Thursday, September 30, 2010

Disappointments & successes

Well, yesterday I promised not to neglect the blog, and I also promised an upcoming blog post about my other in-reserve chainmaille pieces that I plan to enter in a contest this year. I figure it's about time I at least post a photo (albeit, not a great shot) of it.

I dub thee: Celtic Dreams

This necklace was inspired by my love for Celtic design. I've long been a fan of Celtic knotwork, and have in the past made hand-painted wooden boxes adorned with these designs. I still have a few of these in my possession. But, I digress! This post is about jewelry, not boxes.

I've wanted to make a really unique and beautiful Celtic-inspired necklace not quite anything like the ones I've seen out there, so with a book of royalty-free designs in hand, I selected one that lent itself well to what I was trying to do. Using that design, I took a syringe filled with silver clay paste and piped out the design onto a non-stick surface. From there, I set a few pieces of white cubic zirconia in as accents and then let the piece dry thoroughly.

Once it was dry, I began the tedious task of filing and smoothing as best I could. I found I really could have used some new sandpaper, so I didn't get it as smooth as I originally wanted, but that's OK. The bit of texture gives it some personality. ^_^ I then put the piece into the kiln to be fired, and lo and behold, it came out just fine. Next came the task of polishing. Ohhhh how I loathe polishing metal clay! I have found, though, a nice method that works well for me, and it involves a combination of filing, sanding, brushing, and finally tumbling. And boy.. when I'm done, these pieces do S-H-I-N-E!

Then the question came ... 'ok, this thing turned out beautiful, now what do I do with it?' I knew I wanted to make a necklace, but just exactly what kind, I didn't know. Most of the chainmaille weaves I use often just don't go well with Celtic knots. So, I start looking at weaves... and huzzah! What do I find? A weave called "Celtic Visions". HA! I'd forgotten all about that one! I settled on this weave or, my little tweaked version of it, that is, and set to work. I think I had the chain woven in a day and a half, only because life interferes sometimes (bleh! lol).  I attached the chain to the finished piece of metal clay and was mostly happy, but felt that it lacked something.

Enter onyx and purple CZ from stage left.

I love purple and black, and so these two seemed just perfect for adding a splash of color and contrast to an otherwise totally silver, blindingly shiney piece. So, I worked them into the design and voila! You have Celtic Dreams!

"Celtic Dreams" by zerospace

Disappointments, you say?

But the title of this blog suggests something less than successful too, Z! Yes, yes it does. Today's disappointment was finding that my chainmaille supplies package has been delayed by a "Late train" according to UPS. *sigh* One more day ... just one more. Ohhh, how that new titanium calls to me!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On past designs... and future projects

Pardon my long absence from this blog! I suppose I could offer some excuse, but that's what it would be. An excuse. So, let's just forget the fact that I've neglected to post anything for awhile and move on. ^_^

A few days ago, I started pawing through my box of jewelry created during a long period of learning new techniques and just generally getting back into jewelry design after a long absence. All I can say about the experience is "oh my." Some of it I still love, but much of it struck me as odd or just downright ugly. *nervous laugh* I found myself just yesterday beginning the tedious process of dismantling the pieces that I could. That's one good thing about a lot of jewelry -- components can be re-used!

As a result, I have a bunch of mounted gemstones all ready to find their way into new pieces, and lots of sections of sterling and gold filled chain (the kind you buy in bulk, not my handmade chainmaille). I just can't help but cringe at some of the ideas I've had in the past, but I suppose everyone has to make their way somehow, right? That offers some consolation, I guess.

Even today, I often think that I lack vision, though my husband would never agree with that, as I am always dreaming up new things I'd like to make. More often than not, those things become a reality, sometimes after a lot of trial and error, but I'm pretty good these days at turning my visions into real tangible items. Of course, I have to have ideas first.

I have a lot of random projects going now, including things that have sat on the back burner for a long time. I'm also awaiting a much-needed shipment of new chainmaille supplies in metals I've had very little of for quite some time (hellloooo saw-cut titanium!). I'm looking forward to creating some new men's designs with a greater variety of titanium as well as some new designs overall with a hefty order of bronze, steel, and sterling.

I'm also sitting on two very beautiful chainmaille pieces that I'd love to list in my shop, but because I plan to enter them in a contest later this year/next year, I have to keep them in my possession for a few more months at the least. One of these pieces was the subject of an earlier blog post, but the other has yet to see the light of day. It's very celtic, and in my own biased opinion, beautiful. Look for  a blog post about it in the near future!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chainmaille purses, experiments & new items!

