Friday, 28 March 2014

Colored Copper & Brass

Raku Finishes

I spent much of yesterday working with copper and brass. I wanted to make the butterfly brooch in brass and a pair of earrings in copper. I also wanted to give both a Raku treatment to see what color effects I could get.

Let There Be Color

I treated the copper dangles to a second "cooking" among the pine needles to increase the brilliance of the reds that came forth.

Here are the elements on my bench, along with the brass butterfly.

Because the effects are created by heat, you cannot solder the parts after the treatment. The solution for the earrings was to pierce the elements and link them to the shepherd hooks with jump rings. I hand wound and cut the rings from copper wire.


I had to solder the pin back to the butterfly before the heat treatment. More on that another day.

Ready to Go


Here are the finished earrings — summer jewelry for sure. These measure 2 1/2 inches from the top of the shepherd hooks and would work well with summer tops or dresses but would probably snag on winter's turtle neck sweaters!

I will get the write-up done over the weekend and list them in my etsy shop on Monday.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Copper Day

More colored copper

Spent the afternoon in my lovely studio. The projects this time were a brass butterfly (long story) and a pair of Raku copper earrings. Both are progressing well but it is getting a bit late to photo edit so expect "film at 11" -- well maybe 11 a.m. tomorrow!

Hope you all had a great Thursday;-)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Rain Has Its Rewards

A Good Day at the Bench

A couple of days ago, I was pre-weeding our vegetable garden in a short-sleeve t-shirt. Today dawned dry but with a nasty, cold wind that warned of rain. I just managed to take a walk, make and eat breakfast, and do the grocery shopping before it began. Seemed an omen — ought to spend the afternoon at the bench. The studio is open. Come on in and have a seat.

Projects

I had a couple of projects to finish — both are on the bench in this photo, along with a pair of pliers and a steel burnisher.

On the left, a mixed metal heart pendant. I cut out the copper and silver hearts a few days ago.  Yesterday, I soldered the small, silver one atop the larger copper one, using a tiny silver circle as a spacer to give it some depth. I also soldered a bail on the back.

Next to the heart, that abalone necklace I've been struggling with. It has been a long process — first, cut out the plate and reticulate it (see blog post of July 20 about reticulation). Next; cut, trim and attach the top bar. After that came cutting, fitting and mounting the claws and attaching a pair of posts at the top so the chains can be attached. I'm trying for a hint of Japanese Moon Gate with this piece. It seems to be working.


Bleeding Heart Pendant

I wanted to do a Raku patina on the Bleeding Heart pendant (blog post about Raku on May 22) so this afternoon I assembled the pine cones and needles in an old sauce pot I picked up in a thrift store. I cleaned the heart with super-fine steel wool and then with detergent and Comet cleanser. That is clean! Grabbed another bunch of needles and took pot, needles, the heart and my torch out to our carport. I had to brave the weather because I didn't like the idea of filling the studio with smoke and making you cough! The carport kept me dry but the wind sure did not feel at all like two days into spring. The Raku process worked. I gave this a gentle polish and sealed the patina with archival wax. Here, atop my iPhone, is the finished piece. The photo does not do the colors justice. They are really lovely.

The Moon Gate Necklace

Here it is. Boy, that one took some time, didn't it?
Today, I polished the piece, bringing the top bar to a mirror-shine and lightly polishing to backplate to maximize its fabulous texture (remember that Cannon Beach shot of waved-textured sand?). Next I set the slice of abalone into the claws and finished by smoothing them over . The final step was easy — I used two jump rings to attach the chain so the piece can be worn.

When the rains let up and the light improves, I will use my photo setup to take pictures of both pieces. I want the best possible light because both of these have colors that are hard to capture. 

Come over to the house and I'll pour you a cup of coffee before you go home. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Soldering On

Studio Tour

I'm loving my studio space. The jewelers bench is perfect for sawing, filing, sanding polishing and, of course, assembling. Having no desire to risk setting fire to my paperwork, however, I wanted to create a separate soldering station. The top of my supply cupboard, to the right of the jewelers bench, provided the perfect spot.

Let There Be Heat

Here is my soldering station. On the left, the large and small charcoal blocks I put work on for annealing and soldering. The larger block is on a rotating steel holder (very useful) and that sits in a steel pan (from and old toaster oven). The whole lot is on a large ceramic tile and has a fire brick behind it (with the smaller charcoal block standing by atop it). I figure I'd have to be seriously clumsy to set a fire with that super-safe arrangement!

