Sunday, April 26, 2009

Learning about String Art

It seems that string art jewelry is showing up everywhere just this week. Maybe it's something in the water. I spent my jewelry time this week experimenting with it, and am sharing 3 of the 5 pendants I made. The others are just as nice, or possibly nicer, but they already have new homes, and I'll get their photos for my records later.

Here are some of the things I learned:
  • Nice quality sewing or machine embroidery thread works really well for this technique.
  • Spooled thread is easier to manage than embroidery floss, regardless of what the tutorials all say.
  • Variegated thread is lots of fun to work with and gives really interesting effects.
  • The direction of the coil makes a difference in the way the thread lies and has a BIG impact on how easy it is to get it to look nice and stay in place.
  • Because you are wrapping in several different directions, sometimes the coil direction will be against you, and you'll just have to learn to work with it.
  • Generous application of sealant is important to durability.
  • The tension on the final wrap before the knots is critical.
  • Getting the coil uniformly stretched without wobbles is the very hardest part -- still working on that one.
  • String art is still fun, 45 years after freshman geometry class.
I'll be experimenting more next week because I bought a few spools of thread on Friday and can't wait to try them. I also bought some steel wire for frames, to see how that works. The dark annealed finish is interesting and should contrast nicely with the gloss of the threads.

Technical details: 18g hardware store copper wire for the frame, 22g colored craft wire and/or niobium wire for coils, 28g copper wire for the herringbone bails, Sulky brand #30 mercerized cotton sewing thread in both solid and variegated for the string weaving.

Are any of you playing with this? Want to talk about it in the comments?

Thanks for looking, and don't forget to look at all the beautiful stuff over at Year of Jewelry.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Aspect Ratio and a Blast from the Past

Remember last week that the folks at On the Rocks were interested in chainmaille rings? Well, I spent most of my jewelry time this week wrestling with creating the perfect chainmaille ring. I have one that I wear all the time, in European 6-in-one weave. It is close to the perfect simple, elegant and comfortable ring. I say this as someone whose hands are prone to swelling, so rings in general are not something I can wear any more unless they are very flexible.

So I am trying to recreate this exact weave. Unfortunately, it seems that the wire I used for it was from an irregular lot, labeled as 22g but somewhat oversize -- possibly IRL a 21 g. So when I naively treated it as 22g, the weave was loose and floppy, and when I tried to use 20g, it was unworkably stiff. My mandrel set is in .5mm increments, and the AR is so sensitive on this weave that I haven't found the exact match yet, and I don't have any more of this weird wire. I spent a lot of time playing with the math, and came to the conclusion that the perfect AR for this weave as a ring is 4.75. Then I had to figure out the ring size for each of the gauges of wire. Either I have to find an alternative mandrel -- a possibility, I have a bunch of mandrels in inches that I haven't tried out yet -- or I will splurge and add an ounce of 21g to my next wire order. Trouble is, I'm trying to use up wire I have, for budgetary reasons, and would like to put off buying wire for a few weeks at least. Or until I have a job if that happens sooner.

However, those things don't make for much of a picture for Year of Jewelry. On Friday morning, Gen Smith posted a Youtube of Camille Sharon making string art pendants, and I decided to take a break from math and rings and useful things like that and try my hand at one. I used some 18g copper for the frame, 22g craft wire for the coil and one plain and one variegated rayon machine embroidery thread (contrary to the video's advice and because it was handy) for the string. I made a nicer bail, just because I can. It needs some practice to refine it, but definitely a fun, quick project with a TON of potential. I highly recommend it.

Next week I have to make a bunch of earrings, also plan some Earth Day fun with grandchildren, and make up a nice presentation for Carolyn and Gonzo at On the Rocks. When that is under control, I hope to post a bunch of new things to Etsy for sale. Oh, and look for a job.

Thanks for looking! Till next time.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Great week, not-so-great jewelry project

Don't you just hate it when your blog software eats your post?? That's what just happened here, but I'll try my best to remember what I meant to say, ok?

