Promise

It seems that relationships are often based on promises. After all, that word is a big part of traditional wedding ceremonies. “I promise to . . . “. I find myself also using that word quite a bit around children. “Do you promise to put the toys away if I give you five more minutes to play?”

The past week and a half, however, promise sticks in my mind as a noun. This connotation results from the birth of my son and daughter-in-law’s first child, Emmy. It’s hard to look at any newborn’s photo without getting that “ahhh” feeling. We see the sweetness in the child’s face and it often brings memories of other babies we have held and loved. That face symbolizes newness and the continuous cycle of life. It can evoke joy, hope and happiness.

Emmy sleep

This week, this new little face in our family has me singing a song that I used when teaching preschool music. It spells out why I smile when gazing at a newborn.

I am a promise

I am a poss-i-bil-ity

I am a promise

With a capital “P”

I am a great big bunch

of po-tent-iality

I AM A PROMISE!

Yes, you are Emmy – yes you are!

Do You Vary?

I do!

Vary  “. . . To make or cause changes in the characteristics or attributes of; modify or alter “ www.answers.com/topic/vary

A few months ago, I told you that I was fortunate to have one of my bracelet designs on the cover of Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine.

cover

This week, I’m guiding some of my friends as they make this bracelet at our Faux meetup. I always practice before I teach/lead and this time I decided to “VARY” the bracelet. This is one of my favorite things to do with designs as I employ various creative thinking techniques to change things without completely losing the character of the original designs.  Below is my practice piece which is varied through magnification (enlarging) and combining (adding the beads to the metal strip in unique positions).

brac1

I torch enameled and then sealed a piece of 26g copper sheet before cutting the shape for the bracelet. Then I wove 26g wire over 14g wire and through holes in the metal on both sides. I added the turquoise rounds within the weaving to vary the technique.

This change has initiated more consideration of other possibilities and ways to vary this design.

Yes, I do vary – - – because the opposite would be to “conform” and that’s just not my style!

A Tale of Two Prongs

The last two jewelry making classes that I’ve taught involved working on various types of prong settings. Although I don’t have any more of these scheduled, I’m still intrigued by the unique possibilities that soldered prongs present for jewelry construction.

I think the blue agate piece below might be called “snakes” except that might not be a very appealing title for a customer. I wanted to add a tube setting to this piece and used a 6mm lab grown amethyst. It seems to help bring out the color in the agate.

blue1

There’s always considerable problem solving in jewelry construction even when you’ve made the best of plans. I share my mistakes as a pat on the back for those of you who don’t make them (anyone out there???) as well as encouragement for the rest of us. My mantra seems to be “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. After the entire pendant was complete – soldered, filed, sanded, formed, patinated, etc. – I carefully set the stone and positioned the prongs over it. So far so good. Then I placed the amethyst in the tube bezel and used my new bezel setter to secure it . . . beautiful. But then . . . plop. . . out came the stone. Not to be dismayed, I tried again and again and then . . . I realized that I had soldered the tube bezel onto the back plate upside down! I knew I should start again, remove the agate and go back to the torch station.; but I didn’t. I recently read that a renowned jewelry maker/teacher uses glue in certain situations. THIS was my situation. I got that little E-6000 tube out of the drawer, glued that little stone in the tube bezel and if I hadn’t fessed up, you might never have known.

blue2

The second prong setting is a green agate. I cut a piece of 22g copper sheet to create the partial bezel and then used a two-legged prong setting at the top. In essence, the bezel simply keep the stone from sliding out the bottom. The prong provides tension from the top and holds the piece against the back plate. I also used a little bit of that E-6000 on the back of the stone so I would feel better. The bezel is a bit of copper tubing soldered on the front and I embellished the pieces by wiring some small glass beads to the prong. By the way, twice I filed and sanded the back of the piece too closely where the prongs come through and had to re-solder them. Oh well, it gave me good practice!

green1   green2

Did I learn anything? I found that self deprecation when something doesn’t go right doesn’t help me in making jewelry. When a prong failed to solder properly, I just said “oh great, now I get to go back down the stairs to the torch room.” (More exercise and more practice can’t be all bad!) Now, if something doesn’t give me a problem, I’m suspicious. Could attitude be 9/10s of the work ethic?

For my soldering students, keep smiling and torch on.

More Fluttering

While the last entry about memories that flit by was quite figural, today I’m thinking of fluttering in a different way. There are things that flutter too.

I’m ready for the fluttering of Spring when the birds and butterflies show their colors and the weather is warmer. I want to see them out my studio window and feel this would help me get in a better humor for creating the Spring jewelry designs. Yet, one has to get started; so I did.

