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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Works in Progress

I thought I'd start out with a view of my studio bench. This is where most of my fabrication takes place, and as you can see, I like to have everything nearby and on hand. It looks a little messy, but oh well, it works for me.

On the bench itself you can see the brick where I like to fuse and solder things, the torch to the left, a big cup of water to dunk things into to cool them off - I don't like to wait - flux, paintbrushes to apply it, small tools, etc. At the back of the bench is the shelf with my metal supply, and to the left, the containers that hold a lot of my beads. What you can't see is the table to the right where I keep my pickle pot, fire extinguisher, oxidizing station, and a bit of clear table space. On the floor is my lap tray where I do finer work that requires no torch. When I'm doing that, I clear off the workbench and put the lap tray on top of the bench. A small operation, really, and I crave a larger space with TONS of work area and a floor I can really dirty up, but it's sufficient and I feel lucky to have it.

I've been a bit mesmerized with fabrication lately - fusing, melting, soldering metals. To the right is a photo of a fusion of my scraps that will eventually become a pendant called "The Boneyard". This is a term commonly used for scrap metal and vehicles and I thought it was a fitting name for this piece. I took a bunch of my leftover pieces, arranged them in a pleasing (to me) way, and applied some flux to them and then lit the torch. The pieces fused to each other, but what I love about it is that you can still see the origins of them - the earwire that didn't quite make it into a design, the wire wrapped end of something, the remnants of sterling left from cutting out guitar picks. The mind can see anything else in there too - I've allowed mine to wander over this piece many times. I oxidized it and polished the forefront pieces to add some depth and contrast. The lighting in this photo doesn't entirely capture it but it's strikingly beautiful in its simplicity. Here is a close up:

Another project I played with was making this unique, organic sterling silver and copper ring. It still needs some finishing and polishing and maybe oxidization in some places. I'll let you know when it's ready to hit the shop. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Birthday is Over

Okay, here it is, the light of day and I'm really 41. Hard to believe it but I am and I think today I accept it LOL.

Anyway - the birthday bash and giveaway is over. Thanks to all who participated - it made my day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Giveaway!

It's my 41st birthday today and I thought I'd celebrate by giving YOU presents. Purchase anything from my shop today only and receive a pair of handmade sterling silver buds post earring with backs absolutely free!

What's the Diff - Argentium or Sterling?

There's a (relatively) new kid on the block when it comes to silver, and its called "Argentium". It's use is spreading due to it's tarnish resistant nature. I've heard people go so far as to call it superior to traditional sterling silver, but in my mind, it is not superior - only different.

Traditional sterling silver is an alloy of 925 parts silver to 75 parts (usually) copper. This helps to provide some strength to the metal, as pure silver is quite soft. The copper though, also helps to tarnish the metal. Personally, I love sterling silver that gets some black in the grooves of the piece because it really helps enhance the details but many people like their metal bright and shiny.

Argentium is also an alloy, but one made of silver and germanium. It is resistant to tarnish and cleans up quite nicely, often just in a warm soapy bath. I find if I leave it out and exposed to air it goes a kind of goldish, brassy colour. What is important to me in the difference between these two metals is their applications - what I do with them and how come I choose that particular one for the job.

When using the torch to ball up the little end of the metal for use as headpins, nose jewellery, the little bud earrings I make, or the ball end earwires I often use, I choose which one based on what I want the outcome to be. Argentium makes very smooth, fluid little balls, whereas traditional sterling makes little balls that are slightly pitted, or cratered. In the photos below, the first photo shows earrings made with Argentium, and the second shows traditional sterling - see the difference?

If I'm going for a smooth sleek look, I'll choose the Argentium, but if I want something a little more earthy and organic looking, it's traditional sterling silver hands down every time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Woman Behind the Designs

When I first decided to start blogging, I did some research. I do a LOT of research on a lot of topics, so this was no exception. Everything indicated that you should have an idea behind the purpose of your blog before you start. What is the theme? Should it be business or personal? A combination of both? Most recommendations were that you choose one and stick with it, and that if you have a business, your blog should stick to business topics and stay away from personal ones.

I think there's some merit to that. It's unlikely you want to know if my dog is sick, or if my son didn't make the local hockey team. These are fine things to blog about if your blog is about pets or hockey, but mine is about jewellery and my business of creating it and selling it. Today, though, I thought I would let you (my whole 156 people who have read my blog) know a little more about who I am, why I do what I do, and where the creations came from.

I'm forty (gulp) almost one years old - I have two days left to be forty. I was a crafty kid who couldn't get enough of macrame (any of you remember macrame?), braiding, stringing, making pom poms, crocheting.... you get the picture. As I got older and started having children I somehow didn't find the time to pursue creation. I guess I had created two little someones and that's a pretty big thing to create.

