Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Homefront Team

When I joined Etsy I wanted to be a part of a Team that meant something to me, so I found the Homefront Street Team. This team is a group of shops run by military spouses that aims to support and promote each other's shops.  We also share a common bond of living the military life, and support each other as we move, change jobs and meet new people.

Military life really is a unique experience that is mostly understood only by those that live it.  The deployments, the moves, the unknowns, the training weeks, the long work days and the many other things that come with marrying into the military. Besides learning what TDY, PCS, BAH, BAS, DITY, LES mean, this life comes with many trials and responsibilities. 

My husband has been in the military for around 3 years and I'm still learning the in's and out's and the do's and don'ts of military life. It's been a complete eye opener but I am definitely up for the challenge.

Here is the Homefront Team's new Facebook Fan Page. Feel free to become a fan and browse some of our member's shops!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Working With What You Have

When you start out with something as expensive as jewelry get by with what you can. Granted, you just HAVE to have some tools and supplies. But usually there are some things that you can just ad lib. Here's a couple of the things that I get by without:

1. A super duper nice camera: In other words, my dream camera the Canon Digital Rebel.
I have a Canon...a very nice one indeed. However it's 35mm and as much as I love using it, it's not practical to develop every single roll of film. Believe me, I take a TON of pictures and this is not the way to go. However after I discovered the "macro" setting on my dutiful little Olympus, I've been doing fairly well. There are a few tricks to getting my camera to behave and produce fairly good photos. I have to hold EXTREMELY STILL when taking the picture. And since it has a little "delay"...I have to hold my breath too. Oh and don't forget to wait until you hear the "beep" that lets you know it's actually focused on something.

The point is: I'm not going to invest in a super duper nice camera unless I know that it will pay for itself. And right now, it won't.

2. A light box of sorts
I found a method that works for me...and everything else seems to, well, not work! My workbench is by a window. So I just cover it with a white piece of cardstock or my infamous red piece of fabric. Too much light? A little glare? hmmm let's see if I can position my hand or another piece of cardstock juuuuuust right so that it will filter the light. Nope, nothing fancy about that. And while I know a tripod could help me immensely, I can't seem to find the one I had lying around! So propping my camera on my stamp box or anything else similar works pretty well. I was using a yellow pitcher/vase that I had, but I found it was putting a yellowish hue on my silver. I retired that thing really quickly.

3. A "real" jewelry bench. Yes, I've looked at them. I drool over them. Am I going to pay for one? Heck no! When we were living in NC we kept this corner tv cabinet out in the garage forever. I had intentions of turning it into a wine storage thingy or even something I didn't want to get rid of it. Well lo and behold I started getting into silversmithing and this was the PERFECT height and size for a little work bench. Even now I'm so happy I didn't get rid of it.

One last little thing that I thought was super cool: When I bought my flexshaft I wanted to buy one of those contraptions that held up your motor. I found that a plant hanger worked extremely well. AND I already had it stashed in the closet. How perfect.

I love repurposing things and making do with what I have. It's always a sort of challenge that keeps me interested and motivated. I guess it's also a result of my packrat tendencies.

I'd love to hear anybody else's repurposed ideas or uses!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The accident

I thought I'd go ahead and share what happened with this crazy earrings. These are hollow earrings and I was planning on only putting Liver of Sulphur on the inside of the hollow (so it would be black inside) but my funnel was slightly too large...and it spilled all over the outside. I rinsed it off as soon as I could: but it was too late! Alas! The colors were so beautiful I couldn't bear to take them off. So they stayed and I made another pair just like them.

I believe the key is to have the LOS hot and fresh. Dip it in and rinse it off to see the colors progress. Make sure to seal the patina with Renaissance wax or a lacquer so that they do not wear off.

I think I'll have to try more of these

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Demon Brooch

So I've been working on this brooch for the past three days and it's given me so much trouble I thought it only fair to give it a posting.

