Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Season Greetings

Happy Holidays to all
and to all
a great, happy, healthy 2014.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Making a List

December 20 - Getting Ready

The Vancouver area got a pre-Christmas snowfall last night. The quality of the snow in this part of the world is kinda pathetic - wet and heavy. Driving or walking on it is a bit like trying to negotiate a large bowl of porridge -- but it is sort of pretty!


Brrrrrrrrrrr

What a huge change from the photo of this garden last summer (May 17 post).

I had already made plans for a day of Christmas baking, so no need to venture out among the drivers trying it with summer tires!


Welcome to my home

Front door is just there on the right. Come in from the cold and join in the fun.

The kitchen is all set up and ready to go. Today, we will be making sugar-dusted pecan balls, shortbread, Swedish pastry balls (I do not know if they are of Swedish origin or not but they are yummy) and carrot pudding. These are all things from my childhood and I really enjoy making them.

The new kitchen is such a pleasure to work in - lots of light and space. Much as I loved our floating home, I admit the galley was a bit on the small side!


Pecan balls



Butter ready for creaming; sugar, flour and chopped pecans standing by. These are easy to make and husband-tested for taste.


Mix it all up then get a bit messy shaping the dough into small balls.

Ready for the oven


All lined up (well, one is making a break for it) and ready to bake.

About 13 - 15 minutes at 350 gets them done. While they are still warm, you roll them in confectioners sugar (carefully; they are very delicate before they cool). After they cool, you roll them again (no wonder my husband likes them!).


Here is the finished product. That pound of butter behind is about to become shortbread.


Mission Accomplished


Late afternoon: two kinds of cookies cooling on the counter, batch of shortbread in the oven and the carrot puddings steaming on my wonderful new stove.

Now I think we should pour ourselves some coffee and maybe even sample a cookie.

Thanks for coming by. I hope you had as much fun as I did.



Saturday, 14 December 2013

December 14

Wee Heart Project


I finally got to work on the tiny heart pendant a few days ago. My plan was for something very simple and I think I have achieved that.

As always, I started by annealing the metal to make it workable. I also stamped my mark into the back.

Photo: Face of Pendant

I filed and sanded the edges, then burnished them smooth. Next, I hammered the heart into a slight dome and used the round end of a small ball peen hammer to create a subtle pattern drifting across the face from upper right to lower left.


With the shaping done, I soldered a ring to the back. I set it on one of the lobes to allow the heart to ride at a slight angle.  I have tried it out on several chains and have found that, the longer the chain, the more the heart wants to flip over. Bothersome. I wonder if hanging it from silk ribbon would eliminate that problem. Before I list it for sale, I may try that -- oh, oh; back to Michaels!


I was really pleased with how this project turned out. It is a dainty item and, while anyone could wear it, I think it would be especially suitable for a young girl. The little heart is 5/8 inches across and about 1/2 inch high.

I am thinking that it would be great for a flower girl, on a ribbon to match the bridesmaids dresses.  Could make larger versions for the bridesmaids, too? Hmmm. Planning for 2014 now.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a very happy or merry whatever-you-may-celebrate in December and a really wonderful 2014.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Decmber 7

Back to the Bench

With the kitchen finished at last, I got back to the shop and went to work on the other moonstone ring. Because I had set the moonstone, I could not solder the silver ball back on. Prying the stone out of that dainty setting was way too risky. Although lovely, moonstones are somewhat delicate and it is easy to scratch or chip them. First step was to make another ring for the client -- I finished that a few days ago and it is winging its way to her.
Seeking a way to rescue the damaged ring, I went back to my original sketches (above). Although the one at the lower left featured a round stone, I felt the layout would work equally well with an oval stone. All I had to do was pull the remaining silver ball off (a bit tricky, but pulling and twisitng it with pliers worked) then drill pilot holes and use very small files to create the triangular shapes I wanted to frame the stone.


New Version

This photo shows the finished ring. I photographed it on a candle to get it to face the camera for its close-up ;-)

I am quite pleased with how this came out (especially as I did not want to have to toss the silver and the stone!)

Variation on the old saying: I suppose this is a jeweler's way of making lemonade, isn't it?

Next Up

I was so pleased with the ring that I immediately went back to work on one of the Open Heart designs. This one was for a mixed metal pendant.
I sweat-soldered the copper and sterling hearts together some time ago. Yesterday, to complete this design, I soldered on a tube setting for a 3 mm amethyst and drilled the other side of the heart to accommodate a ring of square sterling wire. Now it's all ready to thread on a chain and decorate someone's dress or sweater.

