A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


A new treasury highlighting Etsy artists who have a way with words:
Stop by, click and comment! There are some awesome items here, full of both humor and thoughtfulness. My favorite is the Sanford and Son t-shirt--"You big dummy". Gotta love it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Little Custom Work

I did this bracelet today for a regular customer; she had requested a bracelet similar to one I had done before, but in different hues. I just happened to have recently acquired some beads in those very colors (ivory, tan and gray) and had been wanting to do something in those colors. I went and found some fabulous wooden jasper barrels on Ebay and was thrilled that they worked in the bracelet like I hoped they would. Here's how it turned out:

"High Sierra"

Pewter sun totem, little sun-looking bead and pewter toggle clasp from Happy Mango Beads. From left, crazy agate, ivory bone, one lampwork spacer bead in vanilla by Beingbeads, pewter sun totem, labradorite, wooden jasper, more bone beads, and some little mystery beads which I think might be scenic jasper. Sterling silver beadcaps from ArtBeads.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All Day Freshness

I was trying to get my Fresh on in the Etsy shop--lotta old stuff in there. I've wanted to make a pile of earrings to try to give it a boost, since I've been so lax on making new stuff. I guess this last weekend was the weekend for the earring muse. I just started throwing stuff together. Some of it I like, some not so much.

Here's what I did:
Javanese Glass Beads with Sterling Silver

Ceramic Beads with Javanese Glass Discs and Sterling Silver.
(Polka dotted Javanese glass beads and Chinese ceramic beads from Happy Mango Beads).

Ceramic beads in blue green with copper

Blue and White Ceramic Coins with Copper

Toast and Turquoise Earrings with Artisan Ceramic Beads
(Ceramic beads above by Macarroll on Etsy).

"My Wicked Heart" Earrings with Copper Kidney Earwires

Boro Glass Lampwork in Cobalt and Amber with Sterling Silver Earwires
(Lampwork by Beingbeads on Etsy).

Phew. There's a few more pairs half-finished at home. I'm getting spoiled with this instant gratification--not looking forward to spending all day on a pendant!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Challenge of Color Big Reveal!

I've been looking forward to this day! I could barely contain my excitement. Yes, Moi, hater of all blog jewelry challenges. My inner toddler ("NO!") just comes out when I see a design challenge issued on some blog--yeah, like I'm gonna run out like a good little girl and make exactly what you tell me to make. Thing again, sistah! Take THAT! (flip double bird). Obedience is such an ugly word. Unless you're talking about a black or chocolate lab, and then it's all good. Although rare.

Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati jewelry issued a color challenge on her blog, explaining she'd been experimenting with color chips from the paint store to stoke her inspiration. The challenge was simple--let her know what color family you'd like to work in and she'd send you a few paint chips. You could use as many or as few of the colors as you wished. That sounded broad enough to me that I could participate and still maintain my self-respect and not damage my credibility as a Rebel. Heck, I do that all the time anyway with stuff I see--nature scenes, buildings, stuff in my house, cars going by. I see some colors together and think, hmm, and then I go make something in those colors.

I admit, I did not love any of the paint chips when I first looked at them. Huh, I thought. I let them sit for a few days, and then finally one day I was idly pawing through my bead stash to see if I even had any of those colors, and wouldn't you know, I had them all EXACTLY. Even in art beads (lampwork). When I put the beads together with some metal, and then some leather, I started to really like it. I would probably never have put these colors together before (mixing reds? Ewww!). But now I'm even thinking of getting my own paint chips. But alas, I was only able to conjure something out of two of them. I just couldn't bring myself to do the third chip (see below). Without further ado (i.e., prattling), here they are.

"Strawberry Wine"
Red lampwork beads (in both wine red and crimson) by Beingbeads on Etsy, and "feather white" lampwork spacers by Studiorent, with brecciated jasper saucers, red bamboo coral barrels, hand-formed copper rings, toggle bar, beadcaps and coil ends, and some red Greek leather. On Softflex in "copper". I was going to antique the copper crimp covers but then I decided I liked them better bright. Here's the paint chip:

Look at what a good girl I was. I matched the colors exactly. I'm almost ashamed of myself for being so pliant. (Notice I named my piece after the colors too. Next thing you know I'll be flossing every day).

