Sunday, July 26, 2009

I love rings!

Last week I posted a simple little ring and much to my surprise received the most positive feedback I have ever had on any piece of jewelry I have ever made. Since the technique was on my list for further exploration, I decided to make this week a week of rings. Like most of us, I have a fairly extensive collection of random beads of all sorts so I selected beads that were square, rectangular, or more or less oval that I thought might work well in a ring. Then I set to work.

Of course, life intervenes, this week in a good way. I got a callback for a second interview for a job that I would love to get. We also took out time to spend with our grandchildren. So my jewelry time was more limited than I expected when I got out my beads and made my plans for the week. Still, all things considered, I was very productive. And I even took out time to watch Torchwood: Children of Earth.

My first ring for the week used an oval amethyst bead. Because the green ring came out small, I carefully measured 3 inches as the length for the ring segments. The ring came out nicely, but at size 9 1/2, quite a bit larger than I was aiming for. After further experimentation, I realized that the sizing has to be based on a combination of the length of the wire as well as the shape of the bead. A flat bead would call for shorter wire lengths, while a thicker bead needs a longer wire. Since ring sizing is critical, I felt it was very worthwhile to get this down to a formula. There is still a little refining to do, but I'm really close.

Meanwhile, I've been seeing a lot of coiled-style earrings, rings, and other jewelry being made. One of the beads I pulled out was this bali silver bead with coiling and spiral details.

It called out to me to echo the motif on the bead with handmade coiling. As I worked on it, the spaces in the coiled element looked too empty, and I just happened to have some corrugated beads that just fit, both in size and in appearance, so I wove those in, too. Finally, I finished the back with the herringbone wrapping. Best of all, when I finished the last coiling and trimming and slipped the ring on my finger, it FIT.

Technical details: Bali silver bead, about 3/4 inch or 18 mm long, 3/8 inch or 9 mm at the widest point. The coil details on the ring are roughly similar to 30g wire. The ring form and the bases of the spiral elements are 20g soft sterling. Coiling and weaving wire is 28g sterling. 3mm corrugated melon beads in sterling and 2mm plain beads for embellishment. The coil and bead detail is repeated on each side of the focal bead, while the back of the ring is wrapped in herringbone weave. The center back uses 2-wrap herringbone to tie the two wires closely and then transitions to 5-wrap herringbone as the sides flare out to meet the central motif section.

I'm wearing this ring right now. When I finish my blogging for today, I already have another ring started, this one with blue glass and swarovski beads. And all the other beads I pulled out for rings are still calling to me. Not only that, but this week I will be hearing whether I got the job -- I think the interview went well, so I am cautiously hopeful. And if it doesn't work out, I won't be any more unemployed than I am currently, so it's all good, right?

Do be sure to stop over at the Year of Jewelry site. As the year progresses, the participants are doing more and more wonderful things. I love the project, both for the artistry and for the positive motivation it gives me to keep working and growing as an artisan.

Love your comments! Thanks for looking!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Ring for Summer

For the past several nights, I had trouble sleeping, and so I visualized different ways of wrapping wire. Inspired by a number of beautiful rings that Facebook jewelry friends have been making, I thought about rings. When the geometry for this ring settled in my mind, I knew I had to make a ring for this week. So I tried out the armature (for lack of a better word) in copper, and when it seemed that it would work, got out the silver and went to it.

The stone is an aventurine bead, half an inch square. I placed it in the middle of a length of 20g sterling, bent the wire above and below at right angles in opposite directions, wrapped each section around a ring mandrel and secured the ring sections onto the post holding the bead. Then it was wrapped in 28g sterling, herringbone weave.

