Monday 31 March 2014

Hammered Tinned Copper Paddles...

No idea what I'm going to do with these yet, but I had fun watching Crossing Lines on Netflix and pounding the snot out of little bits of wire. I find I get caught up in making a pile of components and then figuring out later what to do with them. Makes for a lot of waste, I know.

It's also a sad commentary on movies and TV shows that I am able to not focus on the show a half to two-thirds of the time and still follow the action -- or more accurately, not really care if I've missed anything -- although I did like this show better than most. Love the locations, and love the mix of languages mostly without subtitles, the assumption being that most people watching (Crossing Lines is a European production) will understand. The one thing I delighted in while living in Italy was the seamless switching between languages that so many people I met were capable of. Not me, though. Alas, I am a linguistic dolt.

My Sunday afternoon/evening production:

I used 16 gauge tinned copper wire cut at 1/8" intervals starting at 3/4". The maximum length using 16 gauge wire is 1-1/2" before the paddles get too flimsy to be used for anything. After hammering, once I made the loop, the overall length was about the same as when I cut it. The single long paddle on the right I did as a "bone". Today I want to make copper paddles, but will also make tinned copper bones, but, as noted below, I'll be using 14 gauge rather than 16.

Close-up of the shorter wires as they will look strung on cord:

The short paddles on the top left I did in 14 gauge and I recommend that as the better gauge to make these in.

I really like the way the copper starts to bleed through at the ends. The blackish gunge will come off with a polishing cloth.

I cut the wires to length with memory wire cutters to get a good squared end. Flush cutters cut at an angle and when hammering the ends get super flimsy and sharp which will mean taking a lot of extra time to file them off. Always check the ends for sharp pickies, anyway. The last thing you want to have happen is some irate customer coming back demanding you replace their shirt or sweater, or worse, complaining that they cut themselves while wearing something you've made.

Another note is that I don't hammer on the same table my computer or phone is on. There is also plenty of cushioning underneath the anvil/bench block. I use a folded tea towel. Here is my multitasking setup, although when I'm hammering, I keep the table bare of anything that will jump around and fall on the floor:

Further notes about the wire I'm using here. I love tinned copper for its pewtery and tribalish looks, that it's relatively inexpensive and that it is NOT coated. This wire is from Artistic Wire. Note that you canNOT use "non-tarnish" wire. Non-tarnish means there is a clear plasticky type of coating on the wire, which will crack and fray when it's hammered. You need bare wire. I get 14 gauge copper wire at the hardware store in the electrical department where I can buy it by the foot off a big roll. It comes as seven wires twisted together and I think I remember the guy telling me it's used for wiring stoves.

I keep old raggedy leather winter gloves to use for straightening wires.

There's also another type of wire in the electrical department with about 5 wires twisted together (has a black rubber-like coating that is easy enough to peel off after slicing down the length of the wires with a box cutter) but what's great  is that one of the wires is around 8 or 10 gauge (the others are around 18 gauge), really useful for making pendants or large focals. Canadian Tire, Home Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe's... there are many places to get copper wire.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday 27 March 2014

Skull Bracelets & Necklaces

I made these yesterday while watching Downton Abbey.

I had made the skull & noose bracelet, sent a picture to the customer I had in mind, he ordered it in a necklace version. I had in the meantime dug out those patinaed brass tubes that I've had for years and never used, made a skull necklace version for his approval, as well as two long necklaces, one with an asymmetrical wire-wrapped section of 6 mm quartz crystals and one with 6 mm Indian agate (which I got from Nelson Gemstones).

This morning I sent out the necklace picture and got another order for the plain skull bracelet.

Downton Abbey done for now, I've got The Unit cued up and ready to go as soon as I track down some lunch... or maybe it's an early dinner now. Yes -- yikes, it's almost 2:30. Then it's back to making skully things.

Multitasking central:

Hope you're all having a productive week. Thanks for looking!

Sunday 23 March 2014

Variations on a Teardrop Chain...

