Tuesday 25 February 2014

My First Attempt at Lisa Yang's Horseshoe Link Bracelet...

This morning I found Lisa's latest post on how to make horseshoe links... and p-i-i-i-ng went my heart. Many, many years ago I'd found a choker made of fine gold-coloured links in a junque shop that was my favourite necklace until I lost it one day, but it looked exactly like Lisa's bracelet. Funny how that is -- there was that necklace, plus a genuine '20s or '30s bakelite pin that fell off my sweater while out riding my bike home from work late one night. Even though these losses happened you don't want to know how many years ago, I still regret their loss to this day. When I do repairs for people, I understand completely how they can cherish something that has virtually zero monetary value, but is priceless all the same. 

Anyway, I thought I'd try this design before I went back to making more "bones". Love those bone necklaces that I'm putting together. (See below.) Meanwhile, go check out the horseshoe tutorial on Lisa Yang's Jewelry Blog first. This is Lisa's finished bracelet. Biiiiig difference from what I ended up mangling.

Lisa Yang's finished bracelet

Yikes... My horseshoes are not very pretty. I used the same gauge of wire and cut them to two inches, but I used a Bic pen as a mandrel rather than a Sharpie.

As you can see, my horseshoes came out heavier and clunkier rather than light and airy like Lisa's links. I also had difficulty getting the links through the loops as the curve is too sharp and I hammered the wire too flat. I ended up having to squidge the looped ends in closer, plus the loops themselves should have been a titch larger.

I also closed bracelet a different way. However, I much prefer Lisa's version as it will lock the bracelet securely together and won't tend to get caught on clothing.

Back to the bench block for me where I'll follow the directions a little more closely ;-).

These are the bone necklaces I finished putting together on Saturday at the market (after I finally found the lost first batch of bones). Sitting right there in front of me all that time. Hope I can find my package of black flocked earring cards the same way. They've completely disappeared off the face of the planet.

These blue crystals are kinda sorta a little more aqua-ish than they appear here. Fire-polished Chinese crystals. The two brass, enamel and crystal connectors are from Michael's. They have pretty cool stuff like that that I can't find anywhere else around here out in the boonies, so for me it's worth the almost 60-minute drive when they have their 1/2 price sales.

Matching earrings. Again, using sterling silver earwires, although now that they're put together, I think slightly larger handmade copper earwires will look better.

All three bone necklaces. I'll be making more earrings, as soon as I make more bones. Copper bone necklace with clear crystals, 24" $45; plain copper bone necklace, 21", $25; asymmetrical copper bones with blue AB crystals, 38-1/2", plus earrings, $79.

Lookit what showed up in my mailbox yesterday from Joanne Nelson's trip to Tucson. It's like holding the mountain in your hands they're so large and raw and gloriously blue! Or... Chicken Little was correct, and the sky has indeed fallen upon us.

Rough lapis lazuli beads from Nelson Gemstones

I'd love to see what people are doing with their hammering and I'd be happy to post any pictures.

REMINDER!!! Only 16 days until I leave for The Gem Expo in Toronto at the Hyatt Regency on King Street. See you March 14, 15 and 16!!!

Thanks for looking!

Sunday 23 February 2014

Rompecabezas, an Argentinian movie...

I just found on Netflix an Argentinian movie called Puzzle (Rompecabezas), about two middle-aged people who love doing jigsaw puzzles. It's in Spanish with English subtitles. 

I LOVE doing jigsaw puzzles. So did my dad. One year for Christmas I got him the largest jigsaw puzzle I could find, must've been 3 x 4 or 5 feet, and we took over the dining room table for three days (until my mother finally kicked us off -- it was almost finished, too). Nobody got dressed for three days. The whole family worked on it. We had to have Christmas dinner on TV dinner trays in the living room. 

Uh oh... I just discovered there are online jigsaw puzzles. Game over for me.

I'm supposed to be pricing new jewellery. Like this hammered copper "bone" and crystal necklace:

Thanks for looking!

Monday 17 February 2014

Memory of Max & Getting Hammered...

Yeah, it was around 1:00 a.m. in the morning, one year ago today, that Max started to die. The day itself, like today, was sunny, Max's favourite kind of day to go running around burrowing and playing in the snow.

Still cannot believe how much I miss my little fuzzy boy every single day.

Wire-wrap chain:
On other fronts, I got a commission on Saturday at the market and put it together yesterday. I had made the chain during one of my Netflix marathons back in the fall and Winter brought me the pendant. Since the pendant is provided, I figure this length of chain (about 44 inches) would cost $50. These are vintage 100-year-old greasy blue Venetian glass seed beads that I got from Naomi at Black Tulip Designs wrapped in hard temper copper wire which I buy by the pound from The Ring Lord. Using the hard temper wire is murder on my fingers, but I find I have a lot more control over the shape of the loops. Soft copper is really mushy for this type of chain. In the closeup photo you can appreciate the depth and lustre. These beads are wonderful. New beads don't hold a candle to them.

