It’s all fun and games in the studio until it’s not…

Perhaps it’s because the studio is being renovated and I’m make-doing in my dining room.

Perhaps it’s because we left for a visit home and I got all jet-lagged and everything.

Maybe I’m homesick and don’t know it.

Or perhaps it’s just one of those, ‘it goes in cycles’ things.

Whatever it is, it better hurry up and sort itself out because I don’t want to play any more…

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how one day you can’t put a foot wrong. Everything is going right for weeks and weeks and weeks and then bam! you go to bed one night and the next day you can’t make a darn thing work. 

To be fair on myself, I am betwixt and between things.

I’m in the dining room trying to work and all around me my house is in boxes waiting for its turn to be renovated. It’s unsettling as I’m always thinking I should be doing something else.

There are always people in my studio, which of course is where they should be, but I feel as though I’m just in here twiddling my thumbs. Not getting on with anything ‘important’.

And to top it all off I just finished a few pieces that I ended up melting down because they weren’t doing it for me.

And so my world has ended.

Woe and more woe.

I look at all the beautiful pieces that people are making on Instagram and think – why? 

Why me?

What has my life come to?

Will I ever be able to make anything again?

(Too dramatic?)

Well that’s what it feels like anyway.

Anyone else?

I must admit that since I stopped making my jewelry for charity I kind of feel that I’ve lost my purpose. Where’s the reason for making it?

I reached a mile stone for the amount I gave to charity and thought that perhaps it was enough. That considering the world’s horribleness doesn’t look like it’s going to be fixed any time soon that mine was a pretty futile effort.

I don’t know.

I enjoyed sharing what I’d learned with others, but now it seems I can’t even come up with anything remotely interesting so that’s also gone out of the window.

So roll on tomorrow and bring me some meaning.

Or at least a spark of interest.


Don’t let that mini crisis get you down man… A little snippet about me.

So if any of you have read the little box to the top right of this page you will have learned that I’m a recovering hypochondriac. Which is actually code for I take anxiety medicine. This makes me laugh because I had no idea that hypochondria was a form of anxiety. I just thought I was a full blown Woody Allenesque wimp – but with more hair. (Actually that’s not true as my hair is probably shorter than his. Unless he’s bald in which case I definitely have a smidgen more). The medicine helps, but I still have bouts when all kinds of illnesses come back to tease me. Some of which I’d never heard of before, and wish I’d never heard of. I mean vulva cancer. Come on!

I even had to stop reading one of my favourite murder mystery series because the detective’s sister is a doctor and so all sorts of intriguing illnesses are thrown into the mix. Of course I had them all. Even the ones that only men can get because, of course, the doctors could be wrong…

It’s known as hyper-vigilance. I can also have it when I’m in the movie theatre and someone is eating their popcorn loudly. It makes me cringe up inside and it’s all I can concentrate on. I seem to try to make myself as small as possible as if to protect myself from outside noises.

Weird right?

When I learned that it was all a form of anxiety I felt so relieved that I laughed out loud. O.K. and I felt a little stupid for not knowing about it before. Not that I wanted anxiety, but because it explained a lot of things about me. Some things that I’m still discovering. But it means I can now stop in the throes of it all and try to figure it out. Doesn’t always work but at least I know what it is now, and the medicine, however much I hate taking it, helps.

One thing that I’ve always suffered from, and I will say suffer because sometimes is debilitating, is a lack of confidence.

I’m definitely a perfectionist, which I actually like about myself. I don’t think this is necessarily a problem for me or actually the cause of my confidence issues. It can be frustrating, but I think it’s a quality that helps me strive to make things better and to always be moving forward. I’m not saying that this is always a good thing and I could definitely do with spreading the effort around a little more – like in the case of housework for instance.

Nah…

So here I am – again – in the middle of a mini self-confidence crisis, which no-one can help me with. Compliments (and believe me I’m not looking for any) in my top heavy world of insecurity actually makes it worse.

Right now I’m wanting to literally contact everyone that has ever bought anything from me for in the past ten years to ask to buy it back.

Yep. It’s that bad.

So what to do about it?

I want to answer – to give myself no chance whatsoever to mess up so that I won’t be caught in a mistake and people won’t be disappointed with my work (aka me) – but that’s an awfully small box to put myself in and I actually think it’s impossible so I figure that I’ll just have to ride it out.

Again.

Or maybe I could hit myself on the head so that I lose consciousness for a couple of days until it’s all over and I forget altogether what the hell I was worried about in the first place.

Could work.

But before I try that I thought I’d share the struggle because I know there are a lot of others out there who suffer the same way.

