Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back in November I blogged about how much I wanted to make my own silver headpins, the kind with little balls on one end of them. Since I don't know how to solder, and since I was obsessed with wanting to make headpins, I resorted to using my GAS GRILL to make some. (Here's the link to the original tale. )

Since the gas grill had the unfortunate side effect of burning off all the hairs from the backs of my hands, I thought I should go ahead and invest in tools that could help me make those headpins.

I read up about propane torches and other similar weapons of destruction, and decided that maybe I should start with something a bit smaller: a butane microtorch. "Micro torch" sounded so inocuous. Plus I read somewhere that they're pretty useful for soldering.
So I went to my local Home Depot to find my toy.
Let me introduce you to my purchase: the amazing BENZOMATIC:
Together with the butane , this little baby only set me back about 25 dollars.

Next step: filling it with butane and lighting it.

My son helped me with this. It took about an hour to figure out how to fill the torch with butane and light it so that it produced a steady flame. If it wasn't for my son, this probably would have taken me at least 10 minutes.

Whoo hoo! Now for the headpins!

I cut up some lengths of 22 and 20 gauge wire, then realized I didn't have an good way to hold them in the flame. (Using my fingers would be a BAD idea.) I remember someone mentioning that sticking them in sand worked well. Unfortunately I didn't have any sand. It crossed my mind that soil might be an alternative, but the ground outside was frozen solid.

So what could I stick the wire in to make it stand up so I could flame it?
The best thing I came up with was a slice of white bread.

So that's what we did. Unfortunately, the flame from the Benzomatic wasn't hot enough to melt the silver effectively. It took so long that the bread started to toast up. And it took forever for the 20 gauge wire to ball up and make headpins.

Despite my optimism for the Benzomatic, I wan't exactly happy with the results. So I decided to return it and get something BIGGER.

Oh yes. I went out and bought myself a butane torch. So please look forward to hearing about my new adventures. I'm sure I'll be blogging about them soon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I blogged about working on this double helix (or double spiral) design in copper earlier. It took me a while longer than I thought, but I think I finally got the design to where I want it. Here are the finished earrings in sterling silver:
I find the sterling easier to work with than the copper. It's harder, and it take more forging to get the sterling shaped, but it tends to go where you want it to. With these earrings, the longer end of the earring gradually widens as it spirals, and it encirles the shorter end.

To put them on, you thread the shorter end in the hole in your ear, and then it goes in using a cork-screw motion.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Before I went to bed on Friday, I checked my blog and noted that it had almost 5000 views. Not bad for me; I was pretty pleased. On Saturday I woke up, still groggy, got on the internet and thought that my blog was up to 5160 views.

Wow, I thought, a lot of views overnight. Neatorama must have picked up on the story about 1943 hiring practices of women that I submitted to them.

Off I went to check statcounter, clicked on my account and saw a graph that went through the roof.

What gives? Is statcounter having problems? Then I realized I didn't have 5160 views on my blog, I had 15, 160 !

It turned out that my post had not only been linked by Neatorama, but then it got submitted to Reddit and National Review!

Over the weekend, there were times when I was getting a hit every second. What a riot!

Since this will never happen again, I need to document this. Take a look at the statistics for the weekend:

Blog hits over the weekend

And here's a view from ClustrMaps of where the hits came from:
clustermap of my hits
There were more, but the high number of hits overwhelmed my the account. :-)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Elizabeth, who has some wonderful jewelry in her Etsy shop, Keys and Memories, has "Freebie Wednesdays" on her blog. All you have to do is leave a comment, then she draws a name to pick the winner. Well, a couple of weeks ago, she picked my name!

Whoo hoo! I couldn't believe I won!

I checked the mailbox daily until the package came! (It only took a few days but I was impatient.)

Now for the fun part: opening it!

Wow! Look what's in it! First there was a zip lock bag with the shop name and her logo, and the blog website. (A great idea! )

Inside the ziplog bag was a lovely note, some candy, and another ziplock bag containing my prize! And here it is:

It's one of her typewriter key necklaces! Isn't it cool. I'm not sure how she makes them, but they're really nifty.

Keys and Memories has tons of earrings, keychains, necklaces and rings made from lovely vintage typewriter keys. But she also has some variations on the keys. For example, isn't this Dr Suess bracelet funky:

But some of my favorite things in her shop are her steampunk jewelry made out of watch parts and vintage items. (I'm just a sucker for steam punk. I wrote about some fabulous steampunk computers and journals in an earlier post.) This brooch in her shop is just amazing:

To see more neat stuff in her Etsy shop, Keys and Memories, click here.

