Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Challenge-Process

Back at the beginning of January, a friend showed me a beautiful Snow White Druzy. As soon as I saw it, I KNEW I had to have it! (So I STOLE it!! Bought it right out from under her!! I didn't really even mind the fact that she had licked it....much!) I had absolutely NO clue what I would do with it, but it was so unbelievably beautiful; I bought it!
When it arrives I am shocked by how large it is. It measures 2 inches tall by 1 and a half inches far and away the largest stone I will have worked with.
Now its design time and the ONLY thing I can do to stabilize it is a prong mount. All I can think is, "How ordinary!". I have an aversion to "ordinary".

I go to work by making my prong mounting; which, at this point, is very rudimentary. Once I have completed that I start looking at how best to accentuate this stone. Now something happens to me that hasn't happened before....I become paralyzed with fear! I'm not sure why. I have messed up PLENTY of metal before! I head to my forum. "Go for it", is the response I get!

That's when it happened.....I became very Zen with this project and it flowed! I cut out a sheet of silver to act as a collar and stamped the words, live, laugh. and love on it. I then soldered it closed and....the stone still fit!!! (I had anticipated a failure here!) Now comes the tricky part....I have to mount this collar into my prong setting, allowing enough space below the stone for the stone to be held securely in the prong mount. Okay so here....I improvised. I placed the stone into the collar and set the whole thing into the prong mount and marked the placement with a sharpie. (HEY! whatever works! Right?)

I did the BEST pic soldering I have EVER done and Wa-La the mount is done!! Now to add a bail!

I had one filigree bead left and I was determined to use it on this project! Problem was small. I know...add tubing!!! (At this point I MUST thank whoever suggested the hobby tube cutter to me! It was the best seven bucks Ive spent!!) Again I pic solder; first to attach the tubing to the bead, then to attach the bail to the pendant.

I wont go into detail here as this is the dull point where I clean up the setting and mount the stone.

At the end of the day I cant explain how I felt! I had ventured out of my comfort zone, put all the lessons I had learned in Metalsmithing to use, and completed an exceptional piece!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A learning experience

So Ive been joining in on a Metalsmithing Forum since September. It is, without a doubt, one of the best things Ive ever done for myself! I belong to a number of groups that have information on jewelry making. None, other than this one, allows me to ask a question and get an answer within minutes.

There are Metalsmiths of all levels in this group. From the novice (like myself) to seriously seasoned pro's! We like to think of ourselves as the "un-team Team and we welcome anyone....provided you give us your first name and DO NOT spam us! :D

Back around November we decided that we loved each others work so much that we wanted to share! At first it was suggested that we have a pendant swap! Well, I was all for this! This was an opportunity to really shine! It was going to be a masterpiece! Before I could finish dreaming, it had changed and now, we were doing a charm swap. Ok, still alright.....I think.

I immediately started sketching. I wanted to play on my strengths. *What were my strengths again?* Oh yeah, I have none. Well, maybe one; I am not afraid to REALLY screw up some metal! I mean I will try ANYTHING!! Usually with disastrous results, but hey that's how you learn, right? **Not to mention all the incredible scrap metal you produce!**

So I started with a triangle. My thinking being that 1) not everyone would be doing it and 2) it took less metal. (At this writing, silver prices are $18.44 a ounce!!!!) So I mark them and start cutting. NO GOOD! I wont be able to anything on them once I'm finished. Back to the drawing board.

November turns to December and all I have are sketches. Now I'm busy preparing for Christmas. Still no progress. That's when it hit me....wait to see what you get for Christmas, then you will know what to do.

Well I got a disc cutter, drill bits, a caliper and gift certificates to the supply house!

"The disc cutter will help", I think. "They are going to be round"!

STEP ONE: Determine a shape. Check!

So I order metal. Not much, but enough to make the charms. I have TONS of copper, but I haven't soldered it much before and I really want them to be silver!

STEP TWO: Order metal. Check.

The Sterling silver arrives and I cant wait to try out my new disc cutter. Okay, so lets just say, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. **Operator problems** I was still able to get 10 usable discs from it. **And 3 unusable ones but we will refer to those as "future opportunities"!**

STEP THREE: Cut the metal. Check.

Now I have to ask myself, "Where do we go from here"? I look at my sketches again....nothing there that speaks to me.

WAIT! I HAVE IT! I have been doing a series of pieces about water. I don't know why. I am not particularly fond of water except as my drink of choice but at least this is a direction. Ok. water, water, water....."the flow"! Why "the flow"? I guess because I have a hard time going with it; this will serve as a reminder!

STEP FOUR: Choose a design and make these bad boys! Check.

Now I'm on a roll! So I stamp "flow" onto them! "The" is irrelevant. That worked.

Now what? Okay, I have a huge amount of inexpensive aquamarines, so I add a setting! **YOU GO GIRL!!!** So far, so good!

I then add my "water" (Silver wire that I have hammered flat and curved around my settings). Still, all good!

Time to cut the settings. (This is where the problems started!) You see, I had this tank of fuel that was running out, but I INSISTED on using it until the bitter end. So I solder away, pickle, rinse, and start to cut the settings......RIP! Off comes the setting. Rocketing across the room and now a two hour search is underway! Okay, I recovered it. Not sure what happened but I will fix that later. Lets try another...RIP!!! What is going on?!?!

I RUN to the computer and ask the forum. Bad soldering or too long in the pickle is the response I get. I know it wasn't in the pickle too long, so bad soldering it is! Now I remember that I have soldered 5 settings before I changed that tank, and 5 it is! Five settings rip off!

Its okay, I'm cool. Ill fix them later. Work with what you have.

The biggest problem is, these suckers are little! It hard to hold onto them while you cut them! I mention this to my husband and he says, "Use your shelf paper". (Like he'd been doing this his entire life and this was the OBVIOUS answer!!!) But it worked!!!
I repair one of the broken settings **just to see if I can**! Okay, Its holding up, but I'm getting anxious! What if they look like crap?

So I work on the six I have cut. I set the stones, polish and tumble. BEAUTIFUL (if I do say so myself!!!)!

I still have to finish four more, but I am feeling a bit better about it all. Will I ever do another charm swap? Probably not. I HATE the repetition! But did it help me learn new things and practice the skills I have? ABSOLUTELY!

Now, I'm off to see a man about a bunch of scrap metal!