Friday 26 February 2016

More Kids' Rings... & GEM EXPO news!

Last week I showed pictures of the kids' rings and bracelets I'd been making. Sold the two wire rosette rings right away, and then just before noon the dad and daughter who'd been initially responsible for my ring-making binge showed and bought the one they'd asked for, the lapis chip ring -- and it fit her perfectly. Whew! Size 3.0. TINY. Yikes. Barely went past the nail on my pinkie finger.

Yesterday I made several more rings, again in various sizes. Good idea for those of you who are making them to note the exact size on the tag so that if you don't have the right colour, your customer can try them all on to find the right size.

I also got quite a few orders for rings to fit both kids and adults last Saturday. More goodies will be made today, so stay tuned. I'll also be working on a ring design that might appeal more to boys.

March 18, 19 & 20
Trip to Toronto, yahooooo!

As well as being a vendor, this year I'll be teaching a class on Saturday morning, March 19th at The Gem Expo. It's coming up so fast: THREE WEEKS today!!! Yikes. But I'm prepared: I've already got all my supplies for the students together in one dedicated bin.

I'll be teaching how to make stretch bracelets, which, granted, are pretty easy to make, but I've come up with tips and tricks to make it easier and save wasting as much Stretch Magic as I myself did (and still occasionally do) in the process. Like, we're talking lots and lots of redone bracelets. Oh, and we'll fix that pesky problem of beads that go boinging all over the room when testing the knot...

Make meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...

If you'd like to start making your own collection of gorgeous stretch stackers, here are the links to The Gem Expo to book your class. Check out all the other great courses that are being offered, too:

The Gem Expo website here and the classes here;
The Gem Expo Facebook page here and here; and
Booking your tickets (price includes your 3-DAY SHOW ADMISSION) here.

***If you do sign up, please bring a selection of your own beads and findings you'd like to use, plus a bead mat, scissors and two pairs of pliers (to open and close jump rings if you want to add dangles), work light and magnifier/glasses if you use them.***

If you can't make it to the show, I have lots and lots of stretch stacker bracelets in all price, style and size ranges for kids and adults, guys and girls, at the market every Saturday; some are in Showcase 800 next to the cash desk at the One of a Kind Antique Mall (open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) Don't forget there's the Cabin Fever Sale throughout the whole antique mall until the end of February. Nancy and I have 10% off everything in our booth and showcase. And if you've seen something you like on my blog or Facebook page, you can also email me here to inquire on its availability or price. Yes, absolutely, I do custom orders, as well.

Note: the Woodstock Farmers Market will be closed Saturday, March 19th, for the Home Show, which is taking over both the market building and the auditorium this year. 

Hope to see you at the Woodstock Farmers Market tomorrow (Saturday) on Nellis Street, 7:00 a.m until noon. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday 19 February 2016

Kids' Rings & Stretch Bracelets...

I used to make rings, and man, did it ever hurt my fingers because I was using half hard to very hard wire. I'm not stupid. Something hurts? I stop. Well, I've had a lot of requests lately to make rings for kids, and after a three or four year ring-making hiatus I finally ditched my constant companion these days, Mr. Procrastination, and got out my new 20 gauge dead soft copper wire and made a ring... then I made more.

These range from 2.0 to 3.0 in size. More to come.

I also made a lot of kids' stretch bracelets this week. These are pretty much all made with regular 6/0 Czech seed beads so I could keep the cost down. I ran out of white, and I cannot find my black beads anywhere.

 Four Directions bracelet with a flying turtle.

These will all be available at the Woodstock Farmer's Market tomorrow and every Saturday morning 7:00-12:00 noon. If you're interested in other colours, stones and/or sizes, please ask.

See you there, and thanks for looking.

Monday 15 February 2016

Freshwater Pearl & Copper Heart Earrings for Valentine's Day...

On Friday I showed pictures of my handmade copper chains and hammered hearts.

