Mimi and her girls

Mimi and her girls
Mimi and her girls

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring is Sprung - Aspiring Metalsmith's Team Challenge

I just had to write a little piece on the aspiring metalsmiths spring challenge before the final voting is done tonight. Our groups first challenge was rings. I had never made a ring before, but stepped up to the plate and turned one out. Needless to say, I barely got an honorable mention with my quite amateuish entry, but I learned a lot. Winner of the challenge got to pick the next challenge. She throws out the age old ditty-" Spring is sprung, the grass is riz" and says to us, we will vote based on best interpretation AND thinking out of the "boxness". You gotta love anyone who can make up a word like that and keep a straight face. You can check out the entries here at http://aspiringmetalsmiths.blogspot.com/. You will notice if you look at all the entries, one in particular- the current leader and most likely winner- is totally out of the box. An egg, in the fashion of the great Fabrege with a totally cool scene inside complete with sky inside the top, grass in the bottom and a bow on top. This baby is outrageous! I must say, I now realize I don't think out of the box at all when it comes to metalsmithing- at least not yet. But Asa, from asap designs, http://www.etsy.com/shop/asapdesigns, certainly got out of the box and showed us all what's possible.

I guess I should show my entry, which I originally thought was a little out of the box. I really had never seen a stack of bracelets with flowers and birds so I was quite pleased with my efforts. I even got a few votes.

I have been enthralled with some other metalsmiths gorgeous flowers, so I sawed out my own, put a little created ruby in one, made little silver and copper balls I soldered to the inside of others and then made a tiny little birdie. These were soldered to my twig bangles. As an extra, I added a separate twig bangle with balled ends to simulate budding branches. I had a great time doing this set and even surprised myself  a little in the process. I am learning so many new things!

So, the winner of this challenge gets to pick the next one. I think everyone wants a little more time to finish the next project since many of our members just couldn't get one done in time for an entry. I am looking forward to seeing with Asa comes up with, since she is definitely our  most "out of the boxness" member! 

I also want to mention AWE shop, found at http://www.etsy.com/shop/AWEshop, who came up with the coolest copper tree and bird lariat I could ever imagine- she did this on short notice since she hadn't planned on entering because of other commitments! Said she was working on a project, this came to her, she stopped what she was doing and made this great necklace! Check it out on the metalsmiths blog, I want to have this kind of inspiration come to me while doing anything!

 Depending on the deadline, I may or may not be able to participate. I am off to Spain for a much needed 2 week vacation. Spain had been on my to do list forever- DH was not supportive of this trip, he wanted to go to Scotland. My response was, we went on 2 other trips he wanted to do, this one was my choice. See, I really do know how to stand my ground. Of course, if he wouldn't go to Spain, I would have caved in and gone to Scotland. My reasoning with him was simple, they don't grow grapes in Scotland so I can't drink wine! I would have to drink Scotch all the time and would be asleep half the trip because that stuff kicks my butt!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Step Bezel Nightmare

I realize this isn't a picture that says much to the average person who likes jewelry, it's just a blue stone in a silver casing with a ring on top so you can put a chain through it and hang it around your neck. To someone who has journeyed along the path of an aspiring metalsmiths, they can see all the pain I went through to get just this far and will know I am still struggling because it fought me every step of the way. They say it's always the journey that's most important. So here's a little story about my journey to get to this point.

