Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Worktable

Today I'm continuing to work on a metal pendant, based on a project in Beaded Colorways, by Beverly Gilbert. I started this pendant on Saturday, worked on it all day yesterday, and still have quite a way to go before it's done. It never, ever, ceases to amaze me how these projects take so much longer than you think they will when you start them!

This is how the back of the pendant looks this morning - I am almost embarrassed to show this picture. You may not be able to tell from this picture, but I actually DO plan my pieces ahead of time, with paper templates and everything, to anticipate pitfalls they may occur during the design process (like rivets falling into the middle of my stamped lettering!) - and that's just the most obvious issue in the photo above!)

I wanted to combine copper and silver, and since the sheet silver is so expensive, I decided to use aluminum again. I used aluminum to make a metal cuff a couple of months ago, and it was very easy to work with.

On Saturday, I took out pen, pencil, and shape templates, and cut out some shapes I wanted to play with. I settled on a triangle and a rectangle, and had to decide which would be copper and which would be aluminum. When I first decided to make this project (the previous evening, during my long car ride home from the shop) I remembered from the metal cuff that the aluminum does NOT take liver of sulfur (LOS) patina, so I made a mental note to make sure that the piece I stamped would be the copper, since stampings really need the LOS in order to show up well.

By the time I was playing with my cut out shapes on Saturday, that mental note was long gone. Sigh.

One side of the pendant was to be stamped, and the other side, beaded. I have selected some ocean-y mixes of blue and green seed beads, and with no further thought to the stamping, and the patina issue, I concentrated on whether the seed beads would be best displayed against a copper or a silver background. Of course, blues look great on silver. But blues and greens look fabulous on copper, so I decided the front triangle would be copper. A decision that impacted everything else that followed!

I cut my metal shapes out, and sanded them to remove all the rough edges. I did some texturing with the chasing hammer. Then it was time to create some holes in the copper triangle to set anchors for the seed beads (these holes aren't visible in the pic above - the idea was to use the aluminum piece to cover the anchoring infrastructure from the back, and the seed beads will cover them from the front.

Once I had done the wiring for the seed bead design, it was time to stamp the pendant. Stamping is not one of my favorites; it seems like the letters never go where I want them to, or I don't hit quite hard enough, or something. And if you make a mistake stamping, you can't exactly erase it and start over!  I had also chosen quite a bit of lettering to stamp, which had to fit in a fairly small area, so that the impression on the reverse of the stamped side would be covered by the copper triangle in front.

I marked where all the edges would be when the piece is assembled - this gave me the outline for the stamping area. I should have done this step on my paper templates - that would have saved me from putting stamped letters where I would later need to rivet! But, I didn't - oh, well!

To further help me with the stamping placement, after drawing some parallel lines to help keep the lettering straight(er), I actually hand wrote the letters on the metal with an extra fine Sharpie. I knew the Sharpie ink would get pounded into the aluminum, but figured I could still clean it off with acetone, and then scrub the pendant really well with comet to remove the acetone before I tried to patina with LOS. See how I remembered my previous bad experience with the LOS and the acetone, and took it into my planning process? Notice how I've completely forgotten that the aluminum won't take the LOS? Sigh.

Whew! Got the letters stamped into the tiny space! Only mis-hit 2 of them. One, the "M" in "mind" - the first half of the "M" didn't stamp, and I was able to fix this by carefully scribing the impression with my awl. The second mistake - I was holding the "R" for "heart" sideways (oops!), so if you look closely, you can see the sideways "R" I stamped. And yes, I stamped over it to fix it. Duh. But I was still hoping that the LOS (THAT WILL NOT EVEN WORK HERE) would cover up this mistake. Like the LOS would be smart enough to only go into the right-side-up "R" and not the sideways "R". Sometimes I wonder about me.

Only 2 mistakes stamping, and one of them was due to me holding the stamp wrong? That is some kind of record for me - I am terrible at stamping! This is what I attribute my success to (sorry for ending a sentence in a preposition!):

 dead blow hammer

I have tons of hammers, and have tried many for stamping, but none improved my success. Then I read somewhere about the dead blow hammer, and I figured, "Why not?" I forked out the dough, ordered it, received it, and stored it away. 'Cause I just don't stamp that often - maybe because of my previous bad luck with it? But this hammer was the only thing different about my stamping process yesterday, and I can't argue with success. Every letter, except one, did beautifully! Now, if only I could learn to line up the letters a little straighter!