The next chip didn't give me the horrors quite so much; for some reason mixing yellows was less scandalous than mixing reds. Again, I pretty much had all these colors, in both art beads (lampwork again) and gemstones. The match wasn't quite as exact, and other shades are included in this piece as well.

"Yellowtail Debutante"

I love the cryptic and artfully abstruse (I'll give you a second to go look that up) name I chose for this piece. And it was on the card. (See below).

Large variegated lampwork and dark red lampwork by Beingbeads again, with Soochow jade in deep berry and buttery parchment colors, accented with smaller aragonite in an apple flesh hue, with Dzi-style etched red agate and garnet heishi. Copper rings with brass wire wrap accents, copper beadcaps, oval copper chain, and brass toggle bar, all hand-formed; deerskin lacing in buckskin. Also on copper color Softflex. I had some Soochow jade that was closer to the "antiquity" color on this card (had some green in it), but I didn't like it with the other beads. I went with the more buttery tones.

And lastly, the ugly stepsister that didn't get to go to the ball because her shoes were too small (what?):

"My Little Pony"

I just couldn't do it. The lavender and the blue were too much for me. Some Rebel. I'm a phony. A charlatan. I could have just made something with that nice berry color (I had asked Erin for plum/berry colors) and some other colors, but that seemed kind of lame. So I skipped it all together. I just don't think I will ever make anything with pink AND blue in it. Unless a friend ever gives birth to a hermaphrodite and no one else is available to make her a baby blanket.

To see what the other participants have done with their paint cards, click on the links below:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Forget to Stop by for the "Challenge of Color" Blog Hop!

Starting December 3 at Erin Prais-Hintz' blog, see creations by numerous jewelry artists based on paint chip color palettes!
Don't forget to check it out!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coupla New Things and a SALE!!

I made these earrings over the weekend.

Glazed ceramic hearts in speckled turquoise with copper.
Kyanite flowers with antiqued copper.
I finished my "Color Challenge" pieces based on the paint chips Erin Prais-Hintz sent me, but I can't share them with you until December 3. Bah. I've done two, I'm trying to find a way to make myself love the third paint chip. Haven't found it yet but I'm determined.

Lastly, my entire shop will be on sale at 20% off from midnight November 24 through 11:00 p.m. November 29 for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Come take advantage of me!!! I'll be out of town for the holiday, though, from November 24 until Sunday, November 28, and I'll probably be completely fried from driving 9 hours (in a mostly straight line, without ever leaving the state; how 'bout that?) so I won't get any sale items in the mail until probably Monday or Tuesday.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Name is Keirsten and I'm a Tutaholic

It all started, I think, with Barb Lewis' "Painting with Fire" tutorial. The instant gratification (I wish ALL online purchases could be emailed), the new (largely theoretical) vistas opening up...After that it was Shannon LeVart's "Color Drenched Metal" and "Hand Formed Links." And that softened me up pretty good for the next email I got from Eni Oken Jewelry Lessons--by now I had an unquenchable thirst for tutorials, even if I wasn't even going to do them (indeed, I have no immediate plans to do enamel, I just wanted the tut)--and I stumbled headlong into the Jewelry Lessons site like a broke drunk who just found a fiver on the sidewalk stumbles into a liquor store and started snapping up whatever I could find that seemed remotely do-able.

Well, that's maybe an overstatement, I bought two. I bought one on making wire-wrapped briolette flowers, because I was so inspired by Melissa Meman's gorgeous flower earrings but couldn't figure out how to do it (I don't have the engineering gene), and one on how to make little calla lily-shaped beadcaps out of thin metal sheet. (And then of course I had to buy the metal sheet). And somewhere in there I also acquired a tut on making kidney earwires from Natalie Girard, a Canadian jewelry artist on AtrFire. I've wanted to do those too but didn't have the patience to figure it out on my own. Sometimes I just like to be spoon-fed. Especially about measuring things.

So this was my fourth (or fifth?) attempt at the briolette flower. (I was a little alarmed with attempt no. 3 because I seemed to be getting WORSE with practice, but I stopped and thought about where I was going wrong and kept trying). I've had these kyanite spears FOREVER, they were one of the first things I bought when I started making jewelry but they didn't fit into my initial designs and I didn't know what to do with them after that.

