Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fine Sanding with Sanding Strips

Here's a great jewelry making tip from another blog: Shoebox Studio: Jewelry Making Techniques. Julia has a solution for sanding inside finely pierced work.

 She makes sanding strips from sandpaper and packing tape to insert in her saw frame. Couldn't be more ingenious!

I have been using 3M Micro-finishing Film for the same purpose, but this is cheaper and more accessible.

Click here to see how she does it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

We're Going Tripping! And Knitting.

We're leaving for our European backpacking vacation in less than a month! Totally exciting times! I will be heading out with my husband and daughter, while my son and his girlfriend follow us the next day. We will fly in and out of Istanbul, Turkey. We have our Eurail passes ready - they're cheaper if you buy them as a group, but then you have to travel together. You get one pass for the group, not individual passes. We have our passports and visas ready to go. And of course, I'm focusing on the most important thing to bring - my knitting! No one else understands me except another knitter. Another jeweler may get it, though. I won't be able to make jewelry while I'm away, but as long as I can knit, I should be able to keep my wits about me.

My projects for the trip need to be really small and compact. They will be in my backpack, and I'm bringing a small one, so I don't expect to have much free space. The choosing of 'the project' has really entertained me for a while. I don't think I'll have nearly as much fun knitting it as I have had choosing the project! I googled, explored ravlery, and consulted knitting friends at the knitting shop A Yarn's Tale in Brodheadsville, PA. I know my yarn should be thin - sport weight or lace weight, to provide many hours of knitting in a small package. I'm considering 3 different yarns:
  • There's a beautiful taupe merino lace weight that is so thin it's like knitting with spider web. It was originally going to be a lace shawl, but the battle of the lace was one battle that I lost. I keep thinking about a surprise shawl in this. It would be a good project for mindless knitting that is easily interrupted. Another thought has been an Elizabeth Zimmerman Pi Shawl. I always wanted to try one of those.
  • I have a comfortable sport weight washable wool left over from making a baby hat, but it's in white. Maybe not the best color for travel-sweaty hands and hiking on the Camino in Spain. Maybe socks though, 2 at a time on circulars to keep everything together while traveling. I haven't ever tried that before.
  • I'm now the proud new owner of a lovely purple sport weight wool that was the product of my visit to the yarn shop to ask friends what I should make. Silly me. I shouldn't bring that up in a yarn shop and expect to come away empty handed. So I'm thinking that a simple, small purple lace triangle scarf for next year might be just the thing to brighten up my black pants and jacket at work. 
I found what I hope is the perfect pouch to bring along to keep my yarn and needles together, and I ordered one from Etsy. A little gift for myself, just the right size for a small project. It hangs on your wrist  while you knit, keeping your yarn handy, and closes by pulling one handle inside the other to keep everything together. The lining helps keep needles from poking through the bag. Perfect! And when I found that it wouldn't be ready in time, the owner of KnitShearBliss said she would rush it right through for me. I love Etsy sellers! No bias there, of course.

I hope packing for the rest of the trip is this much fun!

Artifact Ring

 I started a new collection recently, tentatively called the Artifact collection. I adore this new ring!!
I will need to adjust how I'm making it, there are a few glitches with the method I used. But I really love it, so I went back to the drawing board and came up with a few ideas for new methods that won't change the look too much. This week I'll be back in the studio to see which method works for me with some consistency. Then I hope I'll be ready soon to release a real collection for wholesale!

Meanwhile, thanks to all of you who have been placing orders on Etsy and helping to keep me busy and inspired!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Girls in white dresses with blue...

No, NO!

Tumblers and cutters and torches and bench blocks,
Bright shiny silver and flex shafts and new rocks;
Packets from Rio all tied up with string, 
These are a few of my favorite things...
 (sing it to the tune now!!)

 Have you ever wished someone would send you a box of fantastic things for your studio? Someone who loves jewelry making as much as you do, and wants to share the love? Could there be a gift so perfect?

Your day is here! Click on this link and share your favorite studio things.

If you win the favorite things drawing, post back here and tell me what was in the box!
(And I will be so happy for you... and SO jealous!!)

Friday, November 30, 2012

So You Want to Make Your Own Jewelry Displays

Some years ago, my friend and I collaborated on a jewelry booth for our beaded jewelry. To help with our display, she brought in a steel remote control holder in the shape of a flat hand. I just loved that thing. I put it on a stand in front of our trays holding a cool bracelet, and it never failed to get attention. I have been wishing for a display like that lately, to show off my little stacking rings at craft shows. Hmmm... that hand was metal. I'm supposed to be a metal smith. I'm sensing a connection here....

Step 1 - Choose your metal. I chose copper. Why? I have a lot of it. It hammers easily. It looks cool with silver. And I really have a lot of it. Good. That was easy!

Step 2 - Trace your hand onto the metal with a sharpie. Or have someone else trace it for you. Or be sneaky, and trace their hand. Then wash your hand. Wash it some more. Oh hell, it will wear off. You're a metal smith, who cares if you have sharpie marks outlining your fingers? (If you really care, use a nail brush and good soap. It works.) Note - you might be happier if you read to the end of these instructions (see the end of step 7)  before you begin drawing.

Step 3 - Cut out the hand. Shears will do most of the job, but a jeweler's saw is really the ticket in between the fingers. File every edge, allowing no slivers, then follow up with sandpaper. If your copper is a little funky like mine, sand both sides and the edges with 320 grit,and then repeat with 400.