I learned a couple things from this. First, with some practice, this will make a very reliable ring format because you can control the size very accurately and because the inside is completely smooth with no ends in contact with your fingers. Second, the ring needs to start out about a size larger than you want the finished ring to accommodate the angle and the wrapping. This ring, which was meant to fit my right ring finger, about a size 7 1/2, is closer to a 6 1/2, a tad small for my pinky. Learning experience = good thing. The next one I make, which will be made soon, will be made larger, and will use a slightly smaller stone. I will probably embellish the sides but not the back with seed beads or the tiny silver beads, just for some added texture. I could also see this with a random mosaic of beads all over the front half and the herringbone only around the back.

So this was pretty successful, after all.

Don't forget to go over to Year of Jewelry. There are a number of really exciting new pieces there.

And yes, I know I owe you some Summer Vacation posts. Not only was I traveling this week, but I had a job interview as well. Early next week, I promise to tell you about my nephew's play and the amazing tacos at Mr. Taco and the incredible grapefruit cake and how beautiful the Rio Grande Valley is and how great my sister and her family are.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Goth Flower

This week's Year of Jewelry project was done early in the week because I was leaving for vacation on Wednesday, and we all know about best-laid plans when it comes to vacations. Remember homework and the winter holidays? So I made the project, took the pictures, dropped them on my desktop, and took my netbook with me on vacation, figuring I'd find time to post them at a more appropriate time.

And here it is!

I purchased Robbie Ward's Spring Flower tutorial when it first came out, and just hadn't gotten around to making it. A couple months ago when I was working with hardware store materials, it occurred to me that the dark annealed steel wire would be very dramatic in a solidly woven piece. My judgment was confirmed when I made the basketweave pendant. I also was looking for a project that could be made with minimal tools with the idea of having something to keep my hands busy during my vacation. At the same time, I didn't want to take a project that was entirely new to me. So I decided to make a sample flower in the dark steel wire, just to see how it would work.

I tried to make the framework out of the 18g steel that I had used for frames of some other projects, but it was too springy for this particular project, so I went ahead and used 18g copper. I made the modified herringbone petals with the 28g (which is actually closer to 24g) dark annealed steel wire and filled the center with a mix of crystal, fire polished, and delica beads. I intentionally tried for a goth, corpse bride, steampunk meets sparkle effect.

Technical details: 18g copper frame, 28g dark annealed steel wire herringbone, mixed beads for the center, hidden bail woven in 5 wrap herringbone in 28g copper. The flower measures about 2 1/2 inches or 7 cm overall, with the beaded center measuring about 3/4 inches or 18 mm across.

The finished piece is fairly dramatic, but the materials make it a bit more casual. In the photo I have it on a twisted cord. It also looks really nice on multiple strands of matte black seed beads.

Don't forget to stop by the Year of Jewelry blog to see all the wonderful projects.

Next up, What I Did on my Summer Vacation. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Crop Circles

I love crop circles -- no, not because of aliens, but rather for the opposite reason. Crop circles are wonderful expressions of the joy and playfulness of humans making art in the most unexpected places and ways. Just think about people sneaking out under cover of darkness with planks and ropes into a field, using stone-age technology to make designs that are intentionally full of all kinds of symbolism, a wonderful combination of art and a prank. You just have to love it. But the best thing about crop circles is that the designs have a sense of geometric beauty that is exactly what I love.

A couple months ago I ran across a photo of a crop circle representing a jellyfish. I saved it for inspiration, intending to work it into a pendant. Earlier this week I decided to do a trial run of the techniques I was planning to use, and these earrings are the result.

Technical details: Core wire is 19g half hard sterling woven with 28g sterling and embellished with 2mm sterling beads. Each earring uses 10 inches of core wire (not including the earwire), about 5 feet of weaving wire and about 37 or 38 beads. The weaving is a herringbone variation that both fills the gap and holds the couched beads in place. By using 3 wraps on the inner ring and one bead plus two wraps on the outer ring, I was able to get the weaving to radiate the way I wanted. The outer circle including beads is just about 1 1/2 inches or 38mm diameter. I mounted them on the latch-back earwires I've been using. They are dramatic, but not heavy either physically or visually.