This week was full of win. On Saturday, after a lovely birthday lunch (thanks, Dad!) and a trip to Spice House (mmm, smells so good) we decided to drive past the gallery where I have some pieces for sale. I had been concerned that they might be suffering in this economy, and was wondering if maybe I should just try to sell my things on the internet. Imagine how pleased I was to walk in the door and see the shop full of people, eagerly buying things. Even better, when the owner saw me, she exclaimed,"Oh, I have a check for you!" They had sold several pairs of earrings as well as a bracelet, one of the high price point items. In fact, they only had 3 of my things left.

After a nice conversation in which I agreed to bring more earrings and some rings, and also to bring some other new items to swap out with the stock that hasn't moved yet, I asked, just in passing, whether they might be interested in my teaching some classes. She loved the idea -- it seems that her fiance, the other owner and a very talented wire artist, has been so busy with custom work that he no longer has time to teach, and they have been looking for a way to offer beginner classes. So I'm also preparing proposals for a couple beginner level classes. I'm thinking of bead-drop earrings with hand-made wires, and a bead pendant with a simple bail. I'll be very busy this week. Yaay for busy!

Now, my Year of Jewelry project falls more in the category of "best laid plans", I'm afraid. It was supposed to be the next installment in my embellished herringbone series. I think the title for this embellishment is "Lumpy Ugly Embellishment Option." I don't like it at all. I actually cut away about half of the work I had done, it was so ugly. It also follows a pattern -- I have a string of these beautiful moss agate beads, one lovelier than the next, and I have yet to make a project from one of them that pleases me.

Still, you deserve the technical details -- 28g sterling wire wrapped on 22g sterling wire, 2mm sterling beads as embellishment to the herringbone weave. The stone is about 1 1/2" or 35mm tall and has a very pronounced mossy pattern. My lesson for this week is that this is not the way to embellish herringbone, and the next one of these beads will be treated as a cab in a pendant.

Thanks for stopping by, and of course I love to read any and all comments!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Another week, another pair of earrings

I came to jewelry-making from a needlework background. In fact, I have several pieces of embroidered jewelry that are very beautiful and involved a lot of work and lovely materials. For some reason, though, they are always seen as novelty pieces, something you would wear to a quilters' meeting, but not "real" jewelry. I never understood that, but the truth is that once I started working in wire and beads or gemstones, my work gets a LOT more respect, regardless that it is using the exact techniques I used with silk or even metallic thread and a threaded needle. Go figure.

In any case, these earrings are, as promised, the next variation on the herringbone stitch earrings from last week. I made the hoop diameter 1/2 inch smaller for a slightly smaller, rounder earring. I also bowed out the sides a bit more, making for a slightly wider earring, at least at the bottom of the hoop.

After the herringbone portion was finished, I added #11 seed beads in a blue iris colorway. The beads are stitched in place using a backstitch. The technique is similar to one that is used in a form of embroidery called hemstitching. In that technique, threads are pulled out of the fabric adjacent to the hem, and various stitches are used to group and embellish the remaining crossthreads, creating a lacy but geometric effect.

Anyway, I'm pleased with this first variation, and have several more in mind, so I'll be working on those. And as long as I have to keep making herringbone base earrings, I'll be taking step-by-step photos so I can publish a tutorial for them. Since you can use the same technique for earrings, a bail for a focal bead, the bail on a wire-wrapped piece, and probably several other things I haven't thought of yet, I figure it might be a nice value if anyone is interested.

Apologies in advance for the photo -- Photoshop dot com wasn't happy about allowing me to upload so I wasn't able to edit it at all. I would have cropped it, at the least.

Thanks for looking. You know I love to hear your comments and critiques, how your day is going, whatever.

This is also posted at CWJ's Year of Jewelry. If you haven't already done so, stop by there to see all the wonderful work. You'll drool, I promise.