Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Expecting the unexpected ...

I sometimes wonder how other jewelry designers work.  Do they have a firm plan in mind?  Do they sketch out their ideas in pencil with an eraser at the ready?  Do they visualize the finished product right from the outset?

I know I don't.  Usually I don't have a clue.  I begin with a very general idea or inspiration, and it might be anything.  For this project, it began with a tiny, pretty ocean jasper cabochon.  The circle.  An orb. 

Okay, so far so good -- I had a name for the piece.  Then what?  The rounded triangle shape of the piece reminded me of those wonderful '50's retro coffee tables, and that led me to think about something asymmetrical yet not.  So I began building a necklace around that idea, and with each step came an unexpected change.  I rolled individual balls of silver and lined them up in ways that pleased my eye.  I fired the piece and photographed it, wondering (agonizing!) over whether or not I should oxidize it. 

I decided that yes, I needed to, in order to emphasize the texture of the piece.

Once that was done, I began to visualize how I would integrate the focal piece into a finished necklace.  Keep it simple and attach it to a silver chain?  Perhaps add a few glass beads that might echo the depth of the ocean for accent?  I ran to my supply closet and began going through all the wonderful glass beads in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes that I protectively hoard until just the right project comes along.  Finally, I find some tiny boro beads meant to be used as spacers that are just the right colors and size to complement -- but not overwhelm -- my focal.  Hours are spent bending and shaping sterling silver wire; making connections; forming a necklace.  Carefully crafting a sterling silver spiral clasp to complete the circle.  Oxidizing the sterling wire and lovingly polishing it back up, by hand.  Admiring it, and marveling at the wonder of having made this myself, with my own two hands.

And thinking that by now, I should know myself well enough to know to expect the unexpected when I sit down at the workbench to create.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's on my workbench ... more Art Nouveau

I guess eventual crossover from my years as a botanical miniaturist was inevitable.  My latest piece in progress is a fine silver pendant with a bezel-set Willow Creek jasper cabochon in shades of subtle pink, pale green, a hint of gray and a little ivory.  The bail is hidden on the back.  The feature that's especially unique in this piece is it's the first that includes my own tiny hand-sculpted roses!  I've never attempted that kind of sculptural feature before, and I like the effect.  I think I may be doing more of this!

The assortment of beads surrounding the pendant are candidates for a matching necklace.  I'm thinking possibly of a triple strand of coordinating beads culminating in silver cones and a toggle clasp.  The beads shown are rhodochrosite, soocho jade and impression jasper ... but the jury is still out.  I don't want to overwhelm a delicate-looking pendant with disproportionate beads.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll take the pendant with me while I shop for some tiny pale green or pink pearls ...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Insane kiln patina!

On my first firing of FastFire BronzClay, I used Magic Carbon as my firing medium inside Cool Tools' wonderful new firing foil, which was designed to be folded origami-style into a box and lid and replaces the old stainless steel covered pans that many metal clay artisans have been using and which flake terribly, leaving the inside of our kilns a black, sooty mess.  I was thrilled with the firing foil and the completely successful sintering of all my pieces.  However, I was less than impressed with the bronze color that resulted.  It was a little too cool for my taste; I prefer my bronze to have a richer, warmer tone.

So ... in the hope that re-firing my pieces by replacing all the Magic Carbon with the traditional Activated Coconut Carbon might result in warmer colors, I was flabbergasted (in a good way!) to pull these pieces out of the hot carbon and watch these absolutely insane colors develop.  My solid bronze bangle now looks like an ancient, rusted relic pulled from a sunken galleon.  And my little bronze hearts -- some of which will become earrings; some charms; and one a pendant -- are similarly beautiful ... although none can come close to the amazing colors of my bangle.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

And now for something completely different ...

First things first:  Happy New Year, all!  Wishing you a healthy, joyous and peaceful 2011!

Recently I've gone back to re-visit bronze and to change things up, I've done a small series of pieces with more of an Art Nouveau vibe ... just for fun.  (I hate being predictable, don't you??).

So, while things are still in the experimental stage and pieces are going into -- and out of -- the kiln, I thought I'd throw out a teaser and sneak preview of this new series, which will include earrings, charms and a big honking bangle bracelet.  More to follow, including details on the process for those of you who dabble.