A chronicle of the meanderings, false starts (which in retrospect, while sort of embarrassing turned out to be highly instructive), epiphanies, selective apathy (still evolving), wild mood swings, opinions (subject to frequent change), and life lessons of an inveterate dabbler (and her latest dabblings).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Glories of Raku

Velvet Plum Wine
This is the first piece I have ever done with raku pottery. This is a button by Duane Collins. I couldn't believe the depth and iridescence of the finish when I got it, it's phenomenal. It's like layers and layers of glass, plus pearlescence. It also reminds me of a shimmery, deep-pile velvet. I love the deep colors in this one--plum, merlot wine, a little violet, even a flash of intense, earthy red. I had my hoard of pearls from Fire Mountain Gems, and the "copper peacock" stick pearls were like nature's version of this raku, so I had to put them together. I added a splash of garnets, and of course antiqued copper. I love how moody and luxe this is at the same time. I have two more raku focals and I can't wait to use them! One is a more subtle, jammy color, and the other has a more urban feel with a copper/red fire.

A real pleasure to design around! This is available in my Etsy shop.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Soldering Maiden Voyage

A couple weeks ago, I soldered for the first time. I just did some simple connector rings in brass and copper,  and this is how they turned out:
Not too shabby!

I was going to do it with my Gentec mixed fuel torch, but the oxygen tank was leaking badly where the regulator screwed onto it and I couldn't get it any tighter so I ditched that idea for the moment and just used a skinny MAPP canister with a Bernzomatic torch head on it. I usually use the Fat Boy canisters for annealing and making ball headpins and stuff but Home Depot was out of those and only had the skinny ones so that's what I've been using. It turns out the skinny ones are slender enough for me to hold in my hand. I had my boyfriend unscrew and reattach the oxygen regulator to the tank on my Gentec torch and he got it seated much better--I think I didn't have it threaded quite right. But I've been chicken to retry it.

I used Firescoff ceramic flux spray and brass sheet solder from Unkamen Supplies for the brass rings--it matches the brass perfectly, it's very yellow, and is easy to melt. I tried both copper color solder from CoolToolChick supplies and silver solder on the copper rings, also using the Firescoff. The copper solder was really only slightly less silver than the silver solder but it seemed to antique better and it's nicely camouflaged in the rings above. It was very hard to cut--I had to use heavy-duty wire cutters. I also tried the copper solder from Unkamen Supplies but I couldn't get it to work. I think it was too fine a gauge.

I was going to try the paste flux I got too, but I couldn't get the lid off. Had to have the boyfriend do that too so that will be something for the future.

I pickled the brass rings above twice to get them back to the yellow brass color--first in hot Sparex to get the black residue off, and then in a mixture of three parts hydrogen peroxide to one part white vinegar, heated on low on the stove in a glass pot, to get the pink color off. After scrubbing them with steel wool and fine sandpaper, they were back to a mellow gold color. Then I antiqued them in ammonia fumes, buffed up the high spots, and tumbled them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Knot Afraid

Irish Waxed Linen
I have been collecting small quantities of Irish waxed linen in assorted colors from White Clover Kiln, in the hopes of one day having some ideas for using it, but I've been chicken to try any new techniques. I liked that I could buy small quantities of this, to experiment, before committing to yards and yards (they come in 5- and 10-yard cards). My knotted pieces in the past have been very basic, with only overhand knots between the beads--I find this difficult to do well! Getting the knots right up against the beads is a challenge and my fingers get very sore (I use a sewing needle to push the knot up against the bead). I have also been less than thrilled with the results, since the cording itself is nearly invisible in such pieces, as the knots tend to be rather small. (The bracelet below was done with brown cording, using overhand knots--but you can barely see it!) I do love how it drapes, though.

I've been a great fan of both Erin Siegel's and Lorelei Eurto's knotted pieces, especially since the cording itself plays such a prominent role in the design. I've enjoyed looking at Erin's work on Flickr, and was greatly inspired by the many pieces using cording in their book collaboration, "Bohemian Inspired Jewelry." I was tickled to see how many macrame knots were used--my Mom and and I were macrame-ing fools in the70s, and in my elementary school years I could have done macrame in my sleep! Our plants never lacked a jute hanger. After procrastinating for way too long, I thought I could probably dredge up that muscle-memory and use macrame in my designs. I thought I would give square knots a try first, with my little collection of Indonesian glass beads from Happy Mango Beads. I was thrilled to discover how easy it was!

This one features a stoneware button from Kara Nina, Indonesian glass in mauve from Happy Mango Beads, and assorted seed beads from Fusion Beads and bought locally.
Grape and Melon
I built this one around a cute wooden flower button from Shop4Craft, and paired it with crow beads in an "oil slick" finish from Fire Mountain Gems, glass seed beads in rose, textured brass "cocoon" beads (based on a tutorial by Kharisma Sommers), and one of my textured brass charms.
Briar Rose
For this one, I really wanted to use these red beads from Happy Mango. I combined them with cording in teal, and silver and gunmetal accents. I was thrilled that one of my little stoneware charms from Karen Totten worked into it so nicely! Little pewter sun beads from Happy Mango, and silver and gunmetal buttons from Lyanwood.
Cherries and Blueberries
This was the very first one I tried--I used brown waxed linen since I had a lot of it, because I thought there was a good chance I'd be cutting it up! I tried half knots on the loop closure between the seed beads--that took a couple tries to get it right. The striped beads are, of course, Indonesian beads from Happy Mango, and the little flower charm is too. Metal button from Lyanwood. In each of these, I covered the knot at the neck of the beaded loop with one of my rolled tube beads--I kind of have an obsession with covering the mechanics of things. ("Don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain!!!")
Gypsy Girl
These are a perfect project to do in the car on my lunch hour--I'm looking forward to using more of my Happy Mango stash--these Indonesian beads have just the right size holes for two strands of waxed linen--and more colors from my mini-stash of Irish waxed linen. I have tons of buttons still, and linen colors I haven't tried yet.

And, once you feel confident with your Irish waxed linen and want to really commit to a color, you can get whole spools in selected colors from Jewelry Accord, or you can try a palette of four colors for inspiration!