This is going to be more of a "here's what I've been working on" blog post, rather than about one specific project in general. I have plans to upload some new items to my Etsy shop today, as well. You may even see one of the experiments go up if I have a chance to photograph it.

Ongoing short-term project: Chainmaille purses

I don't mean to lead anyone on, but one of the projects I'm currently working on involves the making of small evening bag sized chainmaille purses. To start off, I'm creating the first one in stainless steel because of its strength and ability to resist rusting. If the first one is successful, I may consider creating others out of titanium, to make them lighter, but still strong and rust resistant. I doubt I'll ever go to sterling or gold-fill unless someone specifically requests one.

New experiments:  Polymer clay

Yesterday, I was experimenting with a polymer clay idea. Actually, I was surfing the web and was inspired by something I saw online. I decided to try something with the basic concept in mind and was met at first with total failure. Heh, heh. Ahh, the best laid plans, as they say! What happened, you ask? Well you certainly don't think I'm going to leave you hanging, do you? Of course not!

So my experiment began with mixing a custom blend of polymer clay--I was going for a translucent look, and so used a small amount of colored clay blended with translucent. No big deal. I also blended in a fair amount of mica powder, because I wanted a pearl-y sparkly look to the finished piece throughout. No problems there either. I rolled it out, cut my shape and began doing detail work, which involved embedding some gold-filled wire and other components into the piece. All went well. Where things went horribly wrong was in the baking. Oh yes. I have only ever burned polymer clay once! Well, after yesterday, make it twice. But this was unlike anything I'd ever seen. It literally turned BLACK. But the most interesting thing happened when it did that -- the mica powder mixed with the bubbled black surface of the clay turned into what looked very much like antique gold! Huzzah! I have yet to actually do anything with this very interesting looking "failure", but I'm sure I will.

Later in the day, I used some of the leftover of my pre-mixed clay and re-made the piece. The baking this time went fine, as I watched it nearly the entire time and checked that the temperature on my clay oven was set a bit lower (I often forget it tends to be a little hot).

I was able to complete the new piece in the way I originally intended, and it turned out beautiful! I'm very happy with the results. Expect to see this piece possibly land in my Etsy shop sometime today. ^_^

Monday, September 13, 2010

September baseball ... inspiration!

If you're a fellow crafter or artist, have you ever felt inspired by something that seems totally unrelated to what you do? Well, I guess by both the title of this post and by the question I started out asking, you can imagine that I have. In fact, I've been trying to come up with a design inspired by my new favorite sport, baseball. I always regarded baseball as totally boring, and yet somehow I got sucked into it while my husband followed his favorite local team. Last year by the time the world series came around, I found myself totally intrigued by the sport, and I even watched the series between the Yankees and Phillies, even though I was a fan of neither team.

Despite enjoying watching baseball (I have barely missed a San Francisco Giants game this season!), I often find myself paying attention to the sometimes piles of necklaces the players often wear. Sometimes I'm amazed the things don't smack them in the face as they run the bases, make spectacular jumping or diving catches, or even while pitching. In fact, some of the pitchers have the most interesting things dangling around their necks. With some of the windups these guys employ, I wonder how those necklaces hold up.

What I've seen them wearing are various types of twisted or braided necklaces (I presume these are lightweight), but for some, I've seen heavy chains. Perhaps one of the most interesting (and inspiring) necklaces I've seen on a player is a necklace frequently worn by Giants starting pitcher, Barry Zito. I'm still trying to figure out what it's made with, but it looks like some kind of black cord (leather?) and silver beads or beads of some kind. Sadly, you just never get great closeup shots of these guys during the game--at least ones that show what I'm trying to see! (And I have to imagine I'm one of the few paying attention to details like that).

Byzantine & leather men's necklace
I find Zito's necklace interesting because it's the only one I've seen thus far that doesn't look totally "cookie-cutter".  It isn't a large heavy chain, and it isn't a team-colors twisted or braided cord. It's got some style, and that fascinates me. I don't often see men wearing necklaces, but when I do, often it is chains or sometimes strings of heishi-style beads. So, when you see a guy wearing something that's still very suitable for a guy, but has some style and says something out of the ordinary, I'm intrigued. Go figure. Of course, I suppose it isn't any surprise that the guy wearing the most interesting piece of jewelry is Barry Zito--the same guy who's responsible for Pablo Sandoval's "Panda" nickname, and the same guy who convinced Aubrey Huff to use the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" for his walk-up music. He's definitely a kindred creative spirit.