The first photo shows two doves that I torch enameled with multiple layers of blues and white. The bottoms of the doves rest on round beads giving them to illusion of being in flight. The copper wire armature joins with a handmade chain to go around the neck.

doves

I also torch enameled this second piece. It is cloisonné and I used sterling silver wire to mimic the markings of the butterfly wings. Then I wet packed various colors of enamel. It takes many layers and firings to build the enamel up to the top of the sterling wire and the wet packed enamel must dry each time before firing. I had to learn to be patient on this one.  Once complete, I smoothed the surface with an alumdun stone and then added a clear layer of enamel.

butterfly

I’m just hoping that soon these flutterings aren’t just in my mind and on my work bench. I want to see Spring here at the ranch in the very near future.

Flutter By

Sometimes, when you are old, the memories from your past flutter by like butterflies in the Fall. They can be just as difficult to capture unless someone is there to help you.

Mamaw turned 93 a few weeks ago and we have to admit that she has considerable dementia. Yet, if I am with her at just the right moment in time and ask the right questions, occasionally the stories of old, although brief, unfold.

Mama Young

Today, we were talking about why my hair isn’t gray yet. I remembered that my grandmother’s hair was late in turning; so I asked about my great grandmother, Dee Dee, too. Neither of us remembered a time when her hair wasn’t gray. So I guess I’ve been lucky.

I also ask about my great great grandmother. “Mamaw,” I said, “do you remember Dee Dee’s mother?” “Well, of course.” Mamaw replied. I asked her what the woman’s name was and quick as a wink she said “Grammaw.” I said, “no, what is her real name?” She gave me the same answer and told me that Grammaw was all she was ever as called. Mamaw told me that Grammaw lived out on the farm in Oklahoma with her brother, Will, who had a wagon. Of course, I was thinking a little red wagon, but Will’s wagon was the big kind pulled by horses. Once, Mamaw said the family had her go to town with Will. She told me that she hid in the back of the wagon so no one in town would see her. Can’t you just see a little girl doing that?

Next, Mamaw told me that once someone in town died and she was sent out to the farm to tell Grammaw about it. She couldn’t remember how she got out there and with that, this day’s memories fluttered on and left us behind. I’ve learned there is no point in asking more probing questions; this only proves frustrating and, for Mamaw, painful.

Although I learned this years ago from my studies, today it was even more apparent that emotion has a big affect on memory. Whether it’s happiness, sadness, embarrassment or another emotion, feelings at the time of one of life’s episodes help a person retain the memory. It is also apparent that feelings at the time when a person is trying to remember can also affect the story. When Mamaw is upset, weary or frustrated, she answers most questions with “I don’t know; I just don’t know.” At that point, it’s definitely time to stop asking.

Some say emotions are fickle and perhaps that’s true, but when and if they are just right, feelings can help us capture those memories as they flutter by. I just hope I’m around when things are “just right” for Mamaw.

Prongs

I’m preparing to teach my newly designed Hot Metal Mania class in a couple of weeks. I’m very excited to be able to include prong settings in the curriculum using both sterling silver and copper settings.

prongs

I originally set out to just do the type of prong setting that has a back plate, like those below. (The first piece really does hang straight, I just rushed with the photo.)

 

prongs3

prong setting

These require carefully fitting wire prongs snuggly into holes in the back plate and soldering them in place. I made quite a mess of the first few I tried, but persevered and finally figured it out. This has all manner of possibilities for embellishment.

Since I want my students to work some with sterling silver, I figured out a reasonably simple and fairly inexpensive way to make prong settings that have open backs such as those below.

pr2prongs 6

prongs7

You can see the open back in the photo below.

pr3

I went ahead and wrote a tutorial with photos on this one for my students and also put it in my etsy store. This type prong setting really emphasizes the beauty of the stone.

My current challenge is to QUIT making prong settings and move to the next design. I’m just enjoying these so much that I hate to stop. But then . . . surely I need a bit more practice; don’t you think?

Just Do the Next Thing . . .

As I likely have mentioned before, my great grandmother, Dee Dee Lewis, supported not only herself (post husband) but also my grandmother (post husband) and her two children. Yes, we are a family of lingering women. When someone would get in a muddle and become anxious about what they should do, Dee Dee always said “just do the next thing.” It didn’t really think that was very helpful and often couldn’t even figure out what the next thing was. However, lately, that little phrase has been sounding in my brain and I’ve follow the tenet behind it. I’m no busier than the next person, but sometimes I need a little help from my elders.

I enjoyed the past holidays and actually took some time away from designing to sit quietly and do some crocheting and sewing. It was a welcome respite and gave these hands time to recover from the hurried wire and metal work pre-Christmas.

Then it was suddenly January and there was a list of things that needed ASAP attention. First, I needed products for a silent auction donation to the San Marcos River Foundation. I wanted them to have a choice and they selected the blue tree below and some copper earrings from the three things I offered.

blue tree     Raindrop necklace

 tree-tourmaline

The next thing . . . I needed product examples for the three January-February classes I was teaching. Luckily, I had most of the wrapped rocks and cabachons below already done; yet I did need to practice.