After seeing this chain on Pinterest this morning...

Tutorial for a handmade chain, from Lampwork Etc., tutorial available here.

...I was meandering around in my mind as I often do wondering how I could improve on this. Because I tend to not like "open-ended" anything -- if for no other reason than I have long hair that gets caught in everything, not to mention if I'm wearing anything expensive or precious, it's guaranteed gonna get snagged and ruined -- I came up with this variation where the round loop carries to wrap and contain the teardrop end.

I have been making a lot of wire "bone" chains in copper and decided to try this new chain in tinned copper, my other go-to metal since I'm also using a lot of handmade, raw and matte stones, pewter pendants and coin silver anything these days. FYI, I was at Arton Beads in Toronto the other day and noticed that while a bit shiny it's a grey shiny: their white gold plated jump rings actually have a pewterish colour to them, which makes them a bit more blendy than regular silver-plated jump rings with the tinned copper wire.

After a bit of experimenting with the wire and pliers (I arbitrarily picked 20 gauge wire for this, and worked off an 18-24" piece of wire) this is what I came up with. At about 1/2", I found the little ones are too stumpy, although they'd make nice dangles for something with another bead hanging from them. The longer links forming the chain run from 5/8" to 3/4" in length.

This now kinda looks like barbed wire to me... which is interesting, because one of my intentions is to make more guy-ish jewellery and this would make a cool bracelet or choker/necklace for guys and not be that expensive. Looked up barbed wire images on Google and found this...

Bwcollage1 well as all kinds of jewellery with barbs... so I guess I'm a little late to the party. Story of my life.

Pretty simple. Also the hammering isn't that loud. Tinned copper wire is very soft and it only requires a few taps to work-harden the links.

Pix are fairly self-explanatory. Let the wire poke out a bare 1/2", then wrap the wire around your pliers.

Bend wire straight back at a 45 degree angle, and 45 degrees to the plane of the teardrop loop.

Do a regular wrapped loop...

(After you've completed your first link and before completing your wrapping on the second link, don't forget to string the first teardrop to start the chain.)

Wrap three times. Cut the wire so that when you squeeze it in, the cut end will line up between the two parallel wires at the top of the teardrop shape. Try to goosh it down in between the two wires a bit. Use a file to smooth off any rough edges.

Ready to hammer... voila.

Chain in progress & some variations:

I had some 6/0 seed beads handy, so I tried a few links with them. You'll need to straighten out the wires at the top of the teardrop so they're parallel and squash them flat a bit to get them both into the seed bead, then complete the wrap up top. Be careful to wrap firmly but not too tightly or you'll break the bead.

Then I got to thinking... my barbed wire has turned into a noose... This would make a nice earring.

This is the part of making something where things get a little fuzzy: as in, have I started to lose the concept? Does this still read as, say, a stylised barbed wire chain, or a noose design... or is it kind of a nothing now with the skulls included???

I'll send this to one of my guy customers and get his input.

What are you working on these days? Thanks for looking!

Thursday 20 March 2014

March 2014 GEM EXPO Photos... finally

I've had to take my computer in to have XP wiped and 2007 installed, and forgot to transfer all my edited photos to a thumb drive so I could load them onto my new backup laptop, a refurbished and fully loaded Dell Inspiron that I got for a real deal from Anibal at PC Farm in Toronto. Personally, except for the all-important portability, I've never seen the point of laptops. To see the screen, the computer has to be elevated so high I can't type on it, I have to add a keyboard so I can achieve some blistering speed, not to mention a mouse, which equals even greater speed and accuracy. And there's my footpedal and head phones, and by the end of it, I seriously don't see the point. To lug all this around would require a suitcase on wheels at least.

Blech. But it works.

In the meantime, here are the pictures from the March 2014 iteration of The Gem Expo, which was a total hoot. Many vendors predicted a slow Friday, but attendance was way up and continued all through the weekend. I saw many familiar faces and made new friends and I hope customers for life. I got the sense that we all did well in terms of sales -- I sold out of several styles of beads and quite a few pieces of my jewellery which was truly gratifying.