 First, the blue stone was a gorgeous London blue topaz briolette that I had wire wrapped as a pendant. While trying to repair a small mistake in the wire wrapping I broke the tip of the stone where the wire goes through and holds it together. That was a really expensive slip of the pliers! So, I call on my trusty group of friends on the aspiring metalsmiths thread and get some advice. Make a step bezel says Clarity, you can do it, here's how. So I follow directions and find that, even following directions, metal has a mind of it's own. The little square wire I soldered onto the bottom of the bezel wire, made it almost impossible to move it into shape around my lovely stone. I had to do this in order to solder it together so the stone would stay in there and not fall out the back. The little square wire is the "step" it sits on. After much pushing, pulling, yelling and throwing a few obscenities, I did get it soldered closed and guess what- the stone fit. But, yes, there is always a but in metalsmithing , the bottom of the stone was fatter than the top, so it was laying belly up, tip down. The extra wire at the top is supposed to lay smoothly along the stone folded over with no" ruffles" to just hold it from falling out the front. Well that's all very nice in theory, but no one told me that after all that pushing and pulling that my little tool called a "bezel pusher" was going to need the strength of a sumo wrestler behind it to push what is now called "work hardened" metal over that stone. Along comes more advice from my friend Clarity (you must see her work at http://www.scrollworkdesigns.etsy.com/  ) she really does know what she's talking about, but she has a horseshoe somewhere to get all the work cranked out every week that she does! Clarity tells me, put the stone in something that's hard but with a dip in it so the stone will sit down in it while tapping with your hammer to get out all those nasty ruffles. You can see those in the picture above.  Well, that little piece at the top of the page is small- smaller than a breadbox for sure, and smaller than every bottlecap and twist top I could find in my house. So, I finally found a teeny tiny cap and hammered away. I also have a little tool that I call a bezel smoother- it has a notch in the bottom that you scoot around the bezel- again trying to remove ruffles. (I actually used to like ruffles- on clothes anyhow).

I must digress a bit, because another step I took- without asking first- was to solder on the top of this project- the bail used to hang the pendant. This soldering not only got in the way of the hammering I was trying to do, but also hardened up the metal around the stone even more! Enter the second sumo wrestler to assist the first one! My thought was, I couldn't solder anything to the top after the stone was in there, the torch would fry my lovely blue topaz. As you can see from the second picture, the twist I put in the top made the part I soldered way to close to the front- no way to get a tiny hammer in that space.

Well, Clarity and I chatted again and she says, you can do this, try again, smooth it out, hammer it some more and file the back of that thing so it looks like you really tried. I won't bore you with the details of the third session, but the picture at the top is the final result I obtained without shattering the stone or melting the whole thing down and starting over. I learned a ton of information, hopefully I can retain it, and make a lot fewer mistakes the next time.

I see a lot of beautiful, professional looking work on Etsy and Artfire and many other sites. I wish the customers that shopped at these sites had even a tiny idea of what it takes to get to a place where you feel you have something really worth taking a picture of, writing a description for and offering up to the world to see and buy, handmade by you, with love and an awful lot of melted metal and crumbled stones before you have finally arrived at the point of offering your work for sale.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March Madness Sale

Getting around to having a sale is a lot tougher than it sounds- department stores have them all the time! Stores have tons of items that they put on sale every week to attract buyers, lost leaders, they call them. They get you in there with the promise of something really inexpensive, it's not exactly what you want, but the price is sooo good you buy it anyhow or, if you don't they figure you'll buy something else while you're in there.
Doing this in an on line handmade shop is a lot different. As an artisan, I have a lot fewer items to sell. I have already tried to price my items fairly and competitively with other artisans. But since everyone loves getting a bargin or just can't afford your regular price, I have decided to have a sale!
Rather than offer a small percentage off all my items, I have decided to offer a few items each week in March at a really good discount 15-20% off. Now to me, that's a sale. 
My first item for sale the first week of March Madness is my 24k gold vermeil diamond moon pendant and labradorite marquire briolette necklace. This necklace is all hand wire wrapped in 14k gold fill with a great gold fill chain and lobster claw clasp and it does have a 1 point diamond! .http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=30391235. There are also matching earrings I will be putting on sale later this week.
I would also like to introduce some of my new heart charm bangles, these seem to be very popular, my cut out heart bangle is one of my best sellers. Stamped jewelry is also very poplular this year, allowing people to express themselves a bit. So I have added a poetry heart bangle http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=41659929 and two puffed heart bangles, one hammered and one smooth to my collection.

On a personal note, my daughter's wedding plans are moving right along. We have "the dress". A fun experience with her trying on everything her bridesmaids and I picked out, modeling and getting pix- the best were her with her knee high socks peeking out from under some gorgeous gowns! Now for the caterer and flowers! Wish me luck.