BTW, the typewriter key necklace I got seems to be on permanent loan to my 17 yr-old daughter. She "borrowed" it the day it came, so I will probably never see it again.


...can't live with them; can't kill them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I had to share this!

1943 guide to hiring women

If you can't read the above, here's the text:
1943 Guide to Hiring Women
The following is an excerpt from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine. This was written for male supervisors of women in the work force during World War II.

"Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees: There's no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage.

Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:

1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.

5. Stress at the outset the importance of time the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed too much in keeping women happy."

If you'd be interesting in subscribing to my blog and receiving it by e-mail, just click Subscribe to Contrariwise ramblings by Email.

Blogger only gives you 3 choices for the size of the photos you post. Sometimes I've found that I wanted to post a larger or a smaller picture. It took me a while to figure out how to do this but after some googling, I finally figured it out.

1) First, your pictures have to be on an outside hosting site, not on your computer. For this example, I am using flickr .

2) Go to the picture you want in flickr. On the lower right, click on the option "See different sizes"
The size options include square, thumbnail, small medium, and original.

3) Click on the size you want. To link that size photo on your blog, you need to copy the html code found at the bottom of the flickr page.

4) Copy the html code that those sites give you and paste it where you want it to appear in your blog post. VERY IMPORTANT: You must use the Edit Html tab not the Compose tab.


Here are examples of photos I linked to from my flickr account.

75x75 square:

Starfish on the Strands - necklace

Thumbnail size (100 x 97):

Starfish on the Strands - necklace

Small size (240x233):
Starfish on the Strands - necklace

Medium size (500x486):
Starfish on the Strands - necklace

Original size (700x68)
Starfish on the Strands - necklace

(If you don't like the standard sizes given by flickr, you can resize the photo to whatever you want first, by either using the editing program within Flickr, or resizing it in your photoediting program before uploading it to flickr.)

You can easily center the pictures by clicking on the photo (in the Compose view) and clicking on the Justify Center option.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

OK, so I have a thing for sock animals. But I can't help it. They're so CUTE!

There's a seller on Etsy, UppityWomanDesigns, who has some awesome sock animals (among other things). And when I saw one of her creations, Mooch the Dog, I knew he was destined to be part of our family. I mean, how could you not melt when looking at a face like this:

I bought Mooch shortly before Christmas for Emma, who had been lusting at a number of UppityWomansDesigns' sock animals. When she noticed Mooch was sold, she was devastated!

Mooch, however, appeared under the Christmas tree, and Emma was ecstatic! Can't you tell!

That's a photo of Emma with a Playdoh cupcake she made for Mooch. He seemed to like it. Since then, Emma has immortalized Mooch in PlayDoh. (Well, maybe immortal isn't quite the word to use for stuff that has a tendancy to dry up into a shriveled grainy mass of crackled salt dough.)

I don't know if UppityWomanDesigns knows
how much enjoyment she's given to us, but Emma's definitely been amused.
(And maybe I have been, too.)
You can find sock animals and other wonderful creations made by UppityWomanDesigns here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sock Zombie at my home!

You might remember that in a earlier post I blogged about Sock Zombies, these delightfully weird creatures made by the Etsy seller Underroos. I thought that they were so unique that I submitted them to (BoingBoing is a great site. Check it out if you haven't already.) And featured them late last month!

Well, Underroos ended up selling more than 50 Sock Zombies in just a few days. And, in appreciation, she sent me a Sock Zombie for my very own!

It's a large toe-horned throwing zombie, as you can tell from the 3 small nubbins on the top of her left horn and the 2 slightly larger nubbins on the right. She has slightly glazed and maniacal, yet not unkind, look in her eyes.

She is pictured lying on my couch in my work room where she guards my beads from the undead.

My daughter, Emma, has taken quite a liking to her and gave her her cherished Hannah Montana wig.

I think the wig is definitely a nice touch, don't you?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

You may have noticed I haven't posted lately. On Thursday I left for Phoenix for a gymnastics meet with my 12 yr-old daughter, Emma. Every since I left, I haven't been able to access the internet - UNTIL TONIGHT! (Of course I had posts prepared ahead of time. But what good was that! If I had been offline for any longer, I was afraid I might go into DT's! )

So what's been going on?

First, I've had to postpone my Design-A-Day series. I was doing really well, creating a new design each day for about 2 weeks, but with this trip, it just became an impossibility. I get back tomorrow, but with everything going on (i.e. getting back to my 9 to 5 job, laundry, shipping out jewelry orders), I know I won't be able to begin creating until the weekend.