I stayed again at the Strathcona Hotel on York Street (across the street from the Royal York, which is itself across Front Street from Union Station) and walking distance to the main tourist and sports venues, if anyone is planning a home game weekend). The Strath Pub grub hit the spot each night after a full day on my feet.

To me there is nothing in the world like an icy Alexander Keith's...

Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Thai dipping sauce...

Neither of which lasted long... These are soooooooooooo good!

The shrimp were Friday night. Saturday night I was debating whether to have the lobster quesadilla again, but I finally decided to try out the Strath Hamburger. It was very, very good, with a profound grilled flavour. Yes, I ate the whole thing, I was that hungry.

Also good enough to eat are my beads... On the left is Ruth's mother's homemade chicken and rice soup with cilantro, and shredded vegetables. I ate so healthily at this show thanks to her mom and for which I am profoundly grateful. Anyone who does away shows knows how difficult it is to eat properly. Those luscious blue beauties are ginormous chunks of raw lapis with very clean 2mm holes. Imagine blue chocolate... that's how delicious these look.

I was given the loan of a magazine with an article documenting the lapis lazuli mining process as it is still conducted today. Absolutely mind-boggling. The photo shows a man about to hike a day or more down the mountain with a 100 kilo chunk of lapis on his back. And we complain about how tired we are after a day sitting in front of a computer. Us and our first world problems, eh?

The sense I got when I received these chunky lapis beads from Nelson Gemstones was that I was holding the mountain in my hands. They really are something.

Shots of the table as you would see it coming from three different directions. I was kind of up at the top of the T when you come in the ballroom door...

The layout of the grids was perfect. This is definitely the way to do it. People can get right up to the beads, and there was sufficient lighting, as well. I also used the bed risers on the tables, as well. It also helps to be situated near another vendor who has really good floodlighting -- that glow of light you see on the table coming out from the wall is actually from Rainbow Beads, who in terms of lighting were still a considerable distance along the wall, but that's how powerful their floodlights were.

Shots of some of the beads... this is my loose bead table.

Detailed photos. If there's anything that looks intriguing to you, email me for availability/price.

Thank you again to all my returning and new customers. You really do make the show for me and I look forward to seeing you all again. Email me with any questions and comments.

Thanks for looking and see you at the July 2014 GEM EXPO!

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Wow. Check this out...

I just read this blog post I'm subscribed to on how to reach and connect with potential customers, and for some reason this one has really resonated with me. Funny how that works, eh? Substitute "jewellery" or "furniture" or anything for "art" and it still works.

For some reason, when I'm writing, I think in image, colour and shape, but when I'm drawing, painting or even making jewellery, I'm thinking in words.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Which Earrings Look Better???

The original design, hammered tinned-copper dangles with a copper ring...

...or with a silver-plated ring...

These are the exact same dangles in each picture. They look so different, don't they? If nothing else, you can see how the light catches them. Definitely will be making more of these when I get back from The Gem Expo happening this weekend. I'm so impatient to get away that I've already started loading up the truck -- and I have a checklist this time. Hope to see some of you at the show.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday 9 March 2014

Lost... & A "Pearl Bones" Necklace-in-Progress Found...

Another week lost due to psychologically horrific (me, the colossally chicken patient -- I am terrified; hear me cluck) dental pain, including an attempted tooth-yanking this past Wednesday -- the fill-in (sorry, couldn't resist) dentist was unable to get me frozen after an hour and 4 or 5 needles -- and not for lack of trying: it turns out I have an anatomically anomalous jaw and the nerves aren't where they're supposed to be, hence the decades-long inability of just about every dentist I've ever gone to being unable to get me frozen, or, if they do manage it, it takes at least an hour and still requires mid-work anaesthetic top-ups -- and me having become the wimpering, cowering patient from hell.