This one below is also using the briolette wrapping technique (mine is still kind of messy, can't figure out how Melissa gets hers so perfect! Have to keep experimenting. I got a little wild with the one below and forgot where I was at with the over and under). Little sea opal drops and rounds, with copper rollo chain, and some great tiny ladder chain in antiqued copper. I can't remember where I got either chain--it was either Ornamentea or Lima Beads.

I'm pretty excited, this means I will have a way to use all those top drilled teardrop beads I keep buying but don't know what to do with. I have PILES of such beads so you will be seeing lots and lots of flowers. I may open a second shop called "All Flowers, Every Day, All Day Long."

This last thing didn't require any new tuts at all, just knots. A casually-shaped cube of boro lampwork glass by Bebesglassbeads on Etsy in "Ocean and Sand" hangs from cold-forged copper rings and a strand of knotted matte denim glass beads, with a few amber glass beads thrown in to tie into the lampwork. Front closure toggle clasp with hand-forged toggle bar.

Well, that's all I got. I got through about half my to-do list this weekend. And oh, gee, it looks like I didn't get to the icky stuff. Golly darnit anyhow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Phobic No More

Nothing like some custom work, with the color palette dictated to you, to help you overcome a little temporary, inexplicable phobia about making stuff. I was practically paralyzed for at least the last few months, filled with dread at the thought of making anything original. So I made components instead. Beadcaps and connector rings. Got lots of those now. And of course I continued buying all manner of supplies I was too anxiety-ridden to use. Those who can't do, shop.

So, this is one of three pieces that seemed to get me over my weird little hurdle. I'm doing a large custom bridal order (5 bridesmaids, a best lady, two moms, two flower girls, and the bride).  This is the first of the bridesmaids' pendants, which will all be a little different.
Black Labradorite (also known as Larvikite) and Czech Fire Polished Glass.

Her colors are pewter gray and dark apple red (cool, huh?) I wanted to use a few different pendant shapes, and took a spin to the next town to a bead shop to see what they had. Nada. But they did have some awesome moukaite roundels with lots of mauve and pink in them (which I had been casually looking for here and there), so I picked up a strand of those and ended up making this:

Moukaite roundels with baby garnets and brass leaf medallion from Ghana.

I was originally going to have the garnets hanging as a second strand, and then put some leather on it or something, but then the strand of garnets accidentally flipped up as I was working on it and I thought that looked even better, having the strand of garnets form the top part of the necklace. So i took it apart and did that instead. I would have preferred not to add those little rose matte glass beads, but the beading wire wouldn't fit back through the itty bitty holes in the itty bitty garnets and I couldn't find anything more suitable to finish the ends off with. I do have an electric bead reamer but I was afraid the garnets would break if I tried to make the holes bigger. I think it's all right like that. (Brass leaf medallion from Happy Mango Beads.)

I had these little pearls and beadcaps sitting around for awhile, wanted to make earrings. This is them, all grown up:
(Anybody have any hints for achieving a consistently plump, non-dented ball headpin? To quench or not to quench? Too hot? Not hot enough?) Tried a little bigger, rounder earwire with these.

Got these little millefiori eggs over the summer at a bead sale, not really my style but I like the way they turned out with these funky little ruffled flower beadcaps and antiqued earwires:
I hammered the headpins a little on these since they were sort of deformed anyway.

I made a bracelet too but I don't like it so I'm not going to show you. Probably cut it up and redo it.

I started on this other thing, but it's not quite right. Once I decide on this one element it'll go together pretty fast and I'll show it to you. Maybe by the end of the week.

That's all I got. Time to go hang with my Squeeze. Peace out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Four Questions

I recently received a blog comment that I had been linked to a post on another blog, Honey from the Bee, the blog of the delightful Janet Bocciardi. I clicked on the link and found I'd been tagged to answer four questions. I adore talking about myself, so I was thrilled, and it also introduced me to three blogs that she'd tagged that I wasn't familiar with. It's a way for me and you to discover something about four bloggers I admire as well, if I can come up with some clever and interesting questions of my own. If you like, if you are one of the four bloggers named below, you can answer my questions on your blog, and in turn choose four bloggers to pose your own four questions to.

