Monday, May 31, 2010

I've heard that dogs can't see laser pointers because they're color blind.  MooShu proves that this is is nothing but an urban legend.




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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bringing a sketch to life

In my last post, I wrote about sketching out new designs.  Well, here's the work in progress.

When it's finished, it'll be going to Hope.


Hope has been waiting for this ring for a long time.  She wanted to another ring in my shop but someone beat her to it. Then we spent a couple months looking for a cab until we found one that she liked on eBay.  Then she had to wait a week for the auction to finish.  (Luckily I won it - which doesn't seem to happen a lot for me.)

So when I got the cab I drew a few sketches and she decided she liked design #5.  Unfortunately, that design required beaded wire that I didn't have.  

It then took another couple of weeks, but when I got home on Friday, I was so happy to see the long awaited box of supplies sitting by my front door.  (With TWO dog biscuits on it.  The UPS man always leaves a biscuit for Indy and a biscuit for MooShu.)

Now FINALLY I have everything and, as you can see, her ring is on my workbench right now.  It's still a little rough, but with some filing and tumbling, it should look pretty good, I hope.

And here's a few more items on my workbench this weekend.
The "Pick a cab and design your own ring/pendant" listing in my Etsy shop turned out better than I expected.  It turned out so well, that I won't be accepting any more custom orders until I get these out the door!   But I'm definitely planning to run it again in the near future.




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Friday, May 28, 2010

Each cabochon is unique and I try very hard to carefully create a design specifically for each stone. I think every cabochon has a voice that needs to be heard.  Sometimes the voice is loud and strong.  Other times, it whispers, almost unheard.  Some cabs don't speak for a while, but eventually, perhaps when they warm up to you or when the moment is right, they let you know what they want.

One trick I use to coax out a design from a cab is sketching around a photocopy of the stone.   This works especially well with unique stones.   Seeing the natural patterns of the stone really gives you a better idea of how the overall design of the setting should flow.

And if you're making a custom design for someone, it allows the buyer to better visualize how their piece of jewelry will eventually look.

This cab is going to be a ring and I'll be working on it over the next week.  I'm planning to post updates on it to show you how it progresses.  (And to tease Hope, who's been patiently waiting for me to begin work on her new ring!)

So which design do you think Hope chose?


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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Every time I list a new ring in my shop, I get emails from people that want the ring in a different size.  Unfortunately, it's not usually possible to resize the ring, and since the stones are one-of-a-kind, a can't make an identical ring.


So I decided to try something new for my shop.  I now have a listing that offers cabs that will be incorporated in a custom ring for the buyer.

I don't know how well this will work, but I thought I'd give it a try.

In this first attempt, I tried to select cabs that are as different as possible from each other:  I have a druzy, a labradorite, a mookaite, a Morgan Hill Poppy Jasper, and a Priday Plume agate.  All of them are gorgeous, and each would make a lovely ring.  (I personally can't pick a favorite.)

Do you know what will be the hardest part?  It will be waiting for someone to claim the cabs and NOT setting these stones right away.

For example, I just got the yellow and red mookaite in the mail yesterday, and it's like a juicy piece of candy.  I'm dying to set it in a sleek and modern design. And I almost started setting the Priday Plume agate last weekend.

Oh well, it's not like I don't have any other cabs in my collection that I can work with.  I'm at the point that I have to commit to STOP buying more cabs.   (At least, that's what I say to myself every time I can't resist a new cabochon.  I promise myself that that'll be the last purchase for a while.  Ha!)

You can find this listing here, in my Etsy shop.  There are more details about these cabs in my shop listing.



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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Snowstorm in May

It's cottonwood season again and the pesky seeds land in my yard and form little drifts of "snow".  Pretty, yet annoying at the same time.

However, cleaning up the mess they make is easier for some than for others:


I feel so sorry for the spider.  As soon as he rebuilds his web, it's going to fill up with cottonwood seeds again!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yes, I finally finished it!  (If you check my past few posts, you can follow the progress of this ring from a few sketches, to the finished piece.)