For some voodoo, woo-woo, whatever-woo reason my current doc is the first I've found in some 20 years who's been able to freeze me solid the first time. I'm now waiting on him to get back tomorrow from his vacation (how dare he go away to have fun!?) and wade through myriad stacked-up patients until he can yank my tooth last thing on Wednesday afternoon. After which, early-early Thursday morning I will hop into my packed truck, head to Paris to my magical hairdresser Marie, proprietor of Peridot Hair Design, then finally get on the road to take part in the March 2014 edition of The Gem Expo at the Hyatt Regency in Toronto. To add to my current misery, a pile of transcription work showed up a few days ago, all due before I go.

Meanwhile, I took advantage of six peaceful hours sitting at the market yesterday and finally started putting together this necklace using the copper "bones" I'd made a week ago.

I had about ten inches completed when one of my regular customers came wandering by. I asked what she thought, truly never imagining that she would even like this style -- she's a Swarovski fanatic through and through. She loved it. Sold. Another argument for always be making things while you're sitting at a market or a show when it's quiet -- and go ahead and show unfinished pieces to anyone who stops by. Get their feedback. It'll gobsmack you every time what they will tell you, and makes them invested in the end result. They'll look at the other items on your table with new eyes. And believe me, by showing works-in-progress and starting conversations, I have sold more items in their unfinished state than I can remember. (Just don't forget to photograph 'em before they're gone for good.) Bonus is if I'm able to finish the item while they complete their shopping. Then they're over the moon. I also use this opportunity to plant the seed that I do small repairs inexpensively, often while they wait, and can also remake old jewellery they might have lying around.

These are the short "bones" that I've been making where I cut 14 gauge wire to 3/4", rather than the original 1" and hammered with a twist. I tried hammering them so that both ends are the same, but compared to the angled bones and the light sparking off the copper, the flat bones just look... well, flat.

After hammering, the 3/4" wire gooshes out to about 1". The longer bones I made a couple of weeks ago are great with bigger, chunkier beads, but I found these shorter ones to have a finer and more elegant look, hence combining them with the smaller diameter pearls. The downside, of course, is that you need more bones to make anything -- or you could space them out further. I thought about trying 5/8" or even 1/2" lengths but economies of scale kick in at that point -- any necklaces would cost double, but... the shorter lengths would make a much nicer bracelet, as well as earrings for people for whom longer dangles don't suit. (Is that even a sentence? Sigh... my brain is not functioning at all these days.)

These are a particularly nice selection of small baroque pearls with a beautiful, subtle rainbow lustre I found in a thrift shop somewhere years ago, could've been the Goodwill, Sally Ann... can't remember when or where. But I bet I only paid a buck for them. Took the original necklace apart and then never did anything with them, stayed lost in my stash until they resurfaced a couple of days ago. I've never found anything comparable since.

I'll make similar drop earrings to the crystal ones I posted a week or two ago. I have copper earwires, but I asked what my customer preferred. She wants sterling earwires, despite that they'll look different. What I'll do is make the wires instead of using store-bought and add a copper bead to tie the two metals together.

Question: is there a trend back to matchy-matchy? I've been asked more times for matching earrings, and even a matching bracelet after years of being told nobody wears jewellery that matches these days.

Because it looks like these bones are going to be a popular item, I will make several pairs of earwires at the same time to have them ready to go for more earrings. If you're new to reading my posts and want to try making these yourself, head on over to Lisa Yang's blog for the various tutorials on bones, as well as lucky horseshoe and teardrop bracelets. I'm presently fiddling around with my horseshoes to make a necklace or choker. Haven't quite figured that all out.

One more plug for The Gem Expo. Hyatt Regency on King St., in downtown Toronto. March 14, 15 & 16. Follow the link to get $2 off admission, see the vendor list and sign up for classes. Hope to see you there.

Thanks for looking!

Monday 3 March 2014

Moving shop, Birthday (ick, another one?) & Working Methods...