I have a small sterling heart still sitting on the bench. There will be news of it sometime next week.









Friday, 6 December 2013

New Kitchen

Ready for Christmas Cooking Now

The blog has been pretty silent but for a very good reason. We finally got around to finishing the kitchen renovations.

Before

Here is the kitchen as it looked when we bought the house in July 2012. I found this very dated and a bit stark. Also feared possible death of frridge and stove (both dated from early 1980s).

Before we even moved in, I did a multi-coat refinishing of the cabinets, making the look much warmer. We also removed the bi-fold doors on the laundry area (they did not even open wide enough to let you get the dryer door fully open!) and painted the walls. A set of baskets to hold laundry and cleaning supplies eliminated any visual need for those doors.

After that, we waited for our previous home to sell, freeing up funds. This fall, we invested in new fridge and stove so the cook (me) is much happier now. Even more recently, we found someone to re-surface counters with new laminate, hiding forever that never-quite-clean orange.

After

Same room today. Really love cooking here now, so traditional Christmas Eve party will be a happier event for me this year.




Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ring Complete!

December 1

Spent the morning in my shop working on that moonstone ring. I had completed one but, while burnishing the bezel onto the stone, I knocked off one of the tiny silver balls. Blast! No way to re-solder it without removing the stone (a very dicey proposition at that stage). I opted to pull off the other ball (took a bit of effort). I will re-work that into another of my design ideas soon.

I finally got the replacement ring set up. Silver balls soldered on? Check. Bezel setting secured? Check. Ring blank ends joined? Check. Ready to round it up? Check.

Making It Round

To round up a ring, you position it on a tapered metal mandrel and hammer it with a rawhide mallet (which will not damage your silver). When you are making a simple band, this is pretty easy. You can just whack at it! Can be very theraputic!

In this case, because I had soldered the bezel and silver balls on first, I had to whack at it with considerable care. It would be pretty easy for a sloppy blow to flatten that bezel and send me back to square one.

As you can see, the rounding happens before the polishing. In the photo above, the ring still has the chalky look left by the final pickle bath.

Rounded!

Here it is a bit later, rounded up to a size 6 1/2.


One Moonstone Ring Done

The photo on the right shows the ring, stone in place, setting burnished on, fully polished and ready for the patient woman who ordered it (provided she is happy with it, of course!).

I find I really like the soft look of a moonstone in a silver setting. All nice and glowy -- sort of like moonlight on a frozen lake.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Ring Again

November 26 - Moonstone Again

I have been making progress on the custom orders at last. The Open Heart Brooch is now a private listing in my etsy shop. New etsy twist -- even I cannot see it in Shop View. Sure hope the buyer can!

With that off my bench, I am working on the second moonstone ring (you may remember that the first one was a bit off-center).


Try a Different Technique

It was annoying that the bezel and one of the silver balls slipped off centre on the first try. I thought it might be because I rounded the ring first. Pretty easy for something to slide on flowing solder if it is sitting on a curved surface.  This time, (see photo), I soldered the elements on first. Doing it this way means I had to be very careful with hammering the ring into a circle. Sure didn't want to smash that dainty setting! You can see how well lined up everything is here.

By golly, it worked!

The photo on the right shows the completed circle. The red stains are from yellow ochre. Yeah, I know, but it goes on yellow. The heat changes it. Heat changes lots of things. Couldn't make jewelry if it didn't! Anyway, the yellow ochre painted all around the well-soldered elements kept them from moving while I soldered the join on the ring shank. Solder will not flow unless the metal is super clean.

At this stage, the moonstone is just sitting there. I will not set it until I have washed off the yellow ochre and done most of the polishing.

I  think it will be very pretty once I get it gleaming. Hope the woman who wants it will think so, too. It is a "gift to self" but I still want to get it to her in time for the holidays.


Saturday, 23 November 2013

November 23

Red, Red Garnet Set

Maybe that relaxing time beside the ocean helped my focus. Sat down at bench today and got that lovely little garnet set on the heart brooch.

The Parts - Ready to Go

Here is the brooch -- pre-polished and ready for the garnet. The stone itself is held on a cuticle stick with a bit of Fun-Tak. Not all tools are costly and specially created for jewelry work ;-)

It took quite a bit of careful work to get that tube setting to accept the stone because the shape was slightly off-round. The initial setting was done with a stone setting bur (see my blog of September 5 - Stone Setting 101). The next step involved some hand-shaping of the opening so the stone would set squarely into it. A bit troublesome but worth the effort. Once the stone was set, I did the final polishing.