The centerpiece of this ring is a Bazooka pink druzy of rhodochrosite . It's covered all over with a shimmer of crystals. To its right is a blue topaz which forms the center of a handcrafted flower. The flower is three dimensional - the petals curve inward toward the topaz and there are more petals underneath.

(More photos of this ring can be found here.)

So what's a druzy? It's a blanket of tiny, sparkling crystals most often found inside a geode or an agate. The sparkle looks like spilled salt or sugar. The tiny crystals are made after molten rock begins to quickly cool, trapping gasses within it as it becomes a solid. The trapped gasses make crevices and cavities in the cooling rock. Later, groundwater flows through these gaps and crevices, layering minerals which crystallize on top of each other. The crystals are druzy (or drusy). This process doesn't take days or weeks, but a few hundred or even a few thousand years.

(BTW, I got this one-of-a-kind stone at Mountain Glory Gems, a great seller on Etsy.  I haven't seen another one like it, but I've bought other lovely and unusual cabs there. )


This ring offered a few challenges. The cab had uneven depths and surfaces which made it hard to set. And I forgot how much of a pain small cabs like this topaz are to set. And then, just after the stones were set and I want to add the finishing touches, I found that the chemicals I use to oxidize / antique the silver were dead. (The sudden humidity of the summer weather destroyed the Liver of Sulfur I usually use.) I thought the ring was going to have to wait until I ordered more chemicals, but then I remembered: I can oxidize silver the old-fashioned way, using egg yolks. The sulfer in egg yolks is really effective at darkening silver and enhancing the depth of the details.

(If you're interested in how to oxidize silver with egg yolks, I wrote a tutorial about it here.)


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Friday, May 21, 2010

Look at what I snagged!
I found a lapidary artist who had a number of these cabs and I picked as many as I could up. (The name of his site is L'Ochsner.  It's a brand new shop - I think I was his first customer!) And I also found one cab by Artcabs on Etsy.  I'm so excited and can't wait to set them!

If you read my earlier post, I wrote about how much I love this agate but that it seems to be harder to find than before.  Info I found on the internet claimed that the mine was CLOSED and there was no new rock to be had.

Well I got an email from someone who really knows about this agate, Terry from LostSierra.  (Check out his Etsy shop.  He cuts great cabs which I've been trying to resist buying, very unsuccessfully.)

Terry states:
"The info in your blog about the Prudent Man is incorrect. I happened to live most of my life quite close to the mine...
1) Mine location: Central Idaho (Lost River Valley)
2) Status of mine: Active during summer/fall or when snow melts.
3) Owner of mine: Steve H. (Lives in Idaho Falls) know him well.
4) Vein #2: "Your Cabochon" variety is readily available.
5) Vein #1: Closed,mined out.(Highest Grade RED/SAGE color Plumes)"

First: many thanks to Terry for correcting my post.  It goes to show that you can't believe everything you read on the internet. 

Second:  I envy Terry.  Can you believe living close to these wonderful mines, being able to personally collect these rocks and rough gemstones, and then being able to bring them to life!

Third: this means that I should be able to easily buy MORE or these wonderful agates.

Fourth: wow, someone actually reads my blog.


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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another long day at work (are they ever short?) followed by dinner at home (thank god for leftovers!) and all the other activities one usually might expect (or not) while school is coming to a close for the kids.

Toward the end of the day, I was so close to heading out to bed and vegitating in front of the TV.  But I also wanted to work on my latest project.

Until this past December, silvermaking meant I had to head to the garage - and dress appropriately for the weather.  Now that I've moved to the basement and arranged a work area, it's so much easier and the weather isn't an issue.  So now if I have a couple of hours, I don't have much of an excuse.

It was a pretty close call, but I decided to continue working on my latest ring.  A couple of  hours later, and this is what I have so far.
I don't know if you can see it, but the silver work is a bit different than before - yes, the details are still rough and need finishing, so bear with me.  But the leaves and flowers are slightly more 3-dimentional than in my earlier work.  I hope that this becomes more evident once I finish the edges and oxidize the piece to add more depth.