After the stamping, it was time to rivet the 2 pieces together. Riveting is NOT my forte. I just cannot seem to get the rivets to flare out and hold. So I avoid riveting like the plague.

I drilled holes from my rivets. I determined the placement by looking at the copper triangle - the front of the pendant. Because that was the side that would show, so I figured placement from the front was important. I could have gotten by with 4 rivets, but 5 "looked" better. So I drilled 5 big old holes in the copper triangle, and then placed the copper triangle over the aluminum rectangle, and marked holes on the aluminum through the ones I just drilled in the copper. I drilled those new holes in the aluminum, and THEN flipped it over to sand them, and noticed the stamping. Huh. How did that get there!? I had completely forgotten already (in 30 minutes) about all the stamping. Now, there was a hole in one of my "H"s, and in the "E" in "the", and my favorite - almost exactly in the middle of the "O" in "ocean". If I had planned it that way, I never could have lined it up like that. But if I had planned it out more with my paper shapes, I would have allotted room for the rivets before I stamped. Live and learn! I can still read the lettering, so I'm forging ahead with the design!.

The next step is the patina - and it is just about now that I remembered I can't use LOS. I need something to make the letters pop, so that is my first task this morning. I'm going to play (on some scrap aluminum) with various other patinas I have on hand, and see if I can make something work.

After that, it's on the the beading - my favorite part!

Happy Wednesday! What's on YOUR worktable?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Torch Fired Enamel: Color Blending

Remember when we were kids, with the big box of Crayola 64s, with the built-in sharpener? The best! We boldly colored with one crayon, then grabbed another, and another, blending them and creating our own new colors. No constraints, no rules!

Well, blending colors with powdered enamels is almost as easy as it was with our crayons. There are really only few basic caveats to remember:
  • when blending with opaques, the opaque coat(s) must go on first. Opaque colors will completely cover whatever color is already there - so you cannot blend 2 opaques, or put an opaque on top of a transparent.
  • the number of coats you use makes a huge difference! 1 base of opaque vs. 2, or 1 coat of transparent vs. 2 - the more coats you use, the more intense the resulting color.
  • the order in which you blend the colors, when mixing transparents, will also make a difference in the final resulting color
Color blending is a huge topic - too much for one blog post, but I'm going to try to boil it down to what works for ME.

When I started working with Thompson enamels, I quickly discovered that the color of the powder itself isn't always the color you get after firing. Sometimes it's close, and sometimes it's ... not.

The first thing I decided to do was create a "color library" for myself. I set out to fire one or two "test" beads, in every color I had, and every blend I experimented with, because there was no way I could ever remember what the different colors were unless I had these beads as reference. (this is also a good place to put those "bad beads" that just don't behave in the flame - chipping, peeling, bubbling enamel? Fine for the color library!)

I use Craft Mates storage boxes for my color library:

I have seen various systems others use, but this is what works for me - the boxes have individual compartments for each color, with room on the lid for labeling. (Other plastic storage containers can allow the beads to shift from one compartment to another if the boxes wind up upside down - and that would be the end of my library!) The boxes are semi-transparent, so when I am looking for a family of colors, I can easily find the right box. (I try to keep the reds in one box, the blues in another, etc.)

I started out playing with color blending for fun, and was a little intimidated by it. Then, while participating in the Bead Soup Blog Party, I decided to make a kumihimo lariat from gemstone chips:
I planned to sort the chips by color, and braid individual segments of the kumihimo with each separate gemstone. As I planned this lariat, I realized that everywhere I changed colors, the braid would show a visible knot, so I needed something to cover these knots, and large-hole (3mm) metal spacers beads were perfect. Then I got the idea to enamel the metal beads to match the gemstones.

Consulting my color library, I  found that iris purple was a perfect match for the amethyst chips, but none of the other colors I had worked on their own, so I was going to have to start blending.

For each individual gemstone, I consulted my color library, picked 2 colors that seemed closest to the color I was trying to make, and fired up the torch! Rest assured, I went through a LOT of trial and error before I settled on the combinations that worked - for the citrine color alone, I tested about 12 different color combos (storing all the rejects in my color library for later reference; someday I might need that color!)

For example, to create peridot-colored enameled beads, I ultimately chose spruce and egg yellow (transparent):
Yellow plus blue makes green, right? The spruce has some green in it, and the addition of the egg yellow brought out the nice peridot green I was looking for. One coat of egg yellow didn't quite get me there, but 2 was perfect! (Note: the egg yellow is transparent, and the spruce is opaque, so the opaque coat must go on first.)