Since I have so little in my booth space at the One-of-a-Kind Antique Mall, I was asked last week if I'd mind moving down the aisle to another location so the lady across from me could expand. I had no problem agreeing to that. In fact, it worked out to my benefit as I was able to move into a half-booth next door on the other side of the partition.

However, I should have looked around first. There is another half booth up closer to the front of the building. Man, there are some nice things coming into that Antique Mall. I have to stay away or I'll start buying... and I'm supposed to be selling.

Jewellery, collectible beads and tchotchkes are selling well out of my display case up at the front, and I'm very, very pleased about that.

I had another birthday last week. Funny, isn't it, how they keep coming -- and faster and faster. On Tuesday, Winter took me out to the Banana Leaf, a local Thai place. Good spicy food, and sufficiently large portions that I took half my dinner home for lunch the next day on my real birthday.

Winter makes boxes, trading cards and does a killer job wrapping gifts.

Meanwhile, back here in the still-frozen Great White North (minus-20-somethingdisgustingthismorning-Celsius and it snowed AGAIN), I have been working on more copper bones (see Lisa Yang's tutorials). On Saturday I mindlessly cut up wire for a few hours while sitting at the market and reduced the length of the bones to see what they would look like. The original ones were 1" and with a twist. I cut and hammered a set of bones at 7/8" without turning them, so they look like "real" bones, ditto a set at 3/4" with a twist. Yes, I'm totally bilingual when it comes to bead measurements. I'm fine using metric for bead diameters and weight, but everything else is in inches.

What I was working on yesterday while hammering was trying to keep the bench block from moving so much every time I hammered it, and to reduce the noise. First, I cleared off the table so I don't have to stop in mid-hammer to rescue something from falling off the table.

Oh, yeah -- the blue cloth is a silver-cleaning cloth. I noticed all the black gunk smeared everywhere -- that's from the Sharpie marks used for cutting the wire and it gets ground into the copper and the bench block and the hammer head itself from all the hammering -- and all over my fingers. Next time I'll clean that off the wire pieces first, rather than doing it afterwards. Sigh... But again, that's something I can do easily at the market while sitting. It helps to be doing something that intrigues people, convinces them that you really DO make the jewellery, and it's something that can be put down easily when someone does stop by.

Working at an angle seems to be the best for me. I had put my bench block on a bead mat last time, but I decided to try a folded t-towel this time. Maybe I'll try a bath towel next time. I like to work at an angle. I recently read somewhere that someone likes using their anvil better than the bench block, so I thought I'd try it. I tried hammering, but the towel and the anvil still bounced around with every blow. Working with the anvil on its side gives a larger area for the hammer to hit, but also keeps the end of the wire being hammered closer to the centre of the work surface which helped towards minimising the movement of the cloth, but it still didn't do anything about movement of the anvil on the cloth.

Note the Sharpie sticking out. I worked it out that using my index finger and thumb to hold the wire against the anvil (fingers not ON the anvil, only the wire) had my middle finger pushing the anvil into the pen and leaned the bulk of my hand on the cloth/table, it worked quite well.

Keep the anvil pressed firmly against the Sharpie. Anything would work, a stick, etc.

Showing the back view of how I've positioned my fingers when hammering -- keeping them well away from the hammer.

Showing half the wire hanging off the back of the anvil surface with the anvil pushing firmly against the pen.

Finished 7/8" bones hammered straight and awaiting holes to be punched and then the tedious business of filing all the burrs. I also made more horseshoes for a necklace, and these links came out much more evenly using the barrel of a Sharpie. This is another project easy to do (except for the hammering) while sitting at the market waiting for customers.

Let me know if you try this, and if the pictures help or hinder. Writing instructions and taking photos to illustrate each step is not as easy as it looks.

I'm sure there's some traditional bench gadget that's been in use for hundreds of years that would make this all moot, but for a quick hammering on a few items where you don't require a professional and permanent setup and/or don't plan on hammering for hours on end this works fairly well as it's portable and uses items we all have on hand.

Thanks for looking!