 Final Photos: Finished at Last!



By the time I got the stone into the setting and the tube burnished over to secure it, the daylight was fading so the final photos are a touch dark. I could have set up studio lights but sometimes they are more trouble than help!

This brooch (broach, pin, to each her own!) is about 1 inch high by 1 1/4 inches wide. The garnet measures 4.5 mm diameter. 

I am pretty happy with the way this turned out. I love that the design suggests two hearts, similar but not identical. I think the symbolism is very appropriate for the ultimate owner. I also really, really love that deep red garnet. A very dear friend hand-carried it for me from India so I wanted to use it in a special project. This filled the bill perfectly.

Tomorrow, I will get going on the second version of that moonstone ring. This time, I will make sure the elements stay in line ;-)


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Recharging

Two Day Wonder

It felt as if we were in the "two homes, no money" world forever. Finally, down to one home and most of the renovations done, we drove down to Cannon Beach Oregon for a too-short getaway.

Pure Luxury

Checked into a very comfortable room at the Surfsand Resort. It was dark when we arrived but the Pacific Ocean really does exist a stone's throw from those windows.


Pure Beauty

I won't try to explain why this place feeds my soul; I'll show you.



The two on the left of this photo are The Needles. The monolith in photo below is Haystack Rock.

Below that, sunset here on Tuesday night.


And, in case you think this is only for fun ;-) I am including a shot of one of the many patterns wind and waves carve in the sand. For a jeweler, this is pure inspiration. Sadly, I do not think our tax department will let me write expenses off!
Home tomorrow, refreshed and ready to hammer some silver ;-)




Sunday, 17 November 2013

Slow But Sure

November 17

Jewelry progress has been slow -- too many interruptions with tradespeople working on the house. So glad that we are almost done with the rennos. Flooring, carpeting, kitchen counters.... endless but it all looks good.

The Heart - Ready for Its Garnet

I thought this would be finished and listed on my shop <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling> as a custom order last week. Flooring & carpet caused some delay. My caution caused the rest. The tricky bit on this piece is setting the stone. It was hand faceted in India and, while beautiful, it is not an absolutely perfect circle. To get it properly into that tube setting, I started with a stone setting burr on my flexshaft machine. That reamed out the basic setting shape. Now I am working very carefully with hand tools to adjust the top to get a proper fit for the stone. It must slip in there neatly with just enough silver showing above it -- all the way around -- to allow pressing a rim over the stone's girdle to hold it fast. This is a custom piece for special clients so I am happy to spend all the time it takes to make sure that stone will stay put for many, many years.

My Other Custom Project

I got some moonstones from a supplier recently to fill a request for a ring. I've been muddling along with it along with the heart (and a couple of other items). It's good to have more than one project on the bench. I'm not the most patient person you ever met ;-) so I'm apt to try to move too fast if I only have one thing on the go. Never a good idea. Things just need to sit in the pickle pot for awhile so they will be clean enough for the next step.

So, yesterday, I actually thought I would get the ring finished. Yeah, right.

It was only when I got the setting burnished onto the stone that I realized what had happened. It may not be obvious in this photo, but the bits  slipped a little when the solder flowed. If you look really closely, you should be able to see that the stone does on align straight across the ring. As well, one of the silver balls is a touch of kilter. 

I guess this one will be mine. I acquire quite a bit of jewelry because of these technical glitches!

We are away for a few days next week, then I will be back to the bench with another of those moonstones. The client will get a ring that is -- as far as handmade allows -- perfect. When the elements are properly aligned, I think it will be very pretty.



Monday, 11 November 2013

Finally Finished

Another Abalone Pendant


I started on this pendant long ago. With the new bench all set up, I finally pulled it off the back burner. I assembled the parts while waiting for a couple of other items to go through the pickle process. Nice to have space enough to work on more than one piece at a time!

I wish I could find a way to light abalone to really show off the colors. This shot comes pretty close but still misses the flashes of pink. I'm not as happy with some of the others I shot for my etsy shop.

I really like the way that mother-of-pearl triangle at the bottome of the abalone plays off the moonstone.

There is a gap behind the moonstone to allow threading a chain or thong to wear the piece.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Bench Work

Progress on Pair of Projects

With the bench all set up, I've been spending time on a couple of custom projects.