Janet Bocciardi (Honey from the Bee) asked these Four Questions:
  1. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you want to see and/or experience?  I would like to go to Greece (although maybe not right now), and the Greek islands.  I would love to see all those cool historical sites that remain from the heyday of Ancient Greece (and before! like the Minoans)--what a phenomenal culture, and how much we owe to them for our ideas on government, mathematics, philosophy, science, etc. I would love to see the Aegean, and the whitewashed villages, and the sun. I miss the sun. We don't have that here. And I would love to experience authentic Greek cuisine. Every. Single. Day. I ADORE Greek food and Mediterranean food in general. I could eat it every day. I would eat falafel for breakfast if I knew how to make it right. And lunch and dinner. With tzatziki and pita. With a side of stuffed grape leaves. And some olives.
  2. What is your favorite craft tool and why?  I would have to say my basic chasing hammer; it echos my interpersonal style. And you can turn metal wire into cool stuff with it.
  3. White or dark meat?  White. Unless it's Blair Underwood.
  4. What do you wish you invented? An utterly foolproof method to make absolutely convincing counterfeit money.
Now, four questions of my own:
  1. Tell me one big thing in your life that you had the opportunity to do, but didn't, and always wished you had.
  2. What is the most favorite outfit (clothes) you ever had? Of your whole life? Describe it to me in detail (sequins, fairy wings, go-go boots and all).
  3. What is your favorite thing about yourself? It can be an ability, a learned skill, a character quality or a personality trait. Or maybe it's your hair.
  4. If you had all the time in the world, every day, to devote to some completely frivolous but wickedly fun pursuit, what would it be?

And hopefully answered by:
Melissa Meman of Melissa Meman Design
Leslie Zabel of Bei Mondi Jewelry
Beryl Morago of Beryl Street Crafts
Lori Anderson of Lori Anderson Designs

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Experiment

I am nearing the end of my staycation, which started last Wednesday. Back to work on Thursday. I accomplished one goal, cut out a pendant with my saw and etch it. The other goal--make a bunch of stuff--not so much. At all. But I did get a bunch of pants.

So the sawing went OK (no broken blades yet), but I didn't quite get it round. It's a tad lopsided. But I thought, that's OK, it will be a "rustic", "organic", "freeform" pendant. My idea for the bale turned out all right--I left a tongue at the top that would be curled under later.

So after I had the edges all ground and sanded and all that (I have no idea which attachment to use on the Dremel so I used them all), I drew my design on it with Sharpie markers.

I tried to ink up the edges really well too so those wouldn't get etched. I stuck a piece of duct tape to the back and really stuck it down by rubbing it with something (I don't remember what), to keep the back from getting etched. (Worked like a charm.) I donned my protective gear:


Safety goggles.

Heavy duty rubber gloves.
Then I put it in the acid bath. At 1/2 hour I checked it, and half the ink looked like it had washed off. So I took it out, neutralized it, and reapplied the design with fingernail polish. Oy. I don't recommend this, but it was all I had. (I made a bit of a mess with it. Lots of stray smears and stuff). I put it back in the bath, and then noticed that one of my markers was actually a Sharpie Rub-a-Dub Laundry Marker. Silly me. Perhaps that was part of the problem.

It took about 3 hours to get a decent etch. I would have liked it deeper but my sheet was only 20 gauge so I called it good. (There are a couple weird circle things on there that I think are from bubbles.) Took it out and cleaned it up, sanded it a little, domed it some, and then patinated it in the liver of sulfur. Tumbled it. This is the final product:

Extremely rustic, sloppily rendered, charmingly amateurish pendant.
It's a tad, or maybe outrageously craptastic, but the process seems to work in theory. Before I attempt another one, though, these are the things I need to do first:

1) For a pendant this size (one inch in diameter or larger), I need much heavier gauge sheet, like maybe 16. I think 20 would be OK for charms. It just feels too flimsy.
2) Find a better resist. I ordered some pens from an electronics company that are made for this kind of thing (or rather circuit boards), I'll give that a try. I'll poke around on the Internet too for other resist media (any suggestions would be welcome). Apparently Staedtler red ink pens work better than Sharpies. Eventually I'll probably try the laser printer/toner transfer thing. Maybe. It would be nice not to have to draw anything.
3) Learn how to use the grinder attachments on my Dremel so I do a better job finishing the edges.
4) Probably clean it better before applying the resist, like get some citric acid cleaner to make sure there's no oil on it. Should have sanded it more to give it more tooth.
5) Remember to wait to curl the bale under until AFTER I've domed it. Duh.