Getting hammered:
I'm subscribed to Lisa Yang's jewellery blog and lately Lisa's been posting a series of tuts on basic jewellery-making. I'm always a fan of going back to the basics, if only to find out about new tools and new materials to play with, not to mention the chance that someone somewhere has come up with a new and improved way of doing some simple thing.

I haven't done any hammering for at least two years -- mostly because I was doing other things, but also this past year I'd been living where hammering wasn't feasible. If you've ever lived on a river, especially bounded by cliffs on either side, you'll understand how all sounds are magnified like crazy up and down the river. But now I'm out in the country again and, while I have neighbours on either side of me, we're also bounded on three sides by gravel pits and manufacturing facilities all making their own assorted noises, and a vast golf course to the west. Therefore, I feel free to whack away... although maybe not in the middle of the night.

Lisa has been demoing so-called "bone" connectors, and I made two batches yesterday, trying to beat her time. I'm down to about 2 minutes per "bone". I've said this before: I'm no jewellery designer; I'm a technician. I love to figure out ways to do things easier, faster and more efficiently. Since I would like to sell my stuff, the more efficiently I work the less time it takes me to make things and the greater my profit margin; the less I can sell an item for the better my chances of selling something. Plus I get bored really quickly and like to do repetitive stuff fast.

I used to work in newspaper and printing binderies and know about optimising papers and envelopes on a table in order to stuff envelopes and newspapers. It's no different when one is hammering wire. And I get a production line going.

The first thing I became aware of yesterday was the height at which I was sitting at my folding table. I have a wicker chair I sit at. There was a HUGE difference in ease of hammering when I put the cushion back on the chair as it raised me up 3 inches. I've found I like to sit lower and hunched over with my nose closer to the table top when I'm stringing or wire-wrapping. I found the hammering went much easier, more efficiently (and therefore faster) and I had better control over the effect because I had more arm control when I was sitting up higher in particular because I was using hard-tempered 14 gauge copper wire. I also found I could only hammer three or four "bones" at a time and had to take a couple of minutes' break in between each batch. Even though I'm ambidextrous most of the time, I'm not good at hammering using my left hand. I'm going to look like a lopsided Popeye when I'm finished this. Muskles on top of muskles.

Remove anything you don't need from the table. In mid-whack, a big bin of beads sitting on the corner landed upside down on the floor... absolutely everything jumps around when hammering. Using a doubled over beading mat keeps the noise level and the bouncing down, but I'm still working on figuring out how to keep the bench block itself as well as the mat from moving. The bead mat helps, and I noticed if I hammer wire in the middle of the block, it tends to stay in one place, but when holding short wire "bones" I'd be forever hammering my fingers to a pulp so this time I was stuck hammering closer to the edge of the block. I'm wondering, since I've seen other people use it in tutorials, if using a piece of leather would keep the bench block in place. I'd love to hear from someone if that is true. Makes me wish I hadn't been so hasty throwing out an old purse that I could have cut up.

Note that I use memory wire cutters for the thicker, harder wire gauges and always when I'll be hammering any wire as it cuts off truly square and 45 degrees to the length of the wire, rather than angled as with the regular cutters. I really appreciated the pure efficiency of this punch that I bought a while back and used for the first time. I also have one of those gizmos that you screw down to punch a hole with, but this is way, way faster. Note also the diamond file. I used that to clean off the burrs from the punch, as well as cleaned up any sharp edges around the hammered ends. I thought the pack of diamond files to be really expensive when I first bought them, but I use them all the time for so many different things.

Lacking a tumbler (and having to live with the fine scratches from the file), I opted to use ketchup to clean my finished bones.

Smooshing the pieces around. Takes only seconds to clean them.

Finish with some dish detergent and rinse. A scrubbie and soap got rid of any Sharpie marks. I have filtered well water with unknown mineral content so I'll need to get some distilled water. 

A New Toy for Ruth & Me:
Every show I do I try to upgrade and/or buy one item to make life easier in an away venue. For the March 14th, 15th & 16th Gem Expo in Toronto I bought a dolly. Since hotel luggage carts are at a premium (let alone unavailable in some venues) waiting for half an hour or more to unload and load up my truck is not what I want to be doing especially at the end of the show when I'm looking forward to a two-hour drive home.

Even though this dolly is all-metal, it is still about the same weight as the mostly plastic one that cost $10-$15 more, and is less bulky/bulbous. Plus this one can be used both vertically and horizontally. My trick will be to keep track of those cotter pins that lock the handlebar in place. Since I'm basically hauling bins of rocks, I need the sturdier all-metal construction and the big wheels, essential when moving heavy loads on dirt paths, grass, snow, uneven road surfaces and humping up and down steps which, if a dolly is going to collapse on you, these are the exact places.

I also bought some half-size bins with the flip-flop locking lids -- I'm forever misplacing lids -- so that everything not only stacks, the smaller sizes will hold more-reasonably-easy-to-heave-around quantities of beads and jewellery. My goal is to get everything into two sizes of bins, ditch the open top liquor store cardboard boxes, and anything else will fit into Tyvek shopping bags, still stackable and portable/easy to heave around.