 Silver Heart with Stone Mount in Place

Here is the first of my Open Heart brooches with the tube mount for the stone soldered to the body of the brooch. I was not happy with the garnet I tried earlier, so I went into my "stash" to seek a better option


What a Pretty Stone

Look what I found! Love the deep, rich red of this glorious garnet. At the moment, it is just sitting in the setting. I can't actually set it until I add the pin and pin catch to the back (kind of essential for a brooch!). When that is done, the piece will need lots of polishing time. Setting the stone is the last phase.

I think it will be quite lovely. Once I finish this one, I have a couple more open hearts to work up.

Project Two - a Ring




I'm also working on a moonstone ring. This photo shows the planned layout.

First, I cut the ring blank from 18 gauge sterling and filed and sanded it, paying special attention to the edges. That's the boring part of making any piece of jewelry and every piece requires a lot of filing, sanding and polishing. Dull work but utterly essential.

Below: and now it's a ring. Well, sort of. It wants rounding up on a steel mandrel next. Can you tell I'm loving my new bench? After a year of being hunched over a student desk, I'm sure my spine is enjoying it, too!





Sunday, 3 November 2013

First heart Shaping Up

New Bench Working Well

Been housebound (a bit of essential painting) for a couple of days but got out to my new bench this morning. Went back to work on the heart brooches.

The first one, all silver, is farthest along. Here is a photo of the pierced heart shape, a garnet stone and the tubing that will form the stone setting. I annealed the metal this morning and gave it a soak in the pickle pot -- hence the chalky look of the silver. That will polish off later.  I also reamed out a setting in the end of that piece of sterling silver tube. For more on that process, see my September 5th blog: Stone Setting 101. Once the setting is perfect, I will cut it from the tube and solder it to the heart.

That garnet is paler than I remembered; almost pink. I may look about for one the same size but a deeper red. This one might do better on one of the silver and copper hearts. I will get them farther along the process before I try it with them.

Gosh, the sun is almost down already. Comes as such a shock at first when the time changes. The good news is that I can walk earlier in the mornings again ;-)

Thursday, 31 October 2013

First Friday Art Walk

November 1 is First Friday


It's First Friday Art Walk Weekend! Come and check out some great art and maybe catch a sale through the AWETeam page: www.etsy.com/teams/5635/aweteam/discuss/13183241/page/1

I'll be offering free shipping in my shop through Nov. 5  Beware - it's only 54 days until Christmas!


Checkout Code is FFAWDIX

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Moving Day

Studio Move

Today, with the last of the shed-to-studio heavy lifting done, I started setting up my new workplace.


Here is the stripped down "bench" I was using for the last 11 months.

I will not miss that kinda flimsy kids desk. It was a stop-gap measure for sure but it did let me do some creative work. Probably kept me from going mad!

The drawers (from the little red cabinet) are waiting to join the cabinet itself in the studio. Boy, I LOVE typing studio ;-)


Next photo: the new setup. 

Just waiting handsome to come out and mount my flex-shaft on the bench.

Cabinet on right holds an array of tools (all were stuffed in a linen cupboard since we moved). Its sturdy top holds soldering station and pickle pot. For past 11 months, I have been running from office bench to shed where I could solder and pickle pieces. This will be SO much more convenient.

The little red IKEA cabinet (which has served us in various capacities for many years) holds some hand tools. Others -- the ones I use most -- are in the bench drawers. It's just PERFECT. All that is left now is to get back to work. The hearts will be finished with the new setup and... TA-DA

... the moonstones have arrived so I can start making up some of thosse ring designs I posted on October 9th. Can't wait ;-)


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Hearts Update + Studio

October 27

Seems that life keeps getting in the way of creativity but I have made some progress on the hearts project.

Hearts - Work in Progress

The sterling silver heart (top) is part way through the long sanding process. Once I get it smooth enough, I will solder the tube setting for a garnet onto the round spot I left for it in the center cutout.

The second one is a marriage of sterling silver and copper. That one is a bit more demanding due to having to file the edges so the outlines match. That they do not proves that I am less than perfect with my jeweler's saw!

The reason I have not made faster progress on these (apart from things like grocery shopping, house cleaning, etc.) is that *Ta-Da* we have been finishing the work needed to turn our shed into a shop/studio.

New Home of DixSterling

It was quite a transformation. We pretty much gutted the place (keeping only a sturdy carpenter's bench for my darling). First, we hauled out nasty old wooden shelves and miscellaneous bit of junk. Next, we installed sub-floor and peel & stick tiles over the concrete and painted the dark wood panelling. The space is MUCH brighter now. Finally, we set up a new steel shelving unit and stocked it with the stuff we need (amazing how MUCH one needs). Final triumph: put my new jeweler's bench in place and hung my corkboard above it. I am finding a lot of sore muscles today but it is more than worth a bit of pain.