I see you.

We’ll be o.k.

🙂

Rings and Buffer happenings

I thought I’d just offer a little tip, but then decided I would go ahead with another quick show and tell on how I make a simple ring – I want to say shank, but am pretty sure that’s not what it’s called and I can’t for the life of me think of another name for it…

Just not that good at words sometimes.

So first up. The tip.

It’s not a big tip and probably everyone does it, but I used to get frustrated trying to straighten up wire. Don’t laugh.

Wire straightener – riogrande.com #116717

Personally I never use it, but if you want to straighten longer lengths of wire for viking weaving etc., I’m sure it would be pretty handy.

Now for the ring.

This is just a simply way of making a ring shank. (I just looked it up and I think it might be called a shank after all). There are so many ways to make rings and everyone makes them differently, but I just wanted a simple band (haha! I think I have the word I was looking for. Came naturally when I wasn’t looking…) but with more support because the top of the ring is larger and a single band seems too thin for it. There are different styles also so chances are you won’t want to use this one. But just in case you do and have never made one before…

There is a chart for working out lengths of wire that you need for each particular ring size. I’m just too lazy to bother with it, but if you really want to be economical with your silver you should look at it.

In this video I have already made the top of the ring as I wasn’t planning on making a show and tell.

As always be warned that I don’t edit but I do make the videos in snippits so you can skip around. If you click on the video it will take you to YouTube, but you’ll have to come back to the blog to watch the next one. The show and tells really are just for beginning jewelry makers that might need a little encouragement so the idea of them being out there in the YouTube universe kind of seems too much.

Ring mandrel – riogrande.com #112390 – this is a stepped mandrel which would be more accurate.

NOTE: If you use the wire/length chart above be aware that different gauge wire would alter the fit of the ring slightly. If, for instance, the wire is thick the inside diameter of the final band would be smaller so that’s something to be aware of. Also this chart will make a perfect ring shape and I have taken some of that out so you will still cut too much silver for this particular style. If you do cut the wire to the correct length, however, you can hammer the ends and file them down before bending it into the ring shape. Not as fiddly, but I’m often down for fiddly…

Diamond burs – riogrande.com #346063 – there are lots of different burs of different quality, but this is a cheap starter pack which includes various shapes. Once you’ve figured out which bur you use the most you can invest in more expensive ones.

Silicon polishing wheels – riogrande.com #332579 – again there are lots of different silicon wheels so it’s a matter of experimenting until you find those that work best for you.

Snap on sanding discs – HERE – you will also need the snap on mandrel which you’ll find at the bottom of the page.

Graver – this is a selection of gravers – HERE – I use one with a sharp point to scrape any solder that may have flowed into textured pieces. You’ll find them at riogrande.com also

O.K. so here’s the thing. My buffing machine should be bolted down onto the table, but I’ve never got around to it. Don’t judge me…

I just haven’t found a spot that I’d like it to stay in and it’s usually o.k. However when I first started out I made the mistake of buffing a length of chain that I was holding too loosely and it whipped around the wheel (and my hand) and as I tried to jump away I pulled the whole thing onto the floor. This is when the knob fell off.

DO NOT DO THIS!!! (I can’t write that loud enough) I’ve stupidly done this twice (maybe three times, but I’m not admitting to anything). It hurts and it could have been a lot worse than it was. Fortunately I only broke the machine, but I nearly took my fingernail off and had to say ouchy ouchy more times than I’d like to tell you when the chain was wrapped around my hand so tightly that I didn’t think I’d be able to get it off especially as my eyes were watering as I tried to use my not so good at cutting left hand.

I can’t stress enough how dangerous the buffing machine can be. My new one, because I think I’m going to have to get another one, will be screwed down. Don’t make me come out there to smack some sense into you as someone should have done to me…

Just sayin’

Black Max – riogrande.com

3m yellow radial discs 80 grit – riogrande.com #326026 – There are different grits for different jobs, but I mainly use this one.

You can buy a selection pack of them if you’d like to experiment with each grit at – riogrande.com #326024

NOTE that I like to use the 7/8 size. You can buy the smaller ones here – riogrande.com #332595

I use this wheel on my buffing machine to finish my piece – riogrande.com #330541

And this is the smaller buff for my handpiece – riogrande.com #338130

This is the link to the new mask I have – HERE – So far I like it and it’s easy to get on and off. It seems to push down on my nose a little which made me sniff in the video, but I think I just need to adjust it more.