The blue topaz was interesting - here is what finally worked:
2 coats of aqua transparent as a base, with one coat of transparent turquoise on top.

I first tried the reverse: 2 coats of transparent turquoise as a base, with one coat of aqua transparent on top, and it gave a different shade of blue that didn't match the blue topaz, so don't be afraid to play around with your combos. Since both these colors were transparent, either one worked as a base coat, blending-wise, but only one combination gave the result I wanted. Fickle, right?

Citrine was the most difficult for me. After many trials that didn't quite get me there, I got very close with this combo:
 A base coat of pumpkin (opaque), with 2 coats of nut (transparent) on top. Just one coat of pumpkin, because 2 coats made the final color too orangy.  The resulting bead was a golden yellow, and very close to citrine, but it needed to be a tad more yellow.

So I decided to add a coat of egg yellow on top:
It actually took 2 coats of egg yellow to perfect the citrine I was looking for, meaning this color combo had a total of 5 coats. Without getting to deeply into this topic, suffice to say that 5 coats of enamel on a bead with a 3 mm hole is no problem at all - the hole is plenty large enough to tolerate being narrowed by 5 coats of enamel!

Here are my final blended beads, resting amongst their respective gemstone chips:

Whereas I used to be intimidated to blend colors, this project forced me to step up my blending skills, and now I blend all the time!  Blending is a lot of fun, but may involve a lot of trial and error - don't fear the blending! You may create some gorgeous colors on your way to that mystical color you are seeking!

my kumihimo lariat with matching enameled spacers

Monday, October 29, 2012

Crystal Cha Cha Bracelet

The more I look at the Swarovski crystal combination I used in this bracelet, the more I like it!
  • Blue Zircon AB
  • Violet Opal
  • Light Azore AB 

Lots of wrapped loops, lots of bling - all on a gold cable chain.

Cha cha bracelets are one of my favorite things to make, and to wear - they make the sweetest sound when they move!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Flat Spiral - WIP

This is my first attempt at flat spiral:

It is a "graduated necklace" - not exactly graduated, but the portion in front is larger than the side pieces, because it has a large rondelle as the center bead, and the side pieces downsize to a 4 mm firepolish bead in the center of the spiral.

Flat spiral works up incredibly quickly; I have seen a lot of bracelets in this stitch, and have always wanted to try it.

The center portion of my necklace, with the rondelle, would make a terrific bracelet. I am withholding opinion on the necklace until it is finished; I'm not sure whether I like the effect. And I'm worried that the center portion won't lie flat against the neck. We'll see!

I have to stitch about 1.5 inches more on each side, and then I am going to create a hand-woven clasp, because nothing in my stash is quite right for this piece.

I'll show you the results when it's done!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

iPad Doodling

I enjoy playing around with particle apps on my iPad - here are some of my latest creations:

These apps hypnotize me - I get lost in them, spending hours swirling the colors and shapes around!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Turquoise Wire Necklace

This necklace is a combination of stringing plus freeform wire-wrapping:

It is a custom order for a customer; she provided the beautiful turquoise pendant, and wanted a "wow" necklace to complement it.

I strung azurite/malachite, freshwater pearls, sterling silver, and Swarovski crystals, and then started wrapping around the necklace with seed beads, freshwater pearls, turquoise, and more Swarovskis. The wire-wrapping swirls around the necklace like a floating cloud, and I'm crazy about the finished necklace!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Following up

Yesterday's clean-up of the Liver of Sulfured pendants didn't quite go as planned.

I know it's hard to tell in the pic (though enlarging it will help!) - but the Liver of Sulfur that was so hard to get on there (because of the acetone) is equally as hard to get off! Look at the oval piece at top left - I can see at least 3 black patches on it without even clicking on the photo. These absolutely will not come off (unless I sand them off, but that will get rid of the etching, too!) -

They all have these black splotches on them (and the backs are WAY worse - but since it's the back, I'm not really focusing on that.)

I'm toying with the idea of just covering it up with another patina - maybe Gilder's paste, maybe alcohol inks. Don't know. I'm kinda of tired of them right now, from all the time I spent with them yesterday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Worktable

Not much going on, on the old worktable today:

I had cut out some pieces of copper for earrings, pendants, connectors, etc., a few weeks ago (probably actually a few months ago - I wanted to stamp them with my brand new Zentangle stamps, but I never got around to it.