But, you know, I wasn't entirely happy with this Design-A-Day challenge. I really wanted to create something new and innovative each day. But with a day job and 3 kids, it's a good day if I have 1-2 hours in an evening to work on my jewelry.

I had some great ideas for necklaces and bracelets, but it takes time to actually create them. So I felt that I was short-changing myself - and creating and posting only really easy designs.

Anyway, back to our weekend in Phoenix. We had a GREAT WEEKEND! Emma came in FIRST in her age group and level at the gymnastics meet. (And I was a good mommy and took videos of all her events.)

We also did some fun things: we climbed Camelback Mountain (yes, thankfully I brought some Advil), we went to the Science Museum and saw an exhibit on artifacts from the Titanic (yes, this was awesome - when I get home I'm going to have to watch the Leonardo DiCaprio / Kate Winslet movie ), and we went shopping! And we did a really Mommy/Daughter kind of thing: we got Emma's ears pierced! (Which turned out more traumatic than I ever expected.)

Oh yeah, I have photos, which I hope to share with you later this week - along with posts on jewelry and some cool sellers on Etsy!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

There's no secret to blogging or having ideas to blog about. Here are a few hints to save you time and get you organized

1. Take a notebook or binder with you wherever you go.
Sometimes during the day a great idea pops into your head for an excellent article topic, but you have no way of remembering it and soon that idea is lost. So you never forget any ideas, keep a notebook with you at all times. (That notebook is also great for jotting down ideas for your craft! I use mine to draw new jewelry designs when I get an inspiration!)

2. Have some backup posts ready for emergencies.
Whether you’re going to be away from your blog or the internet for a while, or whether a horrible case of writer’s block has plagued you, it’s always important to have some backup posts ready that you can publish without worry.

3. Create a weekly posting schedule. The only way to get people to visit your blog is to blog consistently.
For some bloggers it’s difficult to constantly have ideas for articles that need to be published the next day. Grab a piece of paper or your notebook, and make a chart that contains every single day of the week. Then think about which posts you’re going to publish on what days, and write it down. Jot down potential post titles and main points these articles might include. By planning ahead you can save several weekly hours of thinking and stressing over what you're going to write.

4. Subscribe to your favorite blogs in an RSS reader.
Subscribing to the blogs you read can keep you organized and save many hours each week. And if you like my blog,Contrariwise Ramblings, feel free to sign up! Just go my sidebar and enter your email address!

5. Quit checking your stats all the time.
Your blog will only go downhill if all you do is check your stats. (Same is true for Etsy and other sites you're on.)

6. Set aside a specific time of day to relax and blog.
This might be in the evening, when the kids are in bed and you're enjoing a nice cup of tea. Once you're organized, blogging won't be a chore; it'll be a time of day that you'll look forward to!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A lot of people have said that my designs seem organic. I think that's because I like the jewelry I make to look like it flows. This particular design has eluded me for too long. I've been working on it for several days, but the idea has been in my head for much longer, and I think that I am almost there.

What you see below is not quite the final product, but I'm so close. I think I'll finally achieve the final design when I switch from copper to silver. This will be my next step. (Forging copper is different than forging silver. Copper is softer and a bit less "trainable". I always feel that I can more easily direct the silver where I want it to go.)

The longer end of the earring widens as it gradually spirals, and it encirles the shorter end.

You may ask, "How do I put them on?"

You thread the shorter end in the hole in your ear, and then it goes in using a cork-screw motion!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I had an idea in my head to create some new swirly silver earrings. But try as I might for the past several days, they just didn't come out right. All of them eventyally went into the trash. It was really frustrating.

So instead of new swirly for my Day 12 design, I'm submitting some earrings that were made with my daughter's help.

Emma was rummaging through my bead boxes, putting together different combinations of beads and she came up with this lovely spring-time combo:

It's her design, I just put them on wire. The beads are czech glass, cherry quartz glass, and lampwork. The colors all go together perfectly. I think she did a great job!

(Now I'm off to put my bead boxes back in order. And to work on those new silver swirl earrings.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Submitting your url to search engines is supposed to increase traffic to your website. I found this list of Search Engines on Tips for New Bloggers. You may submit your site URL to these search engines for Free.