NOTE: The fibers from the buffing wheel and the dust from the Black Max will still be in the air when you turn the machine off. Normally I keep my mask on because of this. I do have a dust collector, but it isn’t connected to the buffing machine at the moment because we took it off so that Stephen could whip me up something less cumbersome than the set up I had. He never got back to me which is why I’m seriously considering cutting back on his food rations. With that and the knob situation I’m deciding if it’s really worth keeping him around…

The video stops on this one as someone called me. Sorry.

It may seem like it in the video, but I’m not sanding an awful lot of the bezel thickness away. I’m just really skimming it over the surface to clean off the Black Max. If you want to try this just be careful to keep an eye on the blue masking tape so that you’re not sanding through it. You could also put two layers of tape over the stone if you’re worried you might damage it.

And that’s it!

Hopefully it wasn’t too boring. As I said it’s really just to encourage new jewelry makers to have a go. I found rings quite intimidating at first and couldn’t quite figure out the best way to do it.

This is one way to make a simple ring band. Someone else would make it differently and probably far better, but it’s just a beginning and you can go on from there.

Loop in Loop take 2

Hopefully you’ll be able to see what I’m doing in these videos as the first time I tried to make it for you everything at the end was out of the camera line and so was kind of a non starter 😉

Mexican Fire Opal

For this particular chain I’ve used 20 gauge fine silver. (You can use sterling silver, but it might be harder on your fingers). I’ve used a 9mm diameter mandrel to make the jump rings.

Single Loop in Loop Chain

 I’m pretty sure that I have seen some charts that will tell you which gauge of wire to use with which diameter jump ring to make different sizes of chain, but I haven’t been able to find them yet. If you’re like me, however, good old trial and error works just as well. You can make some test runs with copper first to save messing up with your silver. Your main concern will be to avoid using a diameter ring which is too small for the wire gauge as you want the chain to move well and not be too stiff. 

O.K. So…

This time I only focused on making the actual chain and not how to make the jump rings. If you would like me to make a video on how to make and solder the jump rings just let me know

😉 

MATERIALS:

For 6″ length of chain

30 x 9mm, 20 Gauge Fine Silver Jump Rings.

Round nose pliers

Awl for jewelry, leather or bookmaking

Draw Plate

This first video stops abruptly because my son came into the studio. It was kind of irritating, but we did have a nice chat about how I could edit him out…

NOTE: You don’t need to solder fine silver. If you make sure that the two ends of the jump ring are lined up perfectly and there isn’t a gap where you’re going to join them you can slowly and evenly heat the ring until the silver fuses itself. This just needs practice. 

LINKS:

Pepe Jump Ring Maker – riogrande.com #110189 – I have the older version of this tool. I really like it as it has a huge number of mandrels to choose from. You don’t need a jump ring maker, however, to make jump rings as you can wrap the wire around a length of dowel or something similar that is the width you’re looking for. Just be sure to wrap the wire as tightly as you can around the mandrel.

I think the word I was looking for at the end of this video was ‘fluid’, but you get the idea. I haven’t found the need to anneal the chain once I’ve finished it, but perhaps if I used sterling silver I would. It just softens the silver up after you have worked with it so that all of the links move more easily. As I said you have to be careful when you anneal it if you have soldered the joins together because you don’t want the solder to re-melt. This is another good reason to fuse the fine silver instead of soldering.

LINKS:

Draw Plates – HERE – There are many different kinds of draw plates out there, but these are the ones I use. I’m sure for this purpose you could even make your own by drilling holes in a piece of wood.

Awl – HERE – Again there are loads of different needle tools out there. This one seems most like the one I use.

And that’s it.

The only thing that might put someone off making this chain is that it’s fiddly, but once you get the hang of it it’s a breeze.

There are a few variations on this chain, such as the double Loop in Loop and also a triple one, but I haven’t made either of these yet as I’ve got to build myself up for extra fiddly.

Maybe later

😉

Just a hello…

I made a video on how to make the Link in Link chain for you, but right at the end, right at the crucial part where all the important stuff happens, I move my hands out of the camera view and you can’t see any of the good bits.

Here I’ve used two 3″ lengths of the Link in Link chain to make up this Mexican Fire Opal bracelet.

So a remake of the video is now on my to do list as it’s a really simple chain which you might like to have a go at making yourself. It’s fiddly, but once you get it down there’s nothing to it.

Just a note here on the videos I make.