I know I always seem to be saying I'm happy with my work, but this time, I guess I'd have to say I'm ecstatic. I love these earrings, I love the technique, I loved making them, I love the way they turned out. I will probably make another pair almost right away so I can have some to keep and some to sell, because I think these are definitely salable. I also have ideas for a bunch of variations -- a bead or dangle in place of the inner coil or colored beads or tiny crystals for the edging, perhaps.

Because I'm traveling next week, I'm planning to start next week's Year of Jewelry project a tad early. I do plan to work on jewelry while visiting my sister, weaving wire while she knits, but I'm not pushing myself to finish any big project during that time. We may well decide to sit and drink coffee with idle hands, and that would be wonderful, too. Meanwhile, please do go look at the Year of Jewelry blog. There are really wonderful things being posted all the time.

Before I go this week, I want to give special props to Augie, my wonderful in-house engineer (also beloved husband of many years) who restored my little pink netbook to health after a nasty hard-drive crash. We think that there was some kind of power anomaly overnight that messed up several electronic devices, and I had been lazy enough to leave the computer plugged in to the charger. The next day when I went to turn it on, it couldn't even find Windows. He did the internet research to learn all the little ins and outs of restoring Acer netbooks from crashes, and was able to fix it much more quickly than either of us expected. I lost my data, but all of it was backed up or out in the cloud, so it's just a matter of gathering things up and putting them back in convenient places. Backup is your friend. Also, Augie is awesome, even if there is no extra charge for awesomeness.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A glance over my shoulder

As I walked out of our apartment the other day, my neighbor was coming out her door. We stopped and chatted for a moment and then she commented on the pendant I was wearing. It is one of my favorites, a marquise-shaped open pendant with a large black AB fire-polish bead at the bottom. I made it last year when I started experimenting with the pave' technique using tiny silver beads. This was the third time in a few weeks that someone had commented on this particular pendant, so I took that as an indication and thought about making a variation for my next project.

I decided to take the opportunity to use the light blue Swarovski pearls that I had in my stash. Over the past several years I subscribed to the Beads of the Month club. I cancelled, reluctantly, because I couldn't justify the cost at this moment. But during that time I accumulated a nice assortment of good quality beads, Miyuki beads in all shapes and an assortment of Swarovski. While I love transparent and AB Swarovski crystals, I have mixed feelings about their opaque beads. In particular, I don't quite know what to make of their "pearls". In fact, they are just fancy round glass beads. They are not pearls, not even freshwater pearls. At the same time, they are very uniform and come in some very pretty colors and a good range of sizes, which makes them potentially very useful.

Technical details: Core wire is19g sterling. Wrapping wire is 28g sterling. 2mm sterling beads around the edge. 6mm Swarovski light blue pearl highlighted with 2-2mm and 1-3mm Swarovski crystal AB beads. The crystals are meant to give a tiny bit of sparkle from time to time, like dewdrops, maybe. The frame is two rounds with the silver beads woven into place on the second round. They then sit in the space between the two rows of the core wire. The bail is 5 wrap herringbone, my usual bail for a simple pendant.

I like the shape of this, and I like the balance of the silvery blue and crystal with the silver. I think as it ages it will take on a nice patina. I'm less happy with the way the pearl and crystals are set -- they are not quite symmetrical. Since I'll be using this format again, I'll have to take better care next time to make sure the bead is set straight, particularly if I use the crystals which just draw attention to the problem.

At this point, I think I'm caught up with YOJ for the moment. Since I'll be traveling next week, I may be playing catch-up again in a week or two, but for now it's all good.

Please be sure to go over to check out the beautiful things at the Year of Jewelry. The artists participating in this project are really giving a wonderful effort, and you'll love what you see.

As always, I am interested in what you think of this and any other pieces, including your suggestions. I plan to post again soon, if'n the creek don't rise.