Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back to my roots

Last week I talked about returning to some of my favorite things, so this week I actually treated myself to a week of chainmaille. These bracelets are as back-to-basics as I can get -- European 4-in-1, the quintessential chainmalle of all.

The bracelet on the left is 22g, 2.5mm sterling rings with a commercial ring/hook clasp that I embellished with 15g iridescent beads. This is probably my favorite size and type of maille to make and to wear. It is as supple as a silk ribbon to wear.

The bracelet on the right is the same exact weave done in 18g 3.5mm sterling. I used a magnetized sterling slide clasp. The heavier weight and more tailored clasp make for a unisex cuff. I hope this will be something that is attractive to buyers.

Another little thing I tried this week was to time myself when making maille. I learned that I can close 100 rings in about 20 minutes. This is the preliminary step for European, so I have to add that time to the time it takes me once I start actually making the chain if I want a fair estimate of my labor time. I also measured the time it takes to build the rows, and learned that I can make 20 to 25 double rows (2 plus 3) in 15 minutes. That means that the weaving, not counting closing rings ahead, for the larger bracelet took about 1 hour 15 minutes, and the smaller weave took more like 1 hour 30-45 minutes. Add half an hour or 45 minutes to each for closing rings, and it takes between 2 and 3 hours to make a bracelet like one of these. A neck chain would take between 6 and 10 hours. Now, the clasp is not included in that time estimate. If I use a commercial clasp it takes just a minute or two, if I make something special it obviously takes longer. This exercise was great for me since it gives me a much better perspective on pricing. Oddly, I have no idea whether it means that I am quick or slow to make chain.

As usual, Augie coiled and cut the rings for me. I couldn't afford to make the tiny maille if I had to buy the rings precut, as the going price for them is over $50/oz. I do add a labor cost to the cost of the wire when I use it as rings, but in practice, we have more time than money at our house so it makes sense to pay something less than $20/oz for the wire from Monsterslayer and cut them as we need them. I think of it as a value-added feature for us, and Augie says he enjoys cutting the rings, so it's all good.

Thanks for looking, and of course your comments and critiques are welcome.

p.s. Would you be interested in non-jewelry posts here during this week? I have some recipes and other things I have written that I think I'll post. Stay tuned :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

For Valentines Day

For YOJ week 7 I decided to follow up on a doodle I had made a few months ago of a heart with a ribbon. It combines basketweave, beads, and herringbone weaving.

Technical details: Worked on a core of 20g sterling with 28g wrapping wire. The beads are 2mm sterling bead/crimps on the border and it is accented with three 4mm Indian Pink Swaroski bicones. On the next one of these I make, I'll get some 3mm bicones so I can taper the setting for a better flow. Because the heart is open, I couldn't do a hidden bail. I didn't want the bail to distract, so I didn't do a herringbone wrap on it as I often do. However, I did coil the bail wires so it didn't look like I just forgot to wrap the bail.

This was interesting to do because I had to work on two or three stages at the same time, coil on one core wire, wrap some beads on the other, coil a bit more, in order to make the architecture work properly and specifically to incorporate the end of the ribbon into the heart border. I was extremely pleased with the way that turned out. I was thinking that I could actually theme these to awareness ribbons if I thought about it a little bit. The Indian Pink would certainly work for breast cancer awareness. Of course, red would be nice for red, love, valentine. And AB crystal is always lovely. So I think there may be more of these.

And, in contrast to last week's (LATE) item, this was finished in the course of a single day, even with all the interruptions of daily life. Plus, I like it and would wear it, and could imagine selling it. Much better.

Comment and critique always welcome. Thanks for visiting, and come back soon.

Kandinski, or why I'm not doing themes any more

This week's theme was Kandinski, and I thought it would be really neat to do one of his circles. This is a case of "Sandi bit off a pretty big bite there" You see, this is woven with 28g wire on a 20g core, and the beads are a mixture of #11 seed beads, #11 delicas and hex delicas, and #15 seed beads. Yes, you read that right, #15.

Now the problem is not that they are so difficult to work with, it is that it takes so loooooong to make any progress. So on top of a busy week, I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and wrapped and never seemed to get any further along. And in the end, I'm not that thrilled with this as a piece of jewelry. It came out too literal an interpretation to be that interesting to me. It's a nifty concept, just not something I feel was worth the effort. At the end of the week-and-a-half that I spent on this, I realized that if I had ignored the theme I could have made a beautiful focal that I liked and a couple bread-and-butter chainmailles as well. The theme had become a procrastination enabler for me, and that's the last thing I need. So I won't be following themes for the rest of YOJ. If something I want to do happens to match up, fine, but I'll concentrate on following my own ideas for now at least. I do greatly look forward to all your interpretations, however.

But enough of that, on to the technical details. This is worked in sterling basketweave pave' with a 20g core and 28g wrapping and #11 and #15 Miyuki beads. It measures about 1 1/2 inches (4mm) although it isn't quite square, intentionally. I continued working on the hidden bail concept this week, and am very pleased with the result. In fact, I will probably revisit this concept, but without trying to emulate someone else's graphic. I also think some exposed basketweave would be interesting.

So, not an entirely unsuccessful piece, lessons learned, and on to the next week. Your comments and critique are always welcome.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bronze Age Tribute

The Bronze Age was a wonderful choice for the YOJ theme, since the Bronze Age really marks the flowering of jewelry and ornamentation. Think of the wonderful jewelry of ancient Egypt, of the Minoans, the Trojans, Bronze Age all. This piece is a tribute to those artisans who really invented jewelry as we know it, a combination of metals, gems, and enamels, designed at least as much for beauty and ornamentation as for religious or ritual significance.

I used the spiral, a form found again and again in the ancient world, enhanced with bits of amber. This is, however, not a Bronze Age style piece. It is much freer and less formal, more of a modern sensibility. The structure is based on Linda "Sorcie" Smith's spiral pendant design, modified to have a hidden bail. The core wire is 20g soft sterling, wrapped with 28g sterling. It is about 1 1/2 inches or just under 4 cm in diameter. The beads are mixed amber nuggets.

I have been experimenting with hidden bails for some time now. I like the idea of the artwork part of the piece standing on its own. I was also inspired by the floating diamond jewelry that is so popular as an anniversary gift. Of course, most of the things I make are a little larger and bolder than that, but I still love the concept.

This week my daughter commented to Shalom (20 months old grand-daughter) that Nana always has a nice handle on her neck. She's right. I intentionally wear something pretty around my neck whenever I spend time with Shalom and her big brother Yosef. I like the idea that when I am gone they will remember that Nana made beautiful things and always had a touch of beauty and sparkle about her. I also like the idea that they will grow up knowing that it is okay to be fancy even when you are wearing jeans, if you like. Beauty is to wear and use, not to sit in a box somewhere, or so say I.