Partially hammered hand. Can you tell it's mine?
Step 4 - Pull out a ball peen hammer and your bench block. Put on music with a good beat. This helps. Hammer gently but firmly, beginning with an outer edge, working your way into the center. Let the hammer do the work. It should rise and fall like a machine, while you move the piece beneath the hammer. You can re-hammer an area to increase the density and overlap of hammer blows. Don't hammer so hard that you distort the shape of the piece, but aim for solid blows that leave nice clear marks. (Ear savers: place something under the block to deaden sound - a sand bag, an old mouse pad, a telephone book, an old dish towel, or get creative and make good use of a jewelry supply catalog.)

Step 5 - Curve your hand in the desired direction. The metal will stretch and curve up around your hammer as you strike blows. You can reverse this curve if you want to by flipping the hand upside down and striking it with a mallet on your bench block. It will straighten a bit, become a little harder, and help the hand to curve in the other direction.

Finished. See the curve in the fingers?
Step 6 - Curve the fingers if you want to, for strength. You can use nylon pliers for this, especially if they are rounded. Grasp the outer edges of the fingers with the nylon pliers, bending the edges back away from the front of the display. Work your way around the fingers. If you have a wooden swage block (a grooved block), you can lay a copper finger back-side-up in a groove, and hammer a dowel against the back of each finger, pressing it into the groove to help curve it. If your swage block is metal, line it with leather first to keep it from marring your nicely hammered fingers. If you don't have a swage block, you can pretend you do, and file a groove, cut a long notch, or drill a fat groove into a piece of 2x4. and then you really will have a swage block (cool, no?) Or just try malleting a copper finger, from the front, length wise around a handy dowel. Keep adjusting until your rings fit the fingers.

Step 7 - Create a stand for your new custom display by sliding it into a slot you have cut in a piece of wood (which was my solution, because I had a slotted piece of wood on my bench, and nothing better to do with it). My stand still needs to be stained to match the rest of my display. Or pick up a display stand meant for plates, and lean it on that. Or, if you are the type of person that reads instructions all the way through first, the way they tried to teach us in school, you could leave a nice long and wide copper tab beneath your hand when you first draw it, and now you can bend that over to create a hand-stand (Get it? Display humor. So sad.)

Not a great shot, but here it is in my booth.

So there you have it. your own custom hand display. It looks cool. And if you aren't having much luck selling rings, you can show passers by how it matches your hand, and try to get them to listen to the fact that you made it yourself. This can be entertaining at painfully slow shows. (For you, not the customer. But if it's truly slow, do what you need to survive it. We will understand.)

If you make any displays, please share them with me! I need ideas too.

Happy hammering!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Your Design Vocabulary

When jewelry artist Thomas Mann came to speak at East Stroudsburg University (PA) in February, he covered a huge amount of material designed to help artists design their businesses to survive in our current marketplace. One thing he stressed is the importance defining our design vocabulary, or the language we use to describe ourselves, our art, and our businesses.
Why create a personal design vocabulary?  When someone asks you “what do you do?” how effective is the language you use when you explain it? Are you helping another person to understand why your work is valuable to them? Are you helping them to imagine why they would want to own one of your products, or partake of your services? If you are already selling your work, then you are already successfully offering something that people are willing to pay for. Develop the language you use to describe it. If someone approaches you at a show or other venue, would you be ready to offer a quote about what you do, or why you do it, or why people want it?  How ready are you for an impromptu interview?  Tom reminds us that these opportunities are the best kind of free advertising, but to take of them, we must have already developed our design vocabulary.
How can an artist or craftsman create his own design vocabulary? Tom’s suggestion: Write about it. Write about your business for a few minutes every day. Write about the materials you use. Write about the techniques you use, write about the forms you make, about why you make things, about the concepts behind what you do, about the inspirations the move and excite you. Write about every aspect of your work.
 You already have an entire language that you use internally when you talk to yourself silently (well, silently for most of us) about your work. Write about it until you figure out a way to make this language public! This writing will create your design vocabulary. It will be developed into your bio, your artist’s statement, and your descriptions of your work. This writing will become the backbone of the press releases you write to announce your work to the public, and the short “elevator speech” that you use to introduce your work to the world. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes a day, start your day by writing about your work. I have started writing, and it’s tough, but I’m starting to find inspiration arriving. Now if only I can get it to stick around for a while.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Visit from the Mann

From Feb 7 – 8, jewelry artist and gallery owner Thomas Mann visited the Poconos, PA to speak to artists and students at East Stroudsburg University. Tom brought his gallery exhibition “Storm Cycle” (link to a video or site), which gets us up close and personal with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Tom collected bits of personal paraphernalia left after the storm floods retreated, and created gallery art that includes stories about the individuals and families that owned them. The more I read of his personal accounts, the more meaningful the art became for me.
Tom stayed for two days to present “Design for Survival”, a 2-day course designed by Tom to meet the needs of artists who are too inexperienced in the world of business to create sustainable businesses based on their art. Often lacking business training as well as experience, many talented artists and craftsmen burst upon the crafts scene, excited to sell and become known in their fields. Very often working from home with little overhead, they typically charge too little for their work to really maintain a business, inadvertently undercutting experienced artists who have priced their work to survive as a sustainable business. They close up shop a few months or years later, disillusioned and frustrated by failure, and not understanding that they actually put themselves out of business by ignoring the rules of a sustainable business.  Does this scenario hit just a bit too close to home? Most of us have no idea of how to price our work or run an arts-based business that can survive the competitive and ever-changing market. Tom has created “Design for Survival” to meet this need, and to help artists find lasting success in the business of craft.

University art students that attended Tom’s seminars got a real behind-the-scenes view of business as a self-employed working artist. Local members of the arts community gained detailed information about retail shows, juries, marketing strategies that really work, appropriate pricing, reaching your market, and so much more. Stop back soon, I will be posting more details, and sharing a lot of what I learned.