sick! Can you imagine anything more fun that being a jewelry designer and working in a bead store! This bracelet is absolutely gorgeous; it just sparkles on the wrist!
Crystal Dreams Bracelet

I found a great tutorial for a wire-wrapped ring on the internet, and I had this perfect bead in my bead stash, so I sat down last Monday with the tutorial, the bead, and my wire, and started playing. I practiced a few (5, maybe?) times with craft wire, and then moved on to the sterling.

It turned out pretty well (on the second attempt), but it is certainly not ready for prime time! I am taking another wire-wrapping class in a couple of weeks, and will run this one by the instructor. I think I may just need to move to a bigger gauge of wire, but before I waste anymore sterling, I am going to get some guidance!

I got really comfy in bed one night last week, watching Netflix DVDs late into the night, after I finally logged off Etsy. Bailey can hear me unplug the laptop from anywhere in the house, and knows that is the signal for snuggle time. He got a little carried away that night, though, as I sunk deeper and deeper into the pillows, and he spooned deeper and deeper into me. I was already on the edge of the bed when all this started! After a few hours I had to get up to pee, and threw the covers over him, and he didn't even budge. Some people say I am too indulgent of my baby; some say he is spoiled. I say there is a word for those people: CRAZY.