Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Fun of a Mismatch

A Most Unusual Pair

With the bench tidy and the solder cleaned and ready, I finally got back to my bench (boy, how I have missed working there).

Such Cool Stones

Before I hurt my back, I had a plan for stud earrings using this mismatched pair of carnelian variety agate stones I found at the B.C. Gem Show. Their translucent orange glow was irresistible and the cream inclusion on one only added to their charm.

The Plan

I wanted simple sterling silver mounts for the agates — just enough silver surround to showcase the stones. I also wanted to let light come through from the back to take advantage of the translucent glow.

Here are the stones with the sketches. By using tabs brought up from the surround, I could secure the stones while keeping the design simple.

Ready to Set

In the final photo, you can see the plan becoming reality. The silver has been annealed, the centers cut out and the tabs marked and cut. The foreground one shows the tabs bent up (I used the chain nose pliers to grip and bend them).

Anyone who sees the listing on my ArtYah shop <> will notice that the slimmer stone actually has four tabs. A check of the fit, before bending the tabs over the stones, revealed the need for one more tab. Easy fix.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Return to the Bench

A Long Story

Near the end of May, I hurt my back. Not sure if it was a struggle with a jammed window or too much garden work, but it left me in quite a bit of pain. Sadly, one thing I couldn't do was work at my bench. Instead, I spent close to five months seeing a physio and doing endless exercises. So not fun but finally pain free, I ventured back to work the other day.

Kind of a Back to Square One Deal

As you might expect, the first thingI had to do was start from scratch in a few ways. I tidied up the bench and sorted a bunch of stones and notes for projects. Next came the solder. Soldering rule 1: Solder must be clean.

Years ago, I stumbled upon the idea of using four sections of a plastic daily pill holder to store my tiny solder papillons — a term best explained on the International Gem Society's web site as follows:
Sheet solder is cut into “papillons,” which is a French word meaning little tiny pieces of metal that fly all over the place while you’re cutting them.
The container I have been using had become scratched over the years, making it hard to clean. Dirty storage = dirty papillons. So, off to the drugstore for a new pill container. This photo shows how I prepared it by cutting two days off one end and one day off the other (so it will sit level) and using a carpenter's file to smooth the cut edges. Lastly, I label each section for the different grades of solder: H for hard, M for medium, E for easy and SE for super easy.

Let the Cleaning Begin

Over the years, I have tried various ways of cleaning the sheets of solder before cutting the papillons (it is obviously impossible to clean them after cutting). The absolute best — learned from a fellow member of the Creative Jewellers Guild of BC — is a good scrub with Bar Keepers Friend and a plastic scrubby.

Yes, dear auto correct, I know you think I should spell it jewelers, but the guild is in Canada and that's the Canadian spelling.

Tuesday, Get Solder Ready; Wednesday Get Back to Work

Above: the cleaner and scrubby sit atop a dark piece of leather with the tools to make papillons. I keep each sheet in a different, labelled, plastic box. The very sharp cutters nip the tiny pieces which I catch on the leather (so I can see them). The scoop and tweezer tool lets me pick them up and drop them into the containers. All set to get back to work.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Darned Technology (or me)

Sunday afternoon experiment. I tried to post a video slideshow here but failed.

Check my Facebook page to see it:

Thursday, 13 October 2016

New Site = New Sales in October

The Handmade Life on ArtYah 

There was a time when I made pretty regular sales on etsy but, in the past year or so, it has become so overcrowded that it is very hard to get seen. As well, the focus on handmade is gone from etsy, and many etsy seller I know have been looking for other options. One, suggested by an etsy friend, is ArtYah so I set up a shop there a few weeks ago <>.

As with any new venture, it takes time but on Tuesday I made my first sale there.

Someone in California will soon be wearing these brilliant blue lapis lazui on sterling studs.

It was a thrill to make my first sale on a new site and I hurried to pack them up nice and pretty and get them on their way to their new home.

After I dropped this package off at the Post Office, I decided to try listing a very similar pair, this time set with turquoise, in my ArtYah shop.

Does Good Luck Come in Twos?

So, on Tuesday afternoon, I added the turquoise studs.

On Wednesday morning, I went for my morning walk. When I got back and checked my email, I found a message from ArtYah that the turquoise pair had sold. WOW!

So far, I'm really loving ArtYah.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Photography Experiments

I Love Online Selling, But. . .

In the years since I began selling on etsy <> I have tried many, many ways to take good jewelry photographs. It has been a source of so much frustration.

What To Put Under the Item?

A suitable background is a major problem. Below, a scattering of backgrounds I have tried — and rejected.

 Colors — Yeah or Nay?

My earliest pieces were all sterling silver (no stones) and I used various blue backgrounds for a few years. It worked well. Then I began to add stones — and stones add color. The amethyst piece above did fine on blue but I immediately discovered how it could totally kill a garnet or citrine. I gave black a go but — while many jewelers use it to good effect — I just didn't care for it. The deep, mottled grey under the earrings above was achieved using a piece of grey slip-proof plastic mat (intended for a bathtub) and positioning the earrings a couple of inches above it on a clear plastic store display piece. Not bad but still not perfect.

Best Yet

After all those experiments, I recently settled on using a piece of near white ceramic tile as a background.

Also, to solve the problem of propping pieces up for the camera, I lean them agains seashells. I like the texture and soft tones the shells add to my photos.

I think I am pretty happy with this setup. I take the photos in front of a window because, although I tried photo lights, I find the natural light works best for me. The only real problem is the shift of color temperature between July and December but I can adjust it pretty well with an editing program.

Of course, I still try a few options now and then — especially now that I have opened a second shop <> SterlingByDix on ArtYah.

The search goes on.

Friday, 16 September 2016

What a Great Invention


When we left the river and bought this landlubbers' house, there were lots of changes to be made. The vital ones — kitchen makeover, bedroom paint and carpet, gutting and rebuilding one of the bathrooms — we tackled before moving in. Then there was this wallpaper in my office that I hated but there were still more important things to tend to. Slowly, it got shoved aside but, after four years, it just got to me and I had to make it go away — now! I just couldn't face another winter with the stuff.


This photo is of the pattern that was driving me nuts. It always made me think of fishing lures, which are just great — on fishing lines.

Try to imagine a whole wall of this in a small room. Way too busy. I considered stripping it off the wall but I did that once and still remember dodging hot steam, scraping at gummy paper, and, finally, cleaning up all that mess. Because this was pretty high quality paper, I figured — with proper care — I could just paint over it. A chore, but not a horror show.


It took two coats of stain blocker/primer to cover the pattern and ensure that latex paint wouldn't penetrate the paper and cause it to part company with the walls. I was very relieved when a couple of days went by and the paper hadn't moved.

. . . Gone!

The other walls are white, so I wanted some warmth here. I opted for this medium deep bone and think it works really well.

Bonus - the artwork shows up much better on the painted wall.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Late Summer

I Love Texture

If you know my work, you know that texture is a pretty constant theme. Long ago, when I had enough space to paint in oils, old barns and aging pilings were favorite subjects. I loved trying to render all that heavily weathered wood on canvas (a section of one of my efforts below).

I also find inspiration in wave washed sand and visits to Cannon Beach Oregon always find me, at some point, kneeling in the sand to capture those patterns on film.

Say It In Silver

Below, a few examples of how texture informs my jewelry making.

Short, crisp lines done with a riveting hammer on polished sterling.

A sapphire set atop reticulated sterling silver. This one has a pebbled look. I gave the earrings below a deeply rippled texture.

When you start to look around, you can see wonderful textures everywhere.