It's too craptastic to sell, but my goal was to become unafraid/unintimidated by the process. Goal reached! I have to say it's a huge PITA actually. Sawing takes forever. My hand got really tired trying to hold the piece down on the bench pin. My metal shears work well on this gauge metal, but I don't think I could use them on say 16 gauge. (I have a pair of straight shears, and a pair with a left curve that I thought I could use for cutting circles but I haven't tried it yet). Etching takes forever too but at least you can go do something else while it's cooking. I think if I had the right tools/materials it would turn out a lot better. I'm really looking forward to spending more money on that. I love that. Spending money. Because I have so much of it. Money everywhere. Just lying around in big fat piles. Big fat piles of money. You know how it is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grape Jelly and Autumn Splendor: A Natural Pairing

Ashanti cross in pewter with garnets and Crazy Horse Stone.

I can't help it, those garnets make me think of grape jelly. And the Crazy Horse Stone make me think of plum glaze. I've combined them above with Hill Tribes sterling silver spacers, each intricately stamped with a tiny design, some other sterling silver spacer beads, and a pewter Ashanti-style cross from Happy Mango Beads. Hand-forged sterling silver S-clasp and rings. I love these two stones together.

I couldn't resist doing this monochrome number below--I've been obsessively churning out these heavy wrapped copper rings, and after they came out of the tumbler all darkly glowing I pawed through my pearl stash to find something to pair them with and these teardrop and potato pearls in dark copper said PICK ME. I love the varying colors of the freshwater pearls--from dark gold to bronze to copper to almost cranberry. The teardrop pearls look like molten metal to me--very irregular and organic looking. Wish I could remember where I got them. (Jewelry Supply?)

Copper and freshwater pearls.
Hand-formed spirals, oval link chain, toggle bar and ball headpins.

In other news, I can say that I have mastered (as far as I know) the art of sawing jump rings, and getting my saw blade strung nice and taut. My project for my upcoming staycation is to saw metal sheet with it, and do some etched and stamped pendants and charms. I have some sketches done of what I am hoping will be easy designs. I don't have the patience right now for the iron transfer technique so I will attempt to freehand them with my limited drawing ability. I figure if they look too kindergarten-y I can just hammer the crap out of them and turn them into beadcaps.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Heat Vent Treasures (or, the Ductwork Adventures of an Inveterate Renter)

Tom and I live in a quaint little hut mere blocks from charming downtown Whitefish, Montana. Well, "hut" is probably somewhat of a misnomer. It's more of a shack really. It has a certain beach-side flair, with its little sailboat cutouts on the white shutters, and its powder blue siding (makes me think of that blue and white striped ticking you see in Pottery Barn catalogs). I think perhaps it might have been a lake cabin at one time, and been transported to this lot in town. I have a fondness for small spaces (I'm only going to say that the square footage is in the three digit-range. And not the upper range.), and we both live very simply and have a visceral terror of accumulating too much personal impedimenta, so it suits us. Although there is perhaps not quite enough storage for my burgeoning jewelry paraphernalia. (I should put the bed up on blocks, I could get more under there).

I've never had the urge to own a home, and frankly, it's never really been in my grasp financially anyway. Well, maybe when I first moved back here, before the real estate boom, I could have got into a house if I'd really wanted to, but I hated the idea of possibly being trapped in a soul-killing job because of a mortgage payment, or not having any emergency cash savings. Mobility, options, and emergency cash have always been top priorities in my life (freedom to change jobs, to move, cash to do stuff with), and having a mortgage seemed like it would do away with those things. I was never home anyway so I never much cared what my house was like. So I've always rented. This can lead to living in a house with a relatively...bohemian maintenance history.

When I first moved into this house ten years ago the interior was appalling (a long series of men must have lived here), but it had potential--mainly because of the location, the big picture windows (so much light!) and the gas heat/forced air (unusual to find a gas furnace in such a small house). I thought, I could peel off those three layers of dog-eared wallpaper, paint that circa 1972 faux-wood paneling, wash the nicotine stains off the ceilings, paint over those multicolor patch jobs on those old sheetrock walls, and paint over the faux-marble wallboard in the bathroom and it would be just fine. It smelled like an old bar--an old bar that was in a basement--a basement with inadequate drainage--but that got a little better with a coat of Kilz and open windows. Tom joined me here some years later.