As I approached forty years old, a year ago, in fact, I began to have some strange things happen to me physically. My arms went numb. My legs went numb. My leg would feel like someone had wrapped a tensor bandage around it too tightly and left it there. I began having sensations of pins and needles in my limbs, as well as stabbing sensations. My back became hypersensitive, so that feeling a simple drop of water running down my back was almost painful it was so annoying. Sometimes it felt like mosquitos were biting my limbs - quick, stinging pains. I went to the doctor and was referred to a neurologist.

I began to crave creation again - the urge to create became very strong. My husband brought me home some copper wire and I wrapped a bunch of beach glass my children had collected years ago. When I created, I didn't notice the pain as much. I researched online to find out more about jewellery making and found a wealth of information: how-to's, articles, opinions, ideas, and outlets to sell your goods. And I practiced - man, did I practice.

I got brave and ordered some sterling silver and then was too afraid to cut into it for about a week. One day when I was ready, I made the first cut and lost the fear. I fell in love with the process of twisting wire to make it what I saw in my mind and on the drawings on little scraps of paper that began to follow me everywhere. And when I created, I was fully present with the creation; allowing the pain to be in the background, instead of the foreground.

The neurologist did a test. The neurologist pronounced me fine before he even did the test. "Yes, sir, I am fine. I'm forty years old and I don't know what is happening to me and you have no answer, but I am fine it seems." I had to accept that there was no answer just then.

A look back in my history shows numerous 'minor' things going on for years: a feeling of being off balance, a sensation of walking 'funny' all of a sudden - was it me or the new shoes? Fatigue. Bone crushing, can't lift my head, no energy for language kind of fatigue.

I have continued the creations over this past year; growing more confident with my materials and moving into the world of fabrication. The 'phantom' mostly hid away for a bit but I was always aware of its presence. It left my back sensations and a couple other things but steered clear for a while. And then it returned and it was the same but different. I began limping - always on the right leg and many times being unaware I was doing it. Some days my hands won't work on the keyboard for any length of time. It is like there's a disconnect between brain and hands. Sometimes I'm fatigued, I trip over things even when I know they're there, and life is different than it used to be. And the other day there was a brown spot in my vision on my left eye. And I know. In my heart, I know. I see another neurologist in June.

When I am at my bench, my hands work just fine. And I am grateful - for this life, for the gift I've been given, and for this opportunity to share a little more about who I am.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Customer Rewards Program

Today I'm launching my customer rewards program. As a small business owner, I believe it is important to reward customers who shop with me and refer their friends to shop with me. I know the world has changed, and we're living in an electronic age, but the basics of business have not changed. Business is about relationships and communication - key elements to the success of any venture.

The rewards program is very simple. You refer a friend. When the friend purchases from me, they tell me the Etsy username of the person who referred them, and you get a gift certificate sent to you for 15% off. I hope to issue lots of them!

Oh, and I created a new design of sterling silver hand forged nose studs that launched yesterday:

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I managed to fuse a copper circle the other day after many failed attempts. I wasn't really sure what I was doing right or wrong. Sometimes the ends of the wire balled up on me; an outcome I really didn't want. And other times, the wire simply didn't fuse - it got really, really black and it didn't 'become one'. I kept practicing and trying. Over and over and finally, I got it! A lovely circle. What I did was form the circle, overlapping the ends by about 4mm, and then I hammered it flat so the ends were really meshed together. I then fluxed the whole thing and lit the torch to it on a really high flame. Success! It fused.

Today I played with sterling silver fusion, which is SO much easier. This time I didn't flatten the circles, I simply used a dowel to wrap my circle around, and cut them out; again, leaving about 4mm of overlap. I positioned the circle so that the cut ends of overlap touched each other very tightly. I put it on my soldering brick (simply a heat resistant brick found in the hardware store - buy the ones they put into woodstoves or the bottom of a fireplace), and put flux on the whole thing using a small paintbrush. Flux is available from your jewelry supply stores and is essential for fusing and/or soldering. I lit the torch and turned it up fairly high and made the metal red hot, focusing the flame on the place where the two ends touched. The hottest part of the torch is just past the blue flame. I watched closely as the metal got all beautifully liquidy and voila! joined to each other to form a fused circle. I was entirely fascinated by the process. I discovered that sterling is easier to fuse than copper and I found that it just takes practice.
Thanks for reading. Pictured is a pair of earrings I made.
The bottom circle is fused.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Pull of Copper

I'm finding myself more and more drawn to copper these days - perhaps because it lends itself so well to the types of designs I enjoy creating. I love jewellery that just has that handmade look to it!

Rustic, and not so perfect in form; something for
the eye and the mind to be curious about.

Copper is reputed to have healing properties and many swear by its use for relieving pain, particularly in diseases such as arthritis and rheumatic illnesses. I can't attest to its abilities for these purposes, but I remember my grandmother always wore a copper bangle and swore it helped her arthritis pain.

It is a beautiful metal, and one that is experiencing a "come back" in popularity. It Rocks! in my opinion ;)