Published! String Earrings

Many of you have seen my earrings designs that are published in the current Step By Step Wire Jewelry magazine. It’s pretty cool to see it in the corner of the cover and my tutorial is inside if you want to create them yourself.

Step by Step earrings

These earrings are based on string art like many of us did in mathematics in school. There are several other versions of this design which are not in the publication.

Meador Earrings 15

I had forgotten about these other versions since I created them last summer. I may need to revisit them. How about you?

Retreat

Retreat . . . How would you define it? The dictionary offers several ways including “movement back” and “withdrawal from position”. Neither of these describe the upcoming weekend event.

The Hill Country Bead Society is having a RETREAT this weekend at the Old Quilt Ranch in Wimberley and I’ll be teaching two classes. This is the group’s fifth year and they always provide good food, fun and camaraderie. What more could you want – except good classes.     

The pictures below shows just a few of the possibilities students can make in the “Hot Earrings” class. I designed this class so students who have taken the beginning soldering class can practice their skills. Some students may choose to enlarge an earring design and create a pendant as shown in the second photo.

Hot Earrings2

 

Elisa-silver

The other class is Torch Enameling II. We’re working with sgraffito, making and using enamel shards and using transparent enamels for the first time. It’s always fun to see what participants come up with as I encourage them to do their own designs rather than copying mine.

enameling new earrings

Looking farther into the definition of “retreat”, I found “quiet time” and “quiet place”; yet, neither of these describe the upcoming weekend. I’m thinking retreat can also mean “to get away from the usual, leaving regular chores behind in order to relax, renew vision and gather with like minded people.” It sounds good to me. Now I’m off to pack supplies.

Opportunity Leads Learning–A Teaching Philosophy

Do you push yourself to learn new things, experiment with ideas even if they don’t usually work out or seek opportunities to do things that are likely too hard for you? I do! Often, I look for things to create that are just beyond my level of expertise in jewelry design.

I was struck by this philosophy as I cleaned my studio last week. I have numerous “dog bone” trays full of little things that didn’t work. There’s a tray of wire doodles, a larger tray of metal pieces and one or two of bezels, wire wrapped stones and partially strung necklaces. I would suspect that anyone who “makes things”, whether they are large pieces welded at the barn or small things soldered in a jewelry studio, has a container of things that didn’t work out as expected. It was neat to look through my piles and see that things that I couldn’t do months ago are now no longer a challenge. My prong settings are working well now . . .

goddess . . . as evidenced by the double stone piece shone here. This type setting certainly propelled by stone work forward and now I’m finally confident in trying all sorts of new styles. The first prong that I attempt were not so good!

Also, I found a small collection of torch enameled pieces that were pretty awful looking. (no, I won’t be showing a photo of them here!) I had to laugh as I looked at the newer pieces that I’m working on for an upcoming class. I’m glad I stuck with it.

enameling new earrings

My conclusion from this is that trying things that at first seem beyond my capability, actually holds the potential for improving my overall technique. The most important element seems to me that I must not yield to discouragement when things don’t work out, but rather look at them as opportunities for growth.

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.

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