Yahoo! Search
Microsoft Live Search
Alexa Web Search
Baidu (Chinese search engine)
Scrub the Web
Splat Search
email Mozdex
Abacho (European search engine)
eVisum (educational resource)

I've submitted Contrariwise Ramblings to most of these. I'll let you know if I see any more traffic. (But some of them claim that it might take WEEKS to add your website to their search engine!)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

This is just a concept that I had - ring with just a single swirl incorporated in it. This design definitely still needs some work before I would consider listing it in my online shop.

Because I was just playing arround with some ideas, I used copper because it's so much less expensive than silver. Somehow, swirls don't seem to want to behave for me as well in this metal. It's a bit softer than silver, so it wants to bend more quickly and tends to create more angles.

I might play around with this concept a little more, or I might not. Either way, this is the reason why this Design A Day challenge is a great thing for me. It gives me incentive and motivation to create new designs. (Whether or not they really work out well!)

I actually worked on this necklace while I was on my business trip to Boulder. Did I mention that my luggage didn't arrive with me? Yes, I got to Indy, but my bag didn't. (It could have been worse - it could have been waylaid on the way to Boulder. Then I would have been with out fresh clothes and - God forbid ! - my makeup for my meetings.) Well, I finally got my bag back yesterday and was able to finish this necklace and take a photo of it this morning. (Yes, I am officially behind on the Design-A-Day challenge and I doubt that I'll be able to catch up. Especially since I'll be traveling again next week.)

This is a necklace I've been thinking about doing for a while. The pearls are vintage and came from a 3-strand graduated necklace that I picked up for a pittance at a Flea Market. (They were really lovely, but one of the strands was broken.) The chain is a vintage piece that I picked up on Etsy.

The pearls were put on brass headpins and clustered somewhat assymetrically on the chain. I really like the way this piece looks on. If I can talk my daughter into modelling it, I'll post another picture later.

I wasn't sure about what to name it, so I asked my 12 yr-old, Emma what she thought it looked like. She's been really helpful at naming some of my other jewelry (like my Unraveling Earrings and my Unfurling Earrings, and the Unicorn Horn Earrings). She looked at the necklace, thought a few moments, and said, "Why don't you call it 'Fish Eggs'!"

I think this time I'll figure out a name on my own.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Design A Day, Day 9

I spent most of Thursday in transit. I got up at 4:30 AM to catch a cab to Denver airport. I was supposed to have a 3 hour layover in Detroit (again!) but when I got there, I found that there was a flight leaving for Indianapolis in 30 minutes. They had seats, so I was able to get on it - this meant I could be home more than 2 hours early! It wasn't until I had entered the plane that I realized that my luggage wouldn't get to Indy as quickly as I would.

Sigh. No luggage for me. At least I got home early. But I won't be able to pick it up till Saturday. Hey, who needs make up and a curling iron anyway!

So, this preamble has been an excuse for why I didn't post my Day 9 design yesterday. (Cue the violins.) I was just too tired to do much of anythign last night. I vegitated and spent some time cuddling with my daughter and watching TV.

But I'm really really pleased with this design for Day 9. It's deceptively simple: a single piece of silver and a round gemstone. BUT, I think that simple is hard to get right.

Yes, it's just a single piece of wire, but it flows well with the stones and has a graceful curving design. And hammering the wire in different areas of the wire gives the earrings depth.
(Only problem: I can't remember what the heck these stones are! Does anyone know?)

"These men are setting solid steel pillars in concrete to stop vehicles from parking on the pavement outside a sports bar in downtown Norman, Oklahoma. They are cleaning up at the end of the day.


How long do you think it will be before they realize where their vehicle is parked?"

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

OK, so today I'm at a business meeting in Boulder, Colorodo. No, it's not that wonderful; I spent the whole day holed up in a hotel room. But during the 2 breaks and lunch I did have the opportunity to look through hotel windows and glimpse some mountains in the distance! Whoo hoo!

Ah, a far cry from the corn fields of Indiana, eh?

Tomorrow my cab picks me up at 5:15 AM for the ride to the airport, to get me back home.

As I said before, I'm trying to keep this Design-A-Day commitment going for as long as I can. So I prepared ahead a bit to ensure that I have something to post.

So what do I have for today? Well, it might not seem as much, but it took a while to get it to the stage it's at.

I started with this idea a couple of months ago, but it never got off the ground beyond the preliminary stages.

What you see are vintage beads made of ostrich eggshells. These types of beads are amongst the oldest found on earth. (You can see more info about them in an earlier post of mine.) I've shaped them a bit with a file to give them a bit of a square shape, then added a swirl of silver to contrast with the square shape.