Here are the earrings I made with tiny freshwater pearls:

They're still available for sale, $20 each pair (or two pair for $35) plus shipping. Please email me for availability. I can make as many pairs as you like, as well as a matching pendant.

Meanwhile at the market, I did several restringing repairs for people who brought their pendants to me, and also made a pair of earrings for Winter who'd brought me the skull beads and asked me to do whatever... Here they are, modelled by her daughter.

Blood red Siam Swarovskis, hematite and sterling leverbacks. Nice and swingy and subtly blingy... if bling can ever be subtle.

I gotta say, I'm obsessed with the shape and colour of those oval jump rings. I was digging around and found a small bag bought who knows where and how long ago. They have a hard stainless steel/pewterish tone to them, perfect for the things I like to make, and the shape gives designs a harder edge than round jump rings tend to do. Somewhere buried in this messpile I have some square bail-making pliers that I need to start using, as well.

Well, it's a stat holiday Monday here called "Family Day". Ironically, absolutely nothing is open for anyone to go do anything with family or friends, so I'm shutting down and heading to the other room to make jewellery.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday 12 February 2016

More Handmade Hammered Chains & Some Tiny Hearts...

I got a little further on the Vertebrae Chain...

...and then hammered out a few shapes in 20 gauge wire, played with them in different positions, hammered and tweaked some more, and came up with these chain styles. All are about 8 inches long so far. The middle chain is a simple figure 8 chain, then I made the lower figure 8 chain more "8-ish" with a large and small loop. I added the filigrees based on the vertebrae links above; instead of hammering them while straight, I curved and spiraled them to the outside.

For me, the hearts are easier to make if first you loosely spiral both ends towards each other, then bend the wire in the middle until the spirals meet, rather than bending the wire in a V-shape first and then trying to make the curls. After I make a pile of them, I gently hammer the outside curves.

These hearts are about 1/2 an inch across and I'll be adding tiny pearl drops and sterling leverback earwires in time for the market tomorrow morning. Yeppers... It's Valentine's Day again and I am NOT READY. Oh, well... there's always next year, and the year after, right? But I do have lots of great gifts for everyone, including kids. Come and check out the Woodstock Farmers Market on Nellis Street, 7:00 a.m. 'til 12:00 noon.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Old Jewellery Pictures from 2009...

I was looking for an old picture on my computer the other day and found a folder of pictures from 2009. I started making jewellery in 2008. Green? Hah -- I'd never even heard of a jump ring, let alone what it was for, but dove in the deep end and started making pendents out of PMC silver. But this isn't about PMC, but that I got into jewellery by hammering the snot out of stuff, not stringing. It was another, oh, three or four years at least before I strung my first necklace or bracelet.

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.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday 8 February 2016

Baroque Peacock Pearl Set...

Sometimes absolute simplicity is the way to go.

Two days ago at the market I sold this peacock baroque and small potato pearl and Swarovski oily green vitrail bicone necklace and earring set. It was another slow mid-winter market for me when one of my occasional customers came by, literally stopped dead in her tracks, took one look and asked where the ATM machine was. How I lovelovelove customers who know what they like, see what they want -- and done.

I got the pearls from Robert Hall Originals in St. George. I'd gone there in December to buy three pounds of copper wire and on a whim threw in this last lonely string of pearls that was calling my name. Not being turkey or mince pie vendors, it was a pretty quiet -- okay, dead -- market for us craft vendors back on December 24th and, as usual, I sat and made jewellery in between the occasional customer.

The graduated baroque pearls themselves were so crazy beautiful, each one a work of art on its own, that there was nothing more needed doing than string, crimp and pick out a clasp. (Apologies for the quality of the photograph.)

Oh, yes -- the copper I got? I'm romping through it at a ferocious rate. Check out my previous posts to see what I've been doing with all that lovely, mooshy dead soft copper.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday 7 February 2016

Amber Loooove...

