The following year found me living way out in the country, surrounded by home garage mechanic businesses and farmer's fields noisy with ploughs, seeders and harvesters racketing around all the time. While I'd banged away a little bit in 2008 using an ancient cast iron vise as a bench block and my landlady's chewed-up old hammer, I started to really go at it in 2009. Boy, oh, boy, was this ever fun. And noisy. I bought a bench block and proper jeweller's hammer, but I still didn't have any clue what I was doing. It took me a long time to figure out wire tempers and gauges. Living in the middle of nowhere, there was no one to ask, and without the vocabulary I didn't know the keywords to find things in a pre-Pinterest online world. There was nothing in the pokey little local library, classes and bead stores were all at least an hour away and, of the people I'd met, none of them were into hammering at all.
Hard-tempered wire is really hard to hammer, especially the 14 gauge brass I was playing with at the time -- and I thought that was all there was. I'd figured out that Artistic Wire was useless for my purposes because of the coating splitting on me all the time. Tinned copper and Argentium silver became my go-to wires for a long time until I found copper at the hardware store.
I also didn't have a camera at that point and had to scan my jewellery, but here are a few pictures from those early days.
I never really bought or wore jewellery my whole life, and working at the kinds of jobs I'd always had, it wasn't practical, if not downright dangerous. It happened though that in 2008 I discovered that I really liked making it -- and people started to buy it. Sometimes I hadn't even finished a piece when it was sold, as happened here at a summer craft show in 2009. It was very slow and I was bored: after taking apart a pair of earrings I'd found earlier in the day in the local thrift store I started to make this necklace with the earring dangles. This girl stopped by and we started chatting. I showed her what was I was doing and how the hippie-wrapped aka "frost fence style" (all I knew how to do at the time) rough Arizona turquoise would sit surrounded by the curved wings created by the dangles. She asked if it was for sale. We agreed on a price, she paid and wandered off for 20 minutes while I finished putting it together.
Those curved machine-made dangles opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me.
Around this time I became aware of the pink breast cancer ribbon symbol, and made my own version with my very, very first wire wrapping, which I'd just come across online. I recall I made variations of these earrings in brass and tinned copper and I think I still have one brass pair left. (Actually, going through the whole folder it's kind of scary to see how many things I still have hanging around here. Definitely long past time to cut them up and recycle the beads, bits and pieces.)
I produced yards of chains, miles of viking knit and mountains of clasps.
I'm just getting back to making chains as they go so well with the wire-weaving I'm doing now, ditto the vintage bead soup stuff I'm getting into. Yes, it's time-consuming to make chain, but so worth it using even a few inches at the front of a necklace. Finishing off with commercial chain around the back where nobody can see it keeps costs down.
Yesterday, I made a lot of figure eight links, intending to make a chain just with them, but felt the loops were too small/the wire too thick (18 gauge) for the effect I was after, and after some false starts, came up with this chain using the crossed ribbon design. Sent it to a friend who said it looked like a vertebrae. COOL!
Today I'll finish the vertebrae chain and time myself to see how long it takes to make so I can price it, and then start new iterations by varying the lengths/angles/curves of the "arms" to see what comes up. Looking at the pictures, I'm thinking these particular figure 8s are too prominent, so I'll try it with 20 gauge wire.
A blast from the past: at the Woodstock farmers market in late February 2009 with my hammered items and PMC flowers and leaves.
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