Once I get all my tools and supplies moved from my office to the studio, it will be time to get really creative. I'm working on a couple of custom pieces and also want to increase my shop inventory in time for holiday shoppers.

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Start on a Heart

Heart Brooch - Work in Progress

I've been neglecting my bench lately while we try to get my studio in working order. Today, however, we have an appointment in the city later so I did not want to get into construction clothes. Instead, I put my work apron over my city togs and started on several heart brooch designs I sketched up awhile ago.


The Traced Designs Glued to Silver

Yes, it is just that simple. I trace the sketches and use a glue stick to stick the patterns onto a sheet of sterling silver. Pretty sophisticated, huh?

I chose 20 gauge silver because, unlike a pendant,  a brooch can be subjected to quite a lot of handling. Pin it on this coat; take it off; pin it on that jacket.... You get the idea. You want a brooch to be sturdy enough that it will not bend.

Next Remarkable Tasks - Saw & File


To the left is a photo of the first of the three heart designs after I cut it out. The center is also pierced with an echo of the outline. In a sense, the brooch now represents two hearts.

I have also begun the task of filing the edges so the finished brooch will be smooth to handle. This step also removes any slight uneveness in the saw cut.

I will post more pix when I get another step or two down this path.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

October 20

Updates!


West Coast weather update. STILL foggy.

Shed/studio update: Floor almost finished. New shelves for all that *stuff* that can't live in the house. My bench in position - still behind some of the *stuff* but the end is in sight! Photos to follow.

Activity update: Creative Jewellers Guild meeting today. A dose of mutual creativity!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Giving Thanks

Okay, in Canada, Thanksgiving falls in mid-October.

This year, I have such a lot to be thankful for (besides my wonderful family).The sale of the floathome finally closed. I will always mss the river but I'm glad we can now focus on living "on the level"

The first thing I did when we knew the deal was going through was to order the new stove I've had my eye on for months.

If you look at the photo of the old one, the color gives away its age! It also had some annoying habits; the top kept sliding to the front and the clock just did not work. The range hood worked -- if you like aircraft sounds in your kitchen.


So, the new stove arrived yesterday ;-) As you can see, I'm already testing it out. Apple pie for tonight.

The LG is a lot prettier than the old range and cooks better, too. We have a new range hood -- just have to install it. We may let that go until after Thanksgiving next weekend.




Back to the bench 

Jewelry is back on the front burner (no pun intended) now that the shed clear-out is done. At the moment, I'm working on some ideas for a moonstone ring. I also plan to makeup a couple of the heart pin designs to see how they work in real life. With the shed cleaned out, I'll have a proper bench soon.

A lot to be thankful for, indeed.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Less Garden = More jewlery

September 24

So happy to hear that the rings are being loved in their Scottish homes ;-) Postal service was pretty swift. I expected 9-10 business days but they got there in 9 days, period.

I'm doodling hearts these days for someone who is looking for a brooch as a Christmas gift. Heart designs can be a bit banal, so I'm just letting ideas drift from the pencil.

I'm fond of a couple of these ideas, especially the ones that are open. It's kind of like two hearts when you do it that way. I'm also wondering about using some copper to create a contrast.

The two on lower left would be fairly heavy gauge wire, bent to heart shape. The crossing line should make the brooch strong enough. Obviously, brooches get a lot more handling than pendants.

Each of the designs incorporates a sparkling, tube-set garnet. (Have you noticed my love affair with tube setting stones?)

If you stop by here, I'd love to hear your thoughts on these.

When not doodling, I've been trying to complete that moonstone over abalone pendant. Hard to believe that I started on it in July! That's what gardening does to productivity ;-)

Some of the parts on my bench. The moonstone is positioned in its setting to check fit, but I have not burnished the bezel onto it. There's soldering still to come.

Also (see below) lots and lots and lots of sanding to get the surfaces smooth. No delightful campground this time, though.



I will use four prongs to hold the abalone. To mount them, I'll drill holes where the prongs should sit on the backing plate. The photo on the right shows the four wire prongs and the drill I selected. Those dandy digital calipers let me measure so that the hole and the prong are a perfect fit.

Next steps will be drilling, then soldering the posts in place. After they are positioned and shaped to hold the abalone, I will solder the moonstone setting onto the piece. Final polishing, then stone setting and it will be a pendant on its was to DixSterling.etsy.com ;-)