I’m by no means an expert, but I don’t mind sharing how I make things with you. If you ever see something I’ve made and would like a, ‘behind the scenes’, just let me know. I’m not very good at making the videos. I can’t be bothered to delve into the tech depths of editing for instance, I’ve too many other things I’d rather be doing. So what I do in real time is what you get, so to speak, including all of my mistakes. And I do make mistakes which is annoying as oftentimes it’s just because I’m being lazy or not paying attention or I simply don’t really know what I’m doing and I’m making it up as I go along, but I think mistakes can also be good to share as it’s encouraging to see the ‘real’ stuff going down.

Well that’s my story anyway.

😉

I also get very bored, very easily and don’t know what to do next so a video challenge gives me something to do.

Except for when I’m depressed then we ain’t getting nothing.

But the sofa sees a lot of action.

I get depressed a lot.

Just one of those things.

I’m also a bit all or nothing. I’m either going full steam and don’t lift my head up, or at a full stop wondering what the point of it all is.

You know how it is…

In other news. I went to the MFAH the other day to see the Royal Family which I really enjoyed. Well I enjoyed the Tudors and the Windsors. I didn’t care for the Stuart and Hanover paintings. Too wafty for me. I like the meat of the Holbeins.

I mean look at Anne with her lovely long neck.

I love the simplicity of this style of painting.

Unlike this style.

Which is a little too frivolous for me. I also don’t like all of the space around it.

Brilliant painting though.

He is George III. Mad King George. The one we got rid of in the U.S.

And here is Charlotte, his Queen, and interestingly enough the first black queen.

I didn’t know that.

Anyway. Back to the Tudors.

Lady Jane Grey.

What a tragedy.

Below is one of my favourite paintings of her in the exhibit.

According to the nice man on the audio tape it apparently was thought lost, destroyed in a flood, but was unexpectedly discovered rolled inside another painting years later in London with extensive water damage. It’s amazing how they were able to restore it.

You have to stand in front of it to feel the awfulness of it.

It was one of the only paintings in the exhibit that I felt compelled to go back to several times.

Then, of course, there was good old Henry himself.

Which was fantastical

🙂

Although this has to be my favourite.

I have to include one of the Earl of Essex of course because that where I come from.

He definitely looks like he knows how to get things done.

Thomas Cromwell

Of course he ended up with his head on the block.

And then there were the Windsors.

My people.

The Andy Warhol.

The Princess Di.

And this, my favourite, of the Queen.

I know. I know. Not quite her most flattering, but it was marvelous.

The one I stood in front of was the blue hologram (below) which doesn’t translate well from my photograph so I found you a decent one online.

It was mesmerizing. Almost magical.

Strange, but true…

Of course no good visit to the MFAH should end without a quickie to the African gold room.

 

 

A looksee at the wonderful little these things.

 

And a finish off in the what the hell happened in here room.

 

 

 

They make my rather large and peculiar butterfly necklace look rather mundane…

Happy Sunday.

🙂

 

 

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Ocean Jasper Box Necklace – Show and Tell

I’ve made these on and off over the years and thought I’d share with you how I make them if you’d like to give one a try.

Coral Fossil

So.

Same disclaimer as always.

I’m not a professional.

I don’t endorse any tools or materials, but just let you know what I use.

And last but not least.

I will deny any responsibility for your getting annoyed at the video in a court of law.

Moving on…

I am definitely a make it and figure it out as I go along sort of person. I also forget from one minute to the next what I’m doing. Usually I’m not showing anyone else so I can generally get away with it 😉

I like to put a design on the back of the pieces I make because I think it looks nicer if the necklace turns while someone is wearing it. It also serves the purpose of being able to work the stone out of the bezel setting when I’m making it and for releasing hot air when soldering.

NOTE: I soldered the box edges (the bezel wire) onto a piece of silver. I’m showing you on this larger piece of silver, but I had cut a smaller piece before I soldered the box sides on.

NOTE: Making sure that the flow of silver is continuous on the outside of the bezel wall is relevant to any bezel making. When I first started to make jewelry I used to be disappointed when I could see little pits along the outside of the setting. It took me a while to realize that if I took a little time to make sure I could see a continuous line when the solder flowed to the outside edge my finished pieces would look far better. You can help the solder flow by using your pick to spread it evenly or, if this doesn’t work, it might be that you haven’t enough solder and need to add just a little more. Even if it looks great on the inside it can still be pitted on the outside.

If you find that you need to cut down a piece of bezel wire that is too high for the stone and you have already soldered it onto the silver backing you can mark the sides with a sharpie, adjust a pair of dividers to the amount you want to cut away, and then run the point of the dividers around the bottom of the bezel wire. This leaves a fine line that you can use as a guide to file, or sand, the excess away. To make sure that you have the edge completely flat you can finish it up by then marking the bottom with a sharpie and sanding it in a figure of eight motion on a flat piece of sand paper until all of the sharpie has gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was trying to focus the camera closer to the work and so it doesn’t show that I’m just picking up small pieces of solder with my pick and bringing them back to the small cutouts.