When I made the copper pendant last week for my upcoming metal workshop, I poured up a new container of etching acid, and it tends to go bad, so I decided to finally stamp and etch these pieces yesterday, before I have to throw out the acid. The pieces took a nice deep etch, and I still had enough time left to patina them in Liver of Sulfur (LOS) - which is where I started to run into trouble.

The LOS was all ready in the crock pot, nice and warm. I put some craft wire through the holes in the pieces, and dipped them in, and .... no LOS stuck to them. It ran off like water on a duck's back. Very weird. I dipped again, and again, and again - and nothing stuck. So strange. What was going on?

I remembered that I had had the bright idea after etching to clean the lingering Staz-On from the metal with acetone, instead of burning it off with the torch like I usually do. I didn't want to haul out the torch and the annealing pan, and the acetone was right there from when I cleaned the ink off the stamps, so why not?

Well, here's why - evidently it's incompatible with the Liver of Sulfur.

I took all the pieces to the sink and washed and scrubbed them really well with steel wool, and dipped again. It took several dips, but the pieces got about 98% covered. Interestingly, most of the spots that would not take the patina were on the back (non-etched) side - so not of much concern to me.

If you look at this photo again, there is a small area on the front of one of the oval earrings, where there's no LOS (arrow). Probably won't impact the finished piece.

So today's task is to remove all the LOS I struggled to put on there, leaving the pretty, patinated copper underneath.

After that, I may start a new beadweaving piece - I'm feeling the need to bead!

Today's burning question to my readers - I'm really wondering if my readers tend to be jewelry makers, or jewelry buyers. Would you rather by the components (once cleaned up and finished) like this, and incorporate them into your own designs, or are you looking to purchase finished jewelry? Please drop me a comment and let me know!

Thanks, and have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pretty Visitor

Last week, when Bailey and I went on one of his "constitutionals," I glanced down the complex toward "Ye Olde Peeing Spot" and saw something dark on the wall of one of the other shop's doorways, about 60 yards from where I was standing. As I got closer, I realized it was a moth of some sort, although it was basically the size of a small bird. I went back and grabbed the camera, and this is what I captured:

Its body is 4 inches long - and it has beautiful wing markings, with lovely purples and browns. Just stunning!

I tried to find some identification info on Google, but couldn't. I DID find 2 other blogs where folks had sighted a very similar moth, and they didn't know what it was, either - any entomologists out there? Inquiring minds want to know what this is!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Serpentine Woven Bracelet

This is another bracelet I finished while I was waiting for glass to fire - this is one I started back on September 19; I showed you the beginnings of it during a Wednesday Worktable post, but then abandoned it for other shiny pursuits! I'm so glad I didn't let it become a Zombie! (which reminds me: I have not kept my commitment to revive the Zombies .... I need to work on that!)

Here is the finished Serpentine Bracelet:

I also dug into my purple Vintage glass buttons for this closure - these buttons have been very handy lately! They match a lot of my current work - I must be in a purple phase!

I like how the buttons are opposite each other, instead of together on the same end - it is a little trickier to fasten, but it gives a more balanced finish.

This pattern (designed by the talented Smadar Grossman) is not difficult - but it was a difficult one for me to finish. It consists of a lot of repetitive serpentine units, which need tight tension in order to keep their curves without thread showing, and that can be hard on my hands. Plus, I found that I needed to count continually, or I would find myself in the next unit, and missing a bead. The previous unit would look correct, but when I got in there and physically counted, one bead was missing. Makes a difference! After pulling out LOTS of units and re-stitching them, I learned to just count every time. Between the repetition of the stitches (I got bored!), the counting, and the tension - this is one I probably won't repeat (and if I hadn't made myself pick it up and finish it while waiting for the glass, it could easily have become a zombie!)

But it sure is a gorgeous bracelet!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wavy Bracelet is finished

While I was waiting for things to firepolish in the kiln, I finished the wavy bracelet I was working on earlier this week.

I used my last purple Vintage German button - wish I had more! They came from a show, and have been out in the shop for sale, but I think I'm the only one who's used them!