Over the years our little shack has aged like an exotic cheese. Ripened, if you will. The last couple years a really piquant odor has crept in during cooler weather that I can only describe as distinctly organic. Or more precisely, mammalian. And not live mammalian, as in, like, wet dog, but rather...dead mammalian. Like a dead rat in the heat vent.

My impression of this odor has probably been influenced by the fact that the room in which I'm sitting as I type this, the second bedroom, has a barely functioning heat vent. All the other vents in the house are busy pumping out toasty air when the heat comes on except for this one. This room is typically freezing from October to June.

Judging by experience, I didn't think the landlord would spring for a vent guy to come and clean the vents (and it's not apparently cheap to hire someone), so I Googled "smelly heat vent". I was surprised, and somewhat relieved, to discover this exact phenomenon was extremely common in everything from brand new  to fairly old houses. I found a message board where someone was looking for feedback on this exact problem, and they must have gotten about a hundred responses, all from people describing the exact same thing. A rank, pestilential odor appearing to emanate from their heat vents when the weather turned cooler. And not even when the heat was on. A few people found dead mammals, most didn't. Many had their ventwork cleaned, the vast majority of those to no effect.

So I sort of stopped worrying and just poured some Dove body spray down the vents.

But before I did that I Googled "DIY clean heat duct". Not very helpful. One guy said, well run a ShopVac down in your vents, at least get that part clean. So before I dumped the Dove body spray down there I vacuumed them out. In the process I discovered this room where I type was apparently at one time a child's room. A very bored child. Or maybe a very bad child who spent a lot of time in her room. Probably a girl. Not because she was bad but because of the tea set.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the last vent I vacuumed. And as soon as I had snaked the ShopVac hose down there, there was that telltale THUNK. I had just sucked up something big. (I'm thinking of a badly decomposed Fivel). Well, it being a ShopVac, the object worked its way without a problem into the canister. I continued my probing with the vacuum hose--THUNK. THUNKITY-THUNK-THUNK. TINK. WHUMP. A series of rattles (bee-bees?). Eventually I sucked up something that got caught in the hose. I took the hose outside, detached it and shook it onto the pavement, fully expecting to find something that would make me barf. This is what came out:

Plastic knife, fork and spoon; part of the blinds that must have hung in the window (formerly a classic 80s burgundy color); part of an erector set (the yellow thing); plastic bread bag fasteners; plastic wheels off a toy car; some change (just pennies, unfortunately); an ear from a Mr. Potato Head; cheap clasp from a piece of jewelry; and some other random crap. The other half of what I sucked up is still in the vacuum bag. I'm too cheap to cut it open and see what it is because the bag's only about 20% full. The other half of the tea set maybe. A barbie head. Mr. Potato Head's lips and mustache. The car that went with the wheels...

Ah, well, something to look forward to.

I excitedly turned on the heater after it appeared there was nothing else within reach of my ShopVac hose. Nothing. No hot air. I'm guessing there might be a doll baby head down there that was resistant to the power of the ShopVac. Maybe a tennis ball. Something big and round that rolled down in there. Or I guess it could be Fivel and the tea set is just a coincidence.

The smell has abated quite a bit. Perhaps because the heater is running more regularly now. Or Dove is more powerful than I ever realized.

Oddly enough I don't really have any desire for a bigger house. I probably wouldn't even use a "studio" because it would be too lonely. I'd haul my crap into the living room so I could sit next to Tom while I make stuff. Every day I expect to get a letter from the landlord saying the house is being torn down to make room for a parking lot. Or a real estate office. They're all over the place. (Har har. Good luck with that.) But for now apparently the lot owner thinks renting to us is a better deal. Thank God for the recession.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

MAPP Gas: the Secret to Unlocking Maker's Block

Been feeling rather uptight lately about making stuff. So I sort of stopped. Then I got a canister of MAPP gas and a new torch head because I wanted to make some copper S-clasps and toggle bars (I like the hammered ball at the end) and the propane just wasn't cutting it on the 16 gauge wire. Apparently I melted right through my inhibitions! Nothing like a little FIRE and molten metal to get you stirred up. Here's my pile of melted stuff, and some more wrapped rings:

As I had mentioned in a previous post, the incomparable Shannon LeVart of Miss Fickle Media had posted on her blog about wrapping rings as an alternative to soldering. I really like how they look! She also--God bless her--shared some VERY handy tips in her "Color Drenched Metal" tutorial about using liver of sulphur. I was dying to get that rich, reddish brown color on my copper but all I could manage was black. I learned the secret from Shannon's tutorial of how to achieve that rich dark color! YES. I also made a couple of plain bars, above, for I don't know what, wrap around something, and some oval link chain (they were just going to be jump rings but then I thought--HEY! why don't I just link them all together and make a CHAIN. I'm effing brilliant. I don't know where I get this stuff.). To make the ovals I wrapped my wire around a couple kebab sticks (wrapping your wire around two round rods produces a nice oval shape--I'm too cheap to buy an oval jump ring maker), and then sawed it at the top with my jeweler's saw (first time I ever used it--didn't break the blade! ha! next time.) I use my flush cutters when I'm making round jump rings, but since you have to keep nipping off the chiseled end of the wire for each ring to make both ends flush, you can't use it on ovals (if you always want to have the cut at the same place. It sounds complicated, but trust me. Sharilyn Miller shows you how to use flush cutters to make jump rings in her "Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop" DVD. Among MANY other handy things. Highly recommend.)

So after I got my jollies with the torch (it's much noisier than the propane torch and the flame is a little more...exuberant) I rifled through my purse for the myriad little notes I make throughout the day of things I think I should make. There were about 7 loose sheets of paper with scribblings and incomprehensible drawings and lists. One indecipherable hieroglyphic went in the trash (not sure what I was getting at) but the pendant below made it onto the workbench and into the shop (I was trying to keep it less ornate--this one involves no ball headpins). Deerskin lace in chestnut and buckskin colors, waxed cotton cord in navy blue, wood and lapis beads, pewter tulip-shaped endcaps, and silver-plated rolo chain from Lima. Hand-forged sterling silver S-clasp.

This is one of Happy Mango Beads' fabulous Celtic spiral pewter pendants. They also have some wonderful smaller spirals and triskelia (triple spirals). I posted a picture of this pendant to Happy Mango's Facebook page this evening and Rudi Taylor, Happy Mango's directrice, told me the winsome story of this pendant (I believe she is currently in Bangkok! having recently arrived from Nepal on a bead-buying trip). I post it with her permission:

"I know there are spirals everywhere, but this particular one has a story. We were in Galicia, Spain (the section of Spain that hooks over the top of Portugal), an entirely Celtic area, and we were driving forever and ever and finally came upon a village with a single bar - so we went in to get a glass of wine and some bread (that's all they had), and inside was an old guy making spirals to be used as some sort of decor for a celebration the village was having, he gave us this spiral (and permission) to have it cast in pewter. So as you can see, it's not just 'any' spiral :)"

Is that not the coolest thing ever? I might have to buy more.

I took some other pictures of this pendant on a cushion from my favorite chair my Mom gave me (she found it at a yard sale and gifted it to me when she replaced it with a posh club chair), and I just loved them because they MATCHED so perfectly and I was dying to use them as the main photo for my item on Etsy, but the pendant just seemed to disappear. I used one of them anyway for the second picture. This is my favorite one:

The Chair:

Pardon the mess. Is that not a fabulous chair? I SCORED. Men are not allowed to sit in it. Except on holidays. Major holidays. Not the minor ones.

I also made these a couple weeks ago--wrapped them at work on my lunch hour but I didn't get around to listing them until recently:

Czech "Picasso" glass in red.
Czech glass in orange with "Sunshine Dust" and Antiqued Brass.

Czech "Picasso" Glass in Turquoise with Sterling Silver.

Czech glass in Purple Luster Finish with Sterling Silver.
I was going to make a copper bracelet this weekend too but all my time got gobbled up with picture-taking/editing and posting stuff. I guess the next time I get all inhibited and angst-ridden I'll just melt more copper with my new torch. I'll probably have to open a second shop to get rid of it all.

Next post: Heat Vent Treasures (or, "The Ductwork Adventures of an Inveterate Renter").