Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'm not actually missing, really.

Yes, I have been missing from here for a couple of weeks. And, yes, I should have seen that coming. After all, I started a new job and also had a long weekend of travel. But I guess I wasn't thinking very clearly when I assumed I'd be able to keep up with my jewelry schedule without any difficulty.

The whole thing started when a pendant I was working on went horribly wrong. Instead of cutting my losses right away, I disassembled it and tried a slightly different approach. By the time it became obvious that it was simply a doomed project, the week was gone and it was time to get ready to make the transition back to traditionally employed person.

By the end of my second day of work I realized that I would need to put my jewelry projects on hold for a week or two while I found my footing. In addition to learning my job and developing relationships with my new co-workers, I was also learning my commute and trying to figure out how to budget my evenings to fit in the essentials and still find a little time. A weekend of travel and celebration with family was wonderful, but meant there was not a break between week one and week two of work.

So now I have a weekend, and I'll begin catching up. My muse has not been missing, and I've been sketching and remembering ideas. It may be a few weeks before I'm back to posting jewelry regularly and on time, since I can't make jewelry on the bus and I'm still not to the point where I am finding much free time in the evenings after work, but that is also moving in the right direction. I expect to post a little something tomorrow, and we'll just go on from there. I may also do some non-jewelry blogging since that seems to be a better fit on weeknights.

Just to be clear -- I will complete this year of jewelry, I will do Secret Santa, if that is offered this year, and I will continue to blog right here about jewelry and other things.

Meanwhile, please do remember to give your love to the wonderful artists of the Year of Jewelry.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Handful of Rings -- My personal challenge

Ever since the beginning of Year of Jewelry 2009, I have had the idea that it would be interesting to set myself another level of challenge, perhaps a piece of jewelry a day for some designated period of time. This turned out to be the week. I decided to set myself the challenge to create a 5 rings, a handful, in one week. I chose to make 5 because I had a reasonable expectation that I might be interrupted on at least one of the weekdays, and I had no interest in setting myself up for failure before I started, and because the idea of 5 rings and 5 fingers appealed to me in a silly, juvenile way.

I chose to make the rings because this ring pattern has been very well-received by so many of you that I wanted to make a tutorial, and to do that, I needed to make several. I needed to nail down the exact materials requirements, refine the work methods, and get the measurements for exact sizing figured out precisely. I'm pleased to say that I accomplished all those goals and also ended up with 5 rings, size 7, in a nice range of styles, all using exactly the same technique. I also refined a number of techniques so the rings at the end of the week were actually better constructed, quicker to construct, and will be clearer to explain than the first rings I made.

On Monday, I began my week using a blue Czech glass bead, an inexpensive bit of nothing that has a very pretty deep color and an pleasant shape, a little gaudy, perhaps, but fun. It is the simplest of the rings for the week, just one bead and the herringbone back. Making this ring, I learned that the depth of the bead can make a significant in the ultimate sizing, and needs to be allowed for. On this ring, I wove the back with two pieces of wire, working from the center back. That gave me greater stability and control of construction, but also created two ends to hide. The bead is almost 3/4 inch or 18mm high, making this the widest and boldest ring of the group.

On Tuesday, I made a ring using 6mm light blue Swarovski pearls and crystal AB beads. This is the narrowest of the rings, almost a band. It occurred to me that if I took a full length of the weaving wire, but only worked with half of it at one time from the center back outward, I could retain the tension control I needed while still keeping the inside of the ring seamless. That worked well but I was less happy with the job I did positioning the beads. I'll have to do better the next time.

Yellow jade nuggets purchased at Queen Bead in Brownsville, TX, while on vacation with my sister, are the centerpiece of Wednesday's ring. I love these beads -- they look like butterscotch candies. I also like the idea of a clump of these asymmetrical chunks of rock. It makes me think of a cocktail ring from the 50's or 60's. This is a big favorite. I'll be making it from other kinds of nuggets.

Thursday's ring featured amethyst beads highlighted with pearly magatamas and coiled spirals. I had made a sample ring with the oval amethyst last week, and it turned out MUCH larger than my measurements indicated it should, so I needed to use the bead again to confirm that my new method of measuring was correct, as in fact it turned out to be. The 6mm round beads are incorporated on the spirals, which are then wrapped. Unlike last week's bali ring, the spirals actually overlap the ring armature, making for a different look from the front. The Miyuki magatamas were added because the spaces needed something, and I decided pearly went with amethyst. but the cream seed pearls I had were too large and these beads were just right.

On Saturday I finished the week with my favorite semi-precious gemstone, lapis nevada. If you are not familiar with it, it is a beautiful mixture of mossy green, white and pink with the occasional fleck of darker material. It comes from only a single mine and the last I heard, that mine was not being worked because of a dispute over its ownership. I like the way the stone looks, but the rectangular cut doesn't lie quite the way I want -- I need to work more to refine this particular variation.

Technical details for all rings: Each ring used just under 6 inches of 20g sterling and an average of 5 feet of 28g sterling, for a silver cost per ring at today's price (8/2/2009) of $1.28 -- very affordable, I think. Obviously, the different stones and beads range in price from a few pennies to a bit more for the Swarovski, but it is still not an expensive project. The central bead or beads on each ring are incorporated in the armature, with the remaining beads or embellishments woven into place with the 28g wire. The back of each ring is worked in herringbone, 3 wrap at the center back for stability and 5 wrap as you move to the front of the ring to create the open construction I like.

You may notice that I did not make a ring on Friday. As you may know, I was laid off from my job almost a year ago, and during that time have not had many people interested in even talking to me about work. Although I sent out endless resumes and networked as much as I could, I had only a few interviews, and none of them had produced any results. I couldn't even find temp work although I have a very good skill set, if I say so myself. However, over the last 3 weeks, I entered the interview process for a job and it moved from an inquiry to an interview to a second interview. Not only that, but the job fulfilled virtually every item on my wish-list for the ideal job. After the second interview, I was told that I would hear sometime next week. On Friday I got the great news that I was chosen for the job. I won't talk more about the job itself here -- if you want to know that and you know me at all, you can probably find the information. :-) In any case, I had planned to have a day off from this ring project, and Friday turned out to be that perfect day.

Now, my job news obviously means that I will need to take special care to make sure I am able to keep up my YoJ commitment, and I am more than ready for the challenge. I may be coiling wire or weaving chain on my lunch hour or perhaps sketching on the bus, but I'll be back next week and the next and the next.

Don't forget to visit the Year of Jewelry blog to see the wonderful things all my jewelry companions are posting. See you next week, or maybe even sooner.