It started out very simply. I had a bunch of pieces of silver that I wanted to fuse together to make a very textured brooch. Well that was the only part that actually went well. Everything else was a disaster. Nothing was soldering correctly...the back pin wasn't working etc. etc. Just a general bad day and it only got worse.

We even got into making back pins on one of the threads on Etsy....which helped me finally finish after I figured out why the pin wasn't working.

After being coined "the demon":
I had originally planned on not oxidizing the piece, and went ahead and set the peridot stone that I had. Well it just wasn't looking needed more depth and I went ahead and put it in the LOS (liver of sulphur) If something else couldn't go wrong...some of the LOS got underneath my stone and oxidized just a bit of the silver underneath. The result? The stone now looks like an eye, most likely a demon eye for my horribly misbehaving brooch. ha. ha.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Treasure Box

Ok so maybe it isn't a treasure box that everybody would like...but it certainly is mine. When I'm stuck or I'm not sure what I want to work on, this is where I go to peruse all of my pretty stones. Some may sit in there for weeks, waiting for their moment to shine, and others are snatched up straight out of the delivery box...their setting already planned and waiting.

Notice the coins in the lower right hand corner. These coins are from a variety of countries in Europe and I think in Canada. I've been considered doing "something" with them...but nothing that I've sketched or imagined seems quite right. I'm sure it will come to me soon.

I think it's a whole lot easier to lay out all of your stones so they are visible. I just recently collected all of my stones from everywhere and put them in one central place. This way I'm not searching high and low for that peridot cab I had two days ago.

It just works for me.

UNFORTUNATELY...I have a half grown kitten who is horribly bad at stealing small items. I've managed to store this box away so he can't get at it...but the day will probably come where he steals a small bag of my aventurines or the like. And I'm sure I'll find it a day later in the water dish (which is where he sometimes drops his plunder) I'm still looking for the screw on cap for my rock tumbler. I'll probably find that when we move. Ugh!

Don't let his "innocence" fool you! He's BAD.

Just thought I'd share!

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Work Space

Here's my lovely work area. This is when it was actually clean. Usually it looks like a tornado struck. But for about 2 hours it looked this nice.

It's a nice corner to work in...right next to the window so I get a lot of sunlight. I have quite a bit of makeshift items but as long as it's good!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Process Photos

Here are some recent photos of a bracelet that I made for a customer. I tried to include most of my steps. If there isn't a photo for a specific step, it's included in the description.

Round pieces of silver are cut out using a circle cutter

Soldering rings onto cut out circles. Ever so tedious with itty bitty bits of solder.

Coiling little bits of wire and placing it in the domed circles. It is then heated enough to fused all the pieces together. Careful not to melt it into a gooey mess!

Sanding down the domes to create a "flat" part on the bottom so they will sit nicely on the other pieces. They are then sweat soldered onto the other pieces.

To create jump rings, wire is coiled onto a dowel put in a drill. They are then sawed down one side to create perfect jump rings. I'm sawing in this image. (I just needed one hand to take the picture!)

The jump rings after being sawed in half.

After most of the rings are soldered closed, they were then hammered for a nice texture.

Now comes the fun part...figuring out how these guys are going to fit together! Requires a lot of the above picture!

A somewhat complete section of the bracelet. After the bracelet has been assembled, the jump rings that are still open are soldered closed for security. (at least one in each link set)

I wanted to oxidize this bracelet...and this is what it looks like after
it's taken out of the liver of sulphur. Very very black and dull!

Steel wool takes the liver of sulphur off the high spots to create a beautiful contrast between light and dark

Then after all is said and done...into the tumbler until it's as shiny as you like!

The Finished Product.

Myrtle Beach - The Drip Castle Extraordinaire!