Hammered Tinned Copper Earrings:
I promptly lost the first batch of copper bones I made. Zero idea where they got to. Made a second batch. Then I made these using 14 gauge tinned copper. Very soft wire. See how wiggly and bendy these got compared to the hard temper copper wire that really held its shape, but the tinned copper does goosh out a lot easier.

This morning I was contemplating them and wondered if the "waterfall" effect looks better (the earring on the right). I think it does. My online pal Joanne over at Nelson Gemstones agreed, but also suggested these would look better with the large jump rings in a silver colour. She just got back from Tucson: go check out the new beads she scored on her Facebook page. I'm so jealous!!! Next year!

Now to get off this computer and go make a chain out of the "bone" connectors and make more of these earrings and figure out a necklace variation.

Hope everyone is having a relaxing Family Day here in Canada and President's Day down in the US.

Went to Bulk Barn for the first time in over a year, and since they renovated.
This poster made me laugh. Yummy!!!

Thanks for looking!

Friday 7 February 2014

Finally up & running... for now

That explosion in the typing factory was my power box thing whatsit. My hard drive must be close to eight years old -- several lifetimes in computer years. Over the years, pretty much all the innards have been upgraded and replaced, but not the power whatsit. It was either its time to blow this popsicle stand we call earth, or it was a massive power surge, which we do get frequently out here in the country. But I don't think it could have been that, because everything else that was hooked up is fine. No damage at all to them. Anibal says the surge protector worked fine -- it did what it was supposed to do, blowing out the power whatsit. If the surge protector hadn't worked, the hard drive would have been fried, as well.

I was customer NUMBER ONE at 11:55 yesterday morning, Thursday, February 6th, at Anibal's new PC Farm location on Vaughan Road in Toronto, just around the corner and south of where he used to be. The sign at least will stay the same! No more steps to carry heavy desktops down.

He'd opened his first store on the mezzanine level of a dollar store across the street from this second location around the time I moved back from Italy in the fall of '98. I was wandering along St. Clair looking for a place to buy printer ink. I'd just moved into the neighbourhood and there he was -- and I've been a faithful customer ever since.

Track lights were being installed and shelving painted while I was there. Everything is in boxes, but he's still open for business. He replaced the power whatsit AND discovered I had a huge virus and several little ones. That's what took the time to get rid of, otherwise I'd have been on my way in 20 minutes.

He also told me XP is going the way of the dodo some time in the next 2 or 3 months so I MUST upgrade to Windows 7 sooner rather than later. Oh, noooooooooooo... but I can keep my 2003 for Word and Excel. He did promise me that. I will finally be able to get a backup laptop for a good price. I suppose I'll survive. Hey, what can I say? I still miss WP 5.1 for doing transcription. All this changeover has to be done in the next couple of weeks meaning another trip to Toronto. Maybe this time I'll be able to get in a little bead-shopping in the morning.

Meanwhile, in between shovelling that pesky snow that will not stop falling, I have been busy:

These are some things I've made this week. Trying to work with asymmetry. Asymmetry is pure agony for me -- in 3D. The only way I can see if it works is to turn it into 2D -- take a picture. Part of what I am trying to do here is a balancing act in another way: in designing my jewellery I try to leave room for people to add their own dangles and more chains while still being able to wear the items as they are.

First iteration:

After umpteen addings and subtractings of skulls or not, extra quartz beads or not...

Final iteration, and a pair of earrings to match.

One of the many miles of seed bead chains I made in late November while watching waaaay too much Netflix:

100-year-old vintage greasy blue Venetian glass seed beads, tinned copper wrapping, zinc/pewter(?) swallow, plated clasps, mystery blue dyed quartz(?).

Playing with colours. The multistone rice beads look fantastic wrapped like this -- and of course I only have one string of it. I want to use the other half of the string and try it with copper wire. This has been dismantled, but isn't that Nacozari turquoise beautiful with the green and blue together?

Just wanted to mention: go check out Lisa Yang's jewellery blog. She's doing a whole series on basic wire wrapping and hammering, what tools to buy and why.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday 4 February 2014


Another long silence from me. My computer exploded on Sunday afternoon. Yes. Big Phhhht, smelly wires, the whole deal. I thought, okay, relaxxxxxxx, you can go to Toronto and see Anibal at PC Farm tomorrow... he'll fix it, or replace it. It's got to be ten years old, albeit with upgrades and tweaks along the way. Then I thought, nah, I'd better phone first...

Luckily I have his top-secret cell phone number. But I still agonised over phoning him on a Sunday. Good thing I did, though. My timing couldn't have been worse: he's moving premises. I would have arrived to a still-emptying shop, and all his stuff in boxes at the new store, located now on Vaughan Road, just south of St. Clair.

I hope by Thursday evening to be back in business. But what a pity. I was just settling into a late winter of Nashville on Netflix. Wonderful music.