Cabs 2014

Then . . . the next thing . . . I needed to create new products for the Hot Metal Mania class coming in February. These took a while as I tried to differentiate the level of skill needed for the products.

Hot Metal

When I completed enough of the Hot products to at least get information out to students, I decided to take a day off, but then the phone rang. Someone that I convinced to be the program chair for one of my groups needed a project/leader for February. She wanted something in metal. I got her into this . . . so I said yes and arose fromf my chair and back to the bench.

bracelets1  

bracelet 3

Feeling pleased to have the former completed and tired of following Dee Dee’s advise, I took a some time to try a new scroll design. I thought I was making a bird, but I do believe it turned out to be a hen. She is soldered and the wing flower is torch enameled

chicken

 

Today, I realize that “the next thing” is preparing the products for the Torch Enameling class which is in two weeks. I guess you know what I’ll be working on today.  OK, great grandmother, I think you were right! At least I’m having fun.

Fun Problem Solving

I’ve enjoyed seeing the numerous posts by Facebook friends showing the joy of seeing family during the holidays. I’ve also had a great time, the last few days of which have been playing with the grandboy. I told his Mom and Dad a little white one, saying that I thought they might enjoy having some time to themselves. Yet, the truth was that I wanted to see that boy!

We had a super time, but we kept coming back to one of our preferred activities, hiding and finding objects.  We had been reading Eggbert, the Slightly Cracked Egg and decided to make our own Eggbert and friends. While he thought we should do it with real eggs, I fortunately convinced him to draw faces on some plastic Easter eggs.  We made Eggbert, Egg-guy, Egg-gal and Rocko. I have no clue about that last name.

After we had hidden those characters many, many times, it became clear that the activity could go on forever. By the second day of it, I really needed to do some computer work and had an idea.  I helped him learn how to hide and find those eggs by himself. You see, when you wear the “Wild Things” cap, you are the hider.

g hider

But, when you remove that hat, you forget where the eggs are and become the hunter . . .

g seeker  G seeker2

It worked like a charm and he was a good actor, pretending he had no idea where the eggs were hidden. I finished my computer task and we were off to another activity.

Today, he’s back with his parents and I just have those silly eggs. . . I wonder if that “Wild Things” hat would work for me . . . .

Ripples

Most of you know that post back surgery, I’ve been doing a great deal of walking. Even last week, when I got a positive report from my surgeon, he still said walk, walk, walk! On one of my 2 1/2 mile moseys around the ranch, I ended up on the banks of one of our back tanks. I was huffing a bit from climbing the hill leading to it when I heard a splash. I quickly looked to the water and although I didn’t see the splasher, I did see the after effect. . . nice concentric ripples moving away from a center. They grew ever larger until eventually there was nothing left to see. The water was still again. It struck me that one little start, a dip by a bird or a dunk by a frog, could lead to the ever widening circles on the water.

Throughout this season’s art shows, shopping and gatherings, I’m reminded that we also have a ripple effect on others. It doesn’t take but one grumpy person to send a whole group into the complaining mode. It’s almost like “one up-man-ship” when the complaining starts (my problem is bigger than yours). On the other hand, one happy and appreciative sole can definitely send that ripple in a positive direction.

One of my Facebook friends shared the video below that sent positive ripples in my direction. While the piano in the video is inanimate, it is controlled by a human sending joyful ripples to those willing to partake. Alas, there was one grump!

I hope you enjoy this video and it send positive ripples your way.

As the season rushes to a close, it is my hope that the ripples you both give and receive will be happy ones.

Thanks for reading.

Cover Girl

I was pleased to see my original bracelets on the cover of this month’s Step By Step Wire Jewelry Publication. I’ve had a number of other pieces in the magazine, but not previously on the cover.

cover

The editor named them “Taos” which I think is fitting for the design. There are many different variations for this style. For example, the weaving can be varied depending on the number of outside wires used and the specific weaving technique. I’ve also varied it from weaving into a single row of holes down the center to holes on each side of the middle sheet. You can also see that sometimes I use my own torch enameled discs as embellishments while other times I use gemstones. I thought the two hole turquoise discs, which I have only seen at one bead show and never again, turned out nice. At the time I purchased them I couldn’t think what in the world I would do with them. Once I figured it out, of course I couldn’t find them again. That’s why I ended up making the two hole torch enameled discs which I offer on etsy. There’s a link to it on my website blog page www.dreamcatcherranch.net/designs.

If you have interest in these and pick up the publication, you’ll find a full tutorial complete with my photos of the process. I hope you enjoy it.

Unique jewelry creatively made with care at The Ranch in San Marcos, Texas