I wish I could finish this post off by saying that I've actually come up with a baseball-inspired design. But I can't, because I'm still working on it (d'oh!). But I promise, one is coming, and hopefully very soon. I do have some pretty cool stuff for men in my Etsy shop already, though -- including a pretty unique necklace that combines chainmaille and leather (see above photo).

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Best epoxy?

So, I've been making a lot of my chainmaille knotted earrings, as my last blog post suggests. Well, yesterday I managed to torque a pair of them enough (sometimes I think I'm harder on my work than anyone else ever would be) to actually snap the adhesive I used on them. Ack! Granted, the pair I torqued was probably not fully cured yet, but still. It concerned me greatly, as I was about to pack up a recently sold pair. Could I trust the epoxy? It certainly freaked me out quite a bit.

So, I decided to try my 30-minute 2-ton epoxy that I usually reserve for other types of projects (casting, etc). Well, I think beyond a doubt that this type of epoxy is worlds better than the stuff I'd been using. Yes, I have to allow it to set up for at least 15 minutes before actually applying it to the earring pad, but the final bond is rigid and so much stronger that I think I'll be suffering through the process in the future. I even re-bonded the sold pair of earrings using the stronger epoxy because more than anything, I want my customers to be happy.

I've decided to experiment with shorter-cure time epoxies, though. The original one I was using has a pretty long cure time and produces a waterproof, chemical-proof flexible bond, which for many applications is a great thing, but for others, it's a disaster in the making. Today I'm planning to pick up some 1 and 5 minute epoxies made by the same company as my 30 minute 2-ton epoxy. Time will tell if these are up to the challenge!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crazy for knots

So, it turns out that one of the most interesting things I've posted to my Etsy shop are my 'knotted' earring styles. I've made them in a variety of metals, but all generally are based on a spiral chainmaille weave. In this jewelry maker's humble opinion, they are probably one of the most simple things I make. Isn't it funny sometimes, how simple ideas are often the best? I love it!

18k gold over sterling knot earrings
After getting a good deal of interest in the pair of earrings shown to the left and another pair of copper knots, I decided to come up with a few more pairs. So, today, I'm posting two new pairs of sterling knot earrings (one very small and one a little bigger) plus a pair of larger copper knots.

Each of the new pairs is based again on variations of the basic chainmaille spiral weave. The funny part about the spiral is that if it is not done with the right size rings, it loses it's shape. To combat this, I usually do the spiral in either double or triple variations. Most of my knot earrings are of one of these two varieties, just with rings small enough to make the weave so tight it doesn't move almost at all.

My process is actually really simple: I make the knots and then put the in a tumbler for a few hours to shine up. Then they get a wash in soap and water and then bonded to a pair of earring posts (usually with a very strong epoxy). Simple!

For a little preview of what's to come in my Etsy shop, here are some new pictures:

sterling silver knotted earrings
100% pure copper knotted earrings
Click the banner on the left to visit my Etsy shop (or just visit!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is hand-knotting pearls a dying art?

I had no idea how much interest there would be in simple strands of hand-knotted pearls until I uploaded a few to my Etsy shop. I'll admit, despite having worked in marketing for a few years of my writing career, I am positively awful at marketing myself. So, as you can well imagine, there has been little of me marketing these pearl strands I've listed. But, this leads me to the question, are there so few pearl-knotters out there that my pearl strands have received a seemingly over-abundance of attention without much effort on my part? I may never really find out the answer to that question, but if there are few of us left, I'll keep on knotting.

Knotted mauve & white button pearls

Yesterday, I completed knotting a new strand of pearls--ones I bought a couple of years ago, but just never got around to stringing. I knotted a double strand of gorgeous grey, cultured akoya pearls. I would say the toughest part about pearl knotting is making sure the end knots that hold the bead tips (those little metal things that attach to the clasp or rings that attach to the clasp) are strong and large enough to keep them from slipping off the ends of the necklace. Early on in my knotting adventures, I worried about the strength of my knots, and yet I have made and worn many of my own pearl necklaces for years, and not a single one has come apart yet. Only this has given me the confidence to sell them.

I've always found knotting pearls to be a very relaxing task, much like chainmaille. Both are pretty tedious hobbies, but for me, they are as rewarding as anything else I do. Sure, I also am known to spend hours writing web site source code, but I'm just ask likely to be found hovering over my work bench in my office, knotting a strand of pearls or weaving a new piece of chainmaille. I frequently bounce between my hobbies, usually when an idea strikes me for any one of them.

If there really are so few pearl knotters left; if the task has been relegated to workers in pearl farm countries like China who make low wages, I'll still keep doing it. There's something to be said for the phrase "handmade in the USA" to me!