So since my lovely ankle was sprained, I found it rather difficult to go out in the ocean. Instead I decided to be content sitting on the sand, searching for random sand bugs and building a drip castle. This was the second one of my series, and quite large compared to my other one, complete with a moat. For those of you who don't know what a drip castle is: Scoop up a soupy mixture of sand and water and fling it into a shape of sort. It's amazing how easily it will stick and stay. It created some really cool textures this way. I was hooked.

Boys love to crush, crumble, stomp, destroy and pulverize anything they can. I'm pretty sure that it took all of my hubb's energy NOT to stomp on my castle while I was making it. But I indulged him after I had finished and taken a few pictures. Needless to say it took all of 2 seconds for my 2 hour long drip castle to be obliterated. At least we both had our fun!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Crocheting Experiment

My experimentation with crocheting began in late '08/early '09. While I enjoyed crocheting mostly scarves, I did promise a friend of mine that I would crochet a cardigan and hat set for her soon to be born baby. This was in March. I promised to crochet it to fit for this winter. Since beginning my adventures in jewelry making, I had nearly abandoned my crocheting. Most of my time was taken up with jewelry-making.

However, the other day the weather proved so lovely that I just had to pull out my crocheting and begin this daunting task. Fortunately the pattern was marked "easy". The weather had turned, if only for a moment, quite cool for South Carolina. Since we South Carolinians do not get much of a "fall season", I took the opportunity to start crocheting before the temperature shot back up to 95 degrees.

I followed the pattern for the cardigan but wasn't please with the hat it didn't crochet in the round. (I guess that was too hard for an "easy" pattern. So I made my own and just kind of went along as I could...including earflaps and a cute pompom. I'm hoping it fits ok!!!

Here's the finished product as well as a neckwarmer I also crocheted for the new mommy. I think they turned out quite well.

For anyone that wants to crochet...I learned mostly by watching youtube videos and a simple beginner book. Sometimes books are hard to follow...therefore the youtube videos can really help you step by step. I'm a hands on kind of they helped a good bit!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Silver Dollar Experiment

So it's not too often that I go around experimenting with old coins. But this one was much different. Ever since I can remember, my mom has ALWAYS wanted this old silver dollar placed in a setting so she could wear it as a necklace. When I started taking jewelry making classes, this is one of the first things I thought about.

But one doesn't delve into something like this without quite a bit of practice. So many other experiments were required before I attempted something like this.

Of course the first thing I did was go to the expert, my instructor. I wanted to be able to show off both sides of the old 1879 coin. Erica suggested that I could use only bezel wire to encase the coin instead of soldering the bezel to silver sheet. (thanks Erica!!) It wasn't until much later that I felt confident enough to start this project.

The major problems that I could foresee would be this:
1. Since bezel had to close over on both sides of the coin, I would have to solder the bezel together as well as solder on some sort of half jump ring on which to attach a bail. I wanted a more traditional look since this coin was pretty old!

2. The half jump ring was going to have to be attached pretty much in the exact center in order for it not to appear lopsided after I pushed the bezel around the coin.

3. How was I going to make a bail, solder it together while being through the already soldered on jump ring? AND no melting! Anything is doable, but I did not want to pull my hair out!

The first attempt at this was, I suppose, practice. I ended up having to pry off the bezel. No harm done though. It was rather tricky to balance the half jump ring on top of the bezel without it being blown off...but it worked! This was the hardest part. After slowly pushing in the bezel ever so methodically on opposite sides of the coin I had to decide what to do about a bail. After soldering three pieces of wire together I cut and sanded and cut and sanded some more, eventually coming up with a tapered bail that wrapped through the ring and fit nicely on the back.

As you can see in this picture, the coin had a
lovely patina that had appeared over time. It was a beautiful mix of a lovely colors including greens and a deep orange. Although I loved to be able to see the definition and detail, I know mom loves shiny things. So I ended up shining up the coin for her liking. The bezel blended very nicely with the coin. So well that it's somewhat hard to see. I think it turned out beautifully. I think you'll did!