I found two strings of older amber this weekend at an estate sale. I'm assuming the original owner bought them in Eastern Europe during the late '70s to very early '80s since there were several souvenir pictures of John Paul II as a young Pope in the house. I knew what the amber beads were immediately, but I almost passed up the dark beads because I thought they were plastic -- I was fooled by the cut of them, not to mention both strings had been stuffed into tiny Ziploc snack bags -- but it was the glimpse of white string in the dark pack that gave them away. 

The graduated string of cognac amber splinters and nuggets is 32 inches long and the string of graduated 4-sided oval dark amber beads is 28 inches long. 

I'm in my usual state of paralysis here, and have zero idea what to do with these. What other beads would be worthy? Where do I even start???

Thanks for looking!

Friday 5 February 2016

Purple Moon: Wire-Woven Copper & Agate Pendant

This is where and how I work. Netflix most of the time and always keeping an eye on the squirrels, chipmunks, birds and weather outside in the lilac tree. This is Ripper Street. Love the BBC!

I've liked the look of the various chevron and sunburst weaves I've seen on Pinterest, so two days ago, I wove three or four inches using 18 gauge and 28 gauge copper wire. 

Yesterday, I sorted through my bag of assorted pendants, picked out a large randomly faceted rainforest agate because I wanted to work on forming angles -- but the hole was too small. Rule number one? Always check to make sure the wire will go through the hole before you start to weave.

I picked this large round dyed crackle agate pendant only because the wire fits through the hole and which under normal light looks kinda meh.

But hit it with the right light -- there's a whole 'nother world happening inside this magical stone.

Here I've started wire wrapping the bottom two wire weaves on the left, and what will likely become the bail on the right. 

Uh oh... wait a sec. With fresh eyes studying the picture here on the blog as I'm writing I'm thinking maybe I should have incorporated the wire coming up through the pendant to do the bail... Hmm-mmm-mmmm. But there are still two free wires at the top... maybe I'll make those the bail with the pendant wire. 

As you now see, I never have any idea what I'm doing or where I'm going with something (and don't really care, either).

Unfortunately, we'll all have to wait to see what happens next, because it looks like some transcription just came flying through the virtual transom. Gotta go now. 

TTFN and thanks for stopping by!

Copper Heart for Valentine's Day...

I wanted to wire-weave a heart pendant for Valentine's Day, even though it's very time-consuming. It's sure fun to play with.

My big thing at the moment is learning to turn and/or weave around sharp corners without leaving huge lopsided gaps, and I used a design by Nicole Hanna as my jumping off point for the bottom. (The messy top is all mine, though and the bail did NOT work out as envisioned.)

I deliberately left that bloopy loop down at the bottom thinking I'd add a dangle.

Originally that whole circle bit was off-centre and to the right. It looked HORRIBLE! I tend never to plan things. My modus operandi is to weave a length in some pattern and then figure out what to do with it. Sometimes it works out; more often than not it doesn't.

It was when I was manipulating the woven length of wire into shape I realised I'd used too light of a gauge -- 20 instead of 18 -- and the pendant is far too open and wobbly despite its relatively small size: 1-1/4" wide and 1-3/4" tall, including the bail.

I left it for a day and went online and looked at more hearts, and decided to try and rescue it with a bead, found several lighter colours that worked, but being for Valentine's Day, figured go with garnet. Here you can see the way I've trapped the garnet. I also at this point, moved the circle-y bit to the centre of the pendant; one of my fave things about wire-weaving in general is how forgiving it is to move and manipulate. The curls trapping the garnet turned out to be surprisingly secure, but I did weave it in place with a bit of wire just to be sure it didn't pop off.

Here's a slightly different angle showing the curled "prongs". The bead should've been seated further down into the circlet, but I'd already stitched those into place, and there was no more wiggle room.

I'll have this and other pendants and great gifts available for sale at the Woodstock Farmers Market every Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to noon, or email me for availability and shipping/handling cost. You can also contact me via my Facebook page.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday 4 February 2016

Rescuing a Crap Wrap...

The other day, I made a bunch of swirl wire-woven pendants and a couple of them didn't work out. This one...