Solder will stick to the end of the pick If you heat up the pick and ball up small pieces of solder at the same time. They have to both be hot. Then you can bring your pick back to whatever you’re working on.

I do the same thing when I’m soldering a ball into place except I replace the pick with the ball. I pick the ball up with a pair of long tweezers and take it over to the solder. The ball is thicker and more solid than the small pieces of solder so the ball has to be heated more before the solder will stick to its bottom. Then you can take the ball back over to the piece you’re working on. If the back plate is as hot as the ball, the ball should solder onto the plate with no trouble. If the plate is not hot enough the solder may come up over the ball. The temperatures have to be the same with anything you’re soldering and you have to bear in mind that each piece, due to its size and thickness, will take different amounts of heat to attain this. Only when both pieces are the same temperature can the solder join them.

I often shield a piece I’m working on with my hands to double check that I’ve got the pieces in the right position for soldering. If the light source is coming from one direction it can be deceptive.

If you’re looking for a shiny surface in the finished piece, obviously you wouldn’t sand the silver as I do. I like a more matt, buffed, look and so this doesn’t affect the finished piece.

You won’t always need to put a stopper inside the box. It just depends on the fit of the stone.

You have to look around the web for the Wolverine Ultra Silver Brazing Flux as it seems to vary in price and availability. I use mine by putting a small amount of it in a smaller jar and mixing it with distilled water until it’s fairly runny. Even though I keep a lid on it the water evaporates out of this very quickly so each time I open it I have to add more water. This seems to work well for me though.

Cross locking tweezers – riogrande.com – #115206

Honeycomb soldering block – riogrande.com – #502005

Soldering pegs – I can’t find where the pegs are sold separately, but you can find some here – riogrande.com – #111039

TIP: Unless you like living on the edge as I do you might want to measure the height of your prongs first 😉

It would have been easier for me in the long run if I’d made up my mind about the small pieces of balled wire that I added at the end before I soldered the box onto the back plate. It’s not a problem to add things afterward, but whenever you solder anything onto a piece after you have added the prongs you have to be very careful not to re-melt the prong solder. I just kept the flame away from that area and kept a good eye on it, but you can coat the areas that you don’t want to be affected with that yellow oxide powder that I used in a previous show and tell. I just forgot about it – again… (riogrande.com – #504080)

As it was I cut the wire to the correct height and held them in place with tweezers using the same technique as with the prongs.

Ocean Jasper

larsonite

And some older work using the box.

Sonora Dendrite

 

Purple Passion

 

Jasper

 

Poppy Jasper

 

Prudent Man

 

Amethyst Sage

Next up I’m thinking of making some more of these if you’re interested in another show and tell.

Amber

🙂

Behind the scenes – Cheetah Jasper Necklace…

As you probably know by now my video skills leave a lot to be desired. I had wanted to make a, ‘why don’t you make one along with me’, video of the Cheetah Jasper necklace, but what with the glare and the constant fumbling around for my grown up words and then forgetting to explain what I’m doing I have decided that really this is just a show and tell.

If you are able to make anything of it that helps with your own jewelry making I congratulate you 🙂

 

NOTES AND LINKS:

Indian Jewelry Supply not Art Supply, but I’m not sure if they’re around anymore.

Short-Handle 1lb Brass Head Hammer – Rio 112061

Lindstrom HS6001 Cutter Shears

Buffalo Rutland Stamps

Chasing tool from 2moontools on Etsy.

Turned out to be no dilemma at all as I only had 23 gauge anyway 🙂

I use an acetylene/air torch and mostly pick solder.

Here I’m using the little silver balls to pick the solder up instead of my pick. I pick the ball up in my tweezers and take it to a pile of solder chips I have laying on my brick. I heat a little piece of the solder which then attaches itself to the bottom of the ball. I keep it heated as I move it back toward the leaf.

I mainly put the little hammered balls under the pieces that make up the bottom layer. I do this to bring the pattern up off the back plate to give it some dimension. As I build the picture up I don’t use as many balls but instead lay pieces where I think they will best suit the design.

I generally have all of the solder ready to go on the bottom of each piece.

As I said, I’ll try to figure out a good way to video the process without the glare and try to show you how it all comes together on another piece.

I know you can hardly wait…

BeadSmith 1-Step Big Looper Plier

Abrasive wheels.

 

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