This was a fun, fast, and easy bracelet to make - too bad it is so difficult to adjust for length, or I would make more! What a great way to use Tilas!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

It's a 3-Baby Day

Bailey has declared today to be a 3-Baby day:

Most days are one-Baby days:

Some days are 2-Baby days:

But today is the first 3-Baby day! It's tough being a Golden!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Picasso Reveal

Time to reveal the completed pieces from my first Picasso Technique glass run:

14 Picasso-style dichroic glass pendants

This is a group shot of all the pieces. I got 14 finished pendants out of the 5 pieces I fired - here are those 5 pieces, fresh out of the kiln from firing:

Picasso-style dichroic glass after 1st firing

From here, I engraved them with the Dremel, with a lot of emphasis on Zentangle patterns:

Picasso-style glass after engraving

Next, I cold-worked them, using the ring saw to cut them into various shapes for pendants, and grinding away rough edges. Then they were ready for firepolishing;

Picasso-style pendants, in the kiln for firepolishing

This was the large piece of glass I fired, with the beautiful blues, purples, greens, and pinks:
large Picasso-style piece, before engraving

Here it is after engraving:
large Picasso-style piece, after engraving

From this large piece, I cut 6 pendants:
6 Picasso-style pendants

Here are some more close-ups of the finished pendants:

As with all dichroic glass, the photos just can't do these pieces justice - they are so incredibly beautiful!

Such a fun (but incredibly labor intensive) technique - can't wait to make some more!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Copper Pendant

This is the copper pendant I made yesterday:

I want to be able to offer a "Mini-Metal" workshop, as an alternative to the 3-day workshop I normally teach. I wanted to include as many skills as I could in one project - and this one has quite a few! I needed to know all materials I'd have to pull for the pendant, and how long it would take a beginner to make - and I think this will be a great class!

This class will be offered Sunday, December 2 (10 AM) at YaYa Beads, Augusta, GA - check it out! We'd love to have you in the class!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Worktable

While I wait for my Picasso glass to firepolish in the kiln today, I'll be working on an idea I had for a metalsmithing class. I need to work up a prototype, to assess all the variables that would go into the (potential) class.

Here's my raggedy piece of sheet copper, sitting on top of my shape templates. I got out the hole-punch pliers, the chasing hammer, and my metal shears. The corner of my Rubbermaid metal-working tool box is in the top left corner, close at hand, and yet I can guarantee, 100%, that I STILL won't have everything I need for this project when I sit down to start working. Because, to paraphrase Walter Cronkite, "that's the way it is." You young whippersnappers can just Google "Walter Cronkite," and "whippersnapper", for that matter.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wavy Weaving

While I was waiting for the glass to fuse in the kiln on Friday, I started a new beadwoven bracelet. I was too antsy about the glass to really get much done, but I loved the pattern, though I felt it needed to be wider. I took it home for the weekend, took it apart, and reworked it:

I love the undulating waves in this bracelet!

The colors were dictated by my supply of 3mm firepolish, which this pattern eats up! I have lots of Tila colors to choose from, but not many 3mm firepolishes in large enough quantity - but I like these autumnal olives and purples!

As I headed home on Saturday, I decided to just wait until it was finished to find an appropriate clasp - I'm 50-50 on planning clasps. Sometimes, I build a whole bracelet around a clasp, and other times I just wait 'til I'm done stitching, and see what's in my stash. And sometimes I get extremely lucky when I head to that stash! Like here, and here, and here, just to name a few!

You weavers know how these patterns direct you to "stitch until you reach desired length?" Well - sometimes, this is problematic for me. In this particular pattern, the waves on either end of the finished length have to be coming from opposite directions (see below):
 waves approach from opposite directions, meeting in the middle

If they don't, it is impossible to get the clasp to meet, because the waves are curling away from each other:

 waves approach from the same direction, and do not meet

My problem? Each of these segments is an inch long, and my "desired length" was exactly one segment shorter than you see above - but this meant the waves didn't meet when I brought the ends together, so I either had to stitch one MORE segment, or REMOVE one. If I remove one, the bracelet is way too short.

Here is another bracelet where the individual segments were so large that they significantly impacted the finished length of the bracelet. I ended up stitching the bracelet shorter than I wanted it, then used a large button closure and a corresponding large loop, which combined to give me the extra length I needed.

Anyway, as it is, this wavy bracelet is entirely too long, and we all know that adding a clasp is only going to add length. So, when I sit down to work on this one again, I'll be removing 2 of the wave segments, and then figuring out a way to embellish the ends so that I can get a good-fitting bracelet.

But that's a project for another day: Today, I'll be digging out my jewelry templates and cutting my newly fused and engraved dichroic glass into different shapes for pendants; grinding them for smoothness and framing, and hopefully doing a firepolish run in the kiln tomorrow.