...I decided was worth rescuing. I wasn't sure exactly what I would do with it, but as I was twisting the bead off thought, hey, it looks okay at an angle: showing just a little bit more of the wire weaving balances everything quite nicely.

Plus, by flipping the bead back to front, the colour blobs now echo and tie together the lines and shapes of the wire weaving, strengthening the overall design in a way that the random blob pattern on the other side didn't.

For all you wire-weavers out there, I recently joined two Facebook groups, and they're both a great read, with lots of good info and participants from all over the world. I'm finally "meeting" the people whose work I've been obsessively pinning for a few years now or even subscribing to on Craftsy. Do check 'em out and join:

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday 1 February 2016

Deciding What Works, What Doesn't -- and WHY...

Developing a discerning and analytical eye is a skill that is learned over time -- a long time -- of doing. It is most assuredly NOT the same as being hyper-critical and beating oneself up on failing the first time you try something. I'm better than I was, but still not very good at balancing self-criticism and self-critique. Critiquism?

What I did learn years ago was to put my drawings away as I did them and come back to them six months or a year later -- NOT to sit in immediate judgement and trash them all, and then beat myself up for being a total failure. When viewed from a distance of time, a lot of them weren't that bad (and a few still aren't that bad), and -- most importantly -- by that point I could see with my own eyes the progress I'd made and understand the breakthroughs.

My method of learning a new skill (in fact, working at anything for that matter) is to make variations of one thing over and over, in a sense a moving meditation where I turn off my conscious, decision-making brain, tune out the endless critical noises that burble up telling me I'm a loser and to STOP right now -- and just let my fingers move. This method comes from 40+ years of life drawing when I produced over 4,000 drawings a year. Those drawings were not "art" per se (although many did end up on gallery walls and sold) and most ended up as landfill.

Making drawings then and jewellery now is no different than putting in years of piano scales or guitar riffs for a musician, planting seeds and learning the hard way to recognise which are the weeds (whoops, blew that season) for a gardener, the years of running before a marathon, or even achieving a full driver's licence -- in other words, practice, practice, practice and paying endless often heartbreaking dues.

With my jewellery, after working for several hours, I lay out all the pieces, photograph them and begin sorting and rearranging to see what I can see: patterns, positive/negative space, what jumps out at me that's good, bad or indifferent, the "meh" factor being just as valuable as my favourite feeling: "Wowee zowie, lookee what I did!"

But what if time is of the essence? What if you don't have the luxury of six months or a year to sit on your jewellery or your art? It has to go in a store, the market, gallery or show, posted online -- or, lucky you, to the customer -- today. What do you do if this is your livelihood, or close to it? You have to master a new skill as quickly as possible, at the same time tweaking to make it your own, and start producing saleable work of impeccable craftsmanship. No fake humble allowed: this is business.

So whaddaya do? You find a friend you trust, who understands the difference between critiquing and criticising, understands that what you're NOT looking for is kneejerk, meaningless praise (Oooh, that's beautiful!) or equally meaningless dislike (Eww, I don't like that, it's not my style at all). Tell me why you think it's beautiful, or what I could do to make it your style. And more importantly, this friend understands the jewellery-making process itself. My pal Ruth (who keeps me calm and sane and fed at the Gem Expo) puts on her Ruthless hat and pulls no punches telling me what her gut sees that I'm too close to figure out on my own.

Ruth and me at the July 2014 Gem Expo, Toronto

Yesterday, I finally broke the non-stop transcription/Netflix binge I'd been lost in since New Year's and got back to bending wire (see here and here for the new skill I've been learning). I'm guessing I spent two hours to make these, including time to look carefully at what I'd just done to see if I could replicate elements I liked. I'm presenting them here in the order I made them with my own and Ruth's after-the-fact comments:

1. First one of the afternoon's production. Not bad. Still with the pointless twiddles on the right side of the stone. What I noticed much later was that here I'd inadvertently/unconsciously covered up the wire goes into the bead on top and coming out at the bottom. After looking at all the finished pendants, I realised that this is definitely something that always needs to happen, and most of the other pendants became fails to me because of that. But... there are often mitigating good things going on so we won't be too hasty.