In the foreground are a pair of heat-resistant pliers I can use to hold or move hot items. Next to them is a tall spray bottle filled with water. I use that to dampen the charcoal when I finish up at the end of the day to ensure it doesn't smolder all night. I don't really think it would set fire to the shop if it did, but charcoal is really expensive so I don't want it going to waste.

In the black plastic tray on the right is an old Christmas candy dish filled with water for quenching items. The wee crock pot behind that holds jewelers pickle (a mild acid) used to clean oxides off annealed or soldered metal. There is also a water bottle -- I always have at least one in case something does catch fire -- and an extraction fan that pulls fumes and dust away from me. I stand up to work here. That's fine as it gets me up from the bench quite frequently and annealing and soldering both happen so quickly that there is no danger of fatigue ;-)

Work in Progress

This week, I have been working on a pair of dangle earrings. And I'm still making cautious progress with the abalone necklace. It takes a long time to drill holes for the claws to hold the abalone and then shape them to fit around it. There is also wait time while the claws, soldered into perfectly-matched holes, pickle and dry. And so on, and so on.

The earrings have been moving faster. The photo to the left shows one of the round, domed studs that will hold the earrings and the shaped dangles ready to attach.  The second stud was in the pickle as I had just soldered the ear post onto the back of it. The parts of the abalone project are sitting there, too, with the claws in place.

Cutting and shaping the earring parts was pretty easy. I used a doming set to shape the studs and a cold chisel (borrowed from my husband's work bench) to shape the dangles. I just placed the cut-out silver pieces on a hockey puck (yup, a puck), positioned the chisel and tapped it with a brass hammer until the dangles assumed the degree of bend I was after.

Project One All Done

Here are the finished earrings. Tomorrow, when the light is better, I will photograph them for listing in my shop.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

New Shop Front on etsy

New Shop Sign

I've been using that photo of the swan on the river as my etsy shop banner for the past year or two but it's not really appropriate now that we are not living on the river and it doesn't exactly shout "jewelry" at people who see it. After a lot of thought, I decided to try something different.


I'm curious to see if there is any real difference in the amount of activity on the page! If I decide I want to keep it, I will create versions for business cards and box labels, too. You can see this as my shop banner at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling

If you want to leave a comment, feel free. I spent 25 years drafting PR documents for demanding clients, so my tolerance for criticism is pretty high!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Sources of Inspiration

Water, water

Any artist or artisan will tell you that inspiration comes from many sources. For me, water seems to be a major influence. For more than 20 years, we lived on a floating home moored on the Fraser River near Vancouver, BC.

The photo above was taken looking upriver, towards New Westminster, one winter afternoon when the windows in buildings to the east were fired with reflected glory. Fabulous.

The neighbors were pretty amazing, too. 

Just look at how the ripples behind this magnificent swan flash in the sunlight. It really shows depth and texture - something I love about the surface of water. It is always changing and always hypnotic.

Despite being a river, the Fraser here is near the ocean and hence subject to tides. The overall range was in the neighborhood of 18 feet — that made carrying groceries down from the car tricky at times (especially if there was snow or ice on the ramp). Eventually, my husband's arthritic knees made life there impossible so we now reside in a one-story bungalow. We both miss seeing the water every day.

Sea and Sand in Oregon

Having moved ashore, I now find my doses of inspiration in the nearby shores of White Rock and Crescent Beach and — whenever possible — with a trip to Cannon Beach.



This is Haystack Rock on a late November afternoon. I love being near the ocean. Look at the contrast between the surf and the smooth, wet sand in the foreground.


Below, a shot of water-rippled sand. These are the textures I try to capture by reticulating sterling silver. It's a slow process, involving repeated heating and quenching to prepare the silver sheet. The final step is to melt the pure silver that has come to the surface and use the torch to drag, bubble, ripple and otherwise shape it. When it is done, you have a stretch of naturally-textured beach sand captured forever.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

International Face of etsy

Mapped my Sales Locations

Yesterday, just for fun, I went back through my etsy sales and used a National Geographics app to map the places my jewelry has gone to. Kinda cool to see it. Not sure it proves anything, except that my creations do not seem to appeal to the folks in the midwest USA. Big hole in the center of North America!


There are a lot of jewelry makers who complain about how hard it is to attract views and sales on etsy. That's true, but it does give me access to a world-wide marketplace and that is pretty cool.

 I just realized that this map is short one marker. Years ago, a piece sold in a shop here and it was sent as a birthday gift to a woman in Argentina (no, NOT Evita!).

The second of two items is currently en route to a customer in Adelaide, Australia. Boy, that's a long, long journey! Sure hope it gets there safely. Enough of this. Time to get back to my bench. Two pair of earrings and a seriously fancy necklace underway there.