Eventually these pieces will become earrings. (You'll see. I swear.) One of the squares will comprise the post, and 2 others will dangle below.

Sorry, that's all for today. But I promise to post their progress later this week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Today I am blogging from the terminal at the Detroit airport. I have a 4 hour layover until my flight to Denver. (Long story -I missed my connection so I'm stuck for a while. Thank goodness for laptops and WiFi.) It's a quick business trip this time - I'll be back home in a couple of days.

Over the weekend I did a lot of creating and taking pics. I was hoping that I wouldn't break my streak of posting a new design every single day for 30 days.

So here is my day 7 design, a jade and copper pendant:

This pendant started out as a practice piece that I did a while ago. I wanted to create a bracelet with sterling silver wire-wrapped beads. But of course I didn't want to waste silver, so I practiced with copper first. So what you see above is my first attempt at this type of wirework. These 2 beads went into my box of unfinished work and had been there for a couple months.

I pulled it out this weekend and decided that it would work well on its own as a pendant.

The copper, which has darkened on its own, really contrasts well with the jade, which is a creamy light green.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Design A Day: Day 6

Not only do these look good enough to eat, but they should supply your entire day's requirement for Vitamin C!

The teardrop-shaped faceted beads are carnelians. The rondelles are wound glass that match the carnelians PERFECTLY. (I brought the carnelians to a local bead shop, to look for matching beads for a different design I was planning on. But when I found these orange rondelles, I couldn't pass them up. As soon as I saw them I could visualize the earrings I would have to make.)

The earrings may look simple, but I spent a long time this weekend trying to figure out how to combine the two beads just right to create a cohesive design.

The earrings are now available at my online store.

I've been really good with this Design-a-day challenge, trying to create new jewelry designs and photograph them everyday. It's been a stretch but it's been good for me too. I've had a ton of ideas running through my head for a while, but I've never really took the time to start them. This challenge has really given me a kick in seat of the pants to get up and create!

Ah, but now I have a problem. I'm leaving for the next 3 days for a business trip. I've tried to work a little ahead - I've got some new items and I'm trying to take pictures. So we'll see if I can continue this while I'm gone.


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Design A Day : Day 5

My signature earrings in my online store are made of a single piece of sterling in which the earwire is incorporated in the design -either as a post or a hoop. (For examples, look here.)

I've always wanted to get more swirls in the design. But short of soldering (which is on my To-Do list of things to learn), what I've envisioned would be difficult to do.

For my Day 5 creation I've interpreted a design I would like to create by soldering, but I've done it using the technique of wire-wrapping:
I used 2 different gauges of wires. For the earwire part, I used 20 gauge which is a standard diameter for earrings. For the second set of swirls, I used a greater diameter, 18 gauge, so that I can get more dimension upon hammering. I used wire-wrapping to combine them to creat a single design.

One of the swirls falls just in front of the earlobe, and one of them falls directly beneath and slightly back. I think it creates a interesting and dramatic look. They're a good size too, being about 2 1/2 inches from top to bottom.

If you're interested in seeing more Design-a-Day creations, you can visit the group on Flickr.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Design A Day: Day 4

Today I decided that I would try making rings.

I'd never made rings before but I really wanted to try. I bought a ring madrel a couple weeks ago but hadn't gotten around to using it.

I thought I would start with copper for my first attempt (since silver is almost $18 an ounce these days). I love the look of copper combined with silver, so I used a silver bead as the focal. I don't think it turned out too badly:
I oxidized the metal and then polished it with fine steel wool, which gave the ring an antique look. It also gave the silver bead a satiny finish, which I think looks good.

My 17 yr old woman-child came into my work room and saw my first ring. She really liked it. Unbelievable! (Really, she rarely likes anything I make. So I was pretty amazed.) Since she was civil enough to talk to me (another remarkable circumstance) I gave her my first attempt at ring-making.

Next I wanted to make a variation on the first ring, so I thought I would add more silver to the ring. This is what it turned out like:

Let me know what you think. Do you prefer the first ring, or do you like the ring with the additional silver accents?

(If you're interested, the Flickr photostream for this challenge can be found here.)

FEBRUARY 2 EVENING UPDATE: I just listed the silver and copper ring in my Etsy shop.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Something this little ladybug obviously didn't learn.

Yes, she landed in our bowl of peas.

No, I don't know how she got here.

No, her house is neither on fire nor are her children burned.

Design a day: Day 3

Blue chalcedony, sterling, and swarovski - caught in the last light of a winter's day.