As well, while the goal of this wire weaving technique is to keep the pair of wires together all the time, that swoop that's just barely happening around the bottom is something that could be exploited. Because I've trained as a primarily 2D artist most of my life, it's been a surprisingly difficult battle to move into true 3D.

Pendant #1: Dyed agate, swirl copper wire

2. Total fail. Definitely for the scrap heap. Blech. Move on. BUT... there was still a lesson here: I really liked the vine-y thing that started to happen on the back.

Front of #2 pendant: Rainforest jasper/rhyolite, swirl copper wire
Back of #2 pendant: Rainforest jasper/rhyolite, swirl copper wire

3. This is a strange one. The front here looks okaaaaay and I like the vine-y wrap effect I was trying for that I'd done in the previous pendant, except that it's barely visible. Of course, as per my usual, it was the back that came out really nicely. According to Ruth:

imho, this does not work because of competition.
The stone is really amazing.  The wirework is an interesting work of art on its own.
Put the two together, and the stone and the wire are competing for attention.

My suggestion is to separate these items and showcase each of them. 
The stone in a very plain setting that does not draw attention away from the stone; and the wire around a uniformly coloured, dark stone so the wire is what pops.

I like the shape of the wire here.  A plant, and a treble clef, and ...?  You haven't lost your talent in a month away from wire!

Pendant #3 front: Rainforest jasper/rhyolite, swirl copper wire
Pendant #3 back: Rainforest jasper/rhyolite, swirl copper wire
I'll try to take this one apart and save the wrap.

4. Ruth wrote, "This one says ELEGANT to me." Me, I like the swirls and I'm more consciously using the vine wrapping at the bottom to hide the wire going into the bottom of the bead. The top where the wire comes out? Big boring meh. And again -- see the sequence of small swirls developing on the right side? I tried replicating that in a more controlled way in the next pendant.

Pendant #4: Jasper(?), swirled copper wire

5. This one I really like. It's ticking almost all of my personal boxes: asymmetry, top and bottom of bead covered, and a truly beautiful bead that hasn't been overshadowed by the wire -- and from a purely design POV, the stone is oriented the right way vis-a-vis the yellow bits and the wire -- which was a total accident. Originally, I'd wanted the bead to go sideways. Ruth said, "This one is the most whimsical and says, "PEACOCK" to me."

Pendant #5: Rainforest jasper/rhyolite, swirled copper wire
Pendant #5: Rainforest jasper/rhyolite, swirled copper wire

6. This one I also like very much, I loosened up the controlled swirls coming down from the top and left side, but then the vine-y bit got away from me along the right side of the stone, and the wire coming out of the top of bead kinda sucks. I was able to hide the wire coming out of the bottom in the vine wrapping. Ruth wrote, "Striking!"

Pendant #6: Picasso stone, copper wire weaving

And some people look at this and think it's easy. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Nope. And oh, do my hands hurt!

Yesterday, there was a hint of sun casting a watery shadow but chilly and damp enough out to make sitting inside making the above pendants (and, okay, watching Netflix) -- stupendous weather for January 31st given that this time last year we were battling -40C temperatures and unrelenting snow.

Now today, it's sunny out, above freezing, and we're heading for a crazy 10C/50F on Wednesday. To my pals down south, phhhhhtttt. I just hope I can ignore the siren call of warm sun long enough to get back to churning out more pendants.

FYI, these will all be for sale at the Woodstock Farmers Market and online here. Prices on my wire weaving range from $18 to $35 and up depending on complexity and the stones I use and include an adjustable leather cord. Shipping and handling are extra. Send me an email for availability and your location so I can calculate exact shipping cost.

These would make a great Valentine's gift!! 

Thanks for stopping by!