If I have enough free time, I really hope to make some more progress tomorrow.  With luck, maybe even finish it!

I'll keep you updated on the progress.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Both my day job and new commisions I've been working on have kept me pretty busy.  Plus my daughter is graduating from eighth grade, so there are all kinds of activities there. (Rehearsals, recitals, plays, and parties - oh my!) 


It seems like there's just never enough time in the day.

In the midst of it all, I was cleaning up my workbench and found a stray cab that I had forgotten about.  And all of a sudden - probably because it was feeling neglected - it DEMANDED to be made into a ring.

I'd bought this dainty pink rhodochrosite a while ago without knowing what I was going to do with it - but it was too pretty to pass up.  It was patiently waiting for me, until inspiration knocked me upside the head and told me what I was supposed to do with it.

Seriously, this is the way it seems to work with me.  An sudden idea.  A few drawings to get the idea on paper.  But then after the drawings,  I still have to figure out how to make the design work with silver and solder.

This juicy pink druzy is going to be part of a floral motif on a ring.  I'm going to pair it with a small blue topaz which is going to be the center of a flower.  I've also got some ideas on adding some depth to the petals and the leaves - different than I've done before. 

I hope to have some time to work on it through the week and will try to post some photos as it progresses.


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

I've just been fascinated by this particular stone. The detail is amazing. I've had people look at a cabochon and tell me that they can't believe that it's a stone and not a painting.

Because I liked these agates so much I started buying cabs whenever I could. But lately, two things have happened: 1. It's getting more difficult to find cabs 2. The price has gone through the roof.

The stone is mined in Oregon and the owners of the land no longer allow mining  (at least that's one of the stories I've heard.)  so there  is no more new stone to be had.  Only the earlier mined slabs are available right now.

This is the third agate that I've set and this one is a beauty.  Each has been in a different setting but, because I was inspired by the forest scene in each stone, I've always cut a leaf pattern into the back of the settings.

I just listed this necklace tonight and it can be found in my Etsy shop.   (More pictures are there.)



But you may ask, where did the name, Prudent Man come from?   I've wondered myself and just found out. (All hail google!)  The name "Prudent Man" is a reference to a clause in the 1872 mining law that states a claim can only be filed on a lode or vein that a prudent man could earn a living from by working it.



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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm taking a little break from soldering.  I had a frustrating couple of weekends and my brain and my metalwork were at odds with each other.  So I decided to go back to wirewrapping, which I haven't done for a while.

Although wire-wrapping briolettes may be agonizing to some, I find it soothing.  Looping the wire carefully around the stones is almost relaxing to me.  I love getting it just right and ending up with a neat line of wrapped stones lying on my workbench.

I dug out my boxes of beads and gemstones and looked for something to work with. My boxes are color-coded and, being inspired by the spring, the box with pinks and purples called out to me.

These new earrings are of amethyst and peridot and their particular shades of purple and green are a perfect contrast to each other.  They remind me of hyacinths.  I also made similar earrings in rose quartz and amethyst.

After finishing the wire-wrapping, lining up my little creations on the workbench, and sitting there gazing at them,  and felt much better and happier.

I might be ready to tackle soldering again now.





Just listed my my shop a couple minutes ago, more photos of the amethyst earrings can be found here, and photos of the rose quartz are here.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just listed these in my shop a minute ago.

I have a handful of Sleeping Beauty cabs I bought about a year ago and, while they last, every once in a while I get around to making another pair of earrings.  Each pair of earrings has been different in design.  (To see the other earring styles in my blog, go here and here.)  And I think each new pair has been better than the last.

These latest earrings were an experiment in stamping metal.   They look simple, but I probably made them in the most difficult way imaginable!  (It's all in my learning process.)  Next time, I'll know better.

More photos of these earrings can be found here.

And, right now, I have several new pieces in my tumbler:  a couple different gemstone earrings and a large Prudent Man Agate pendant.  I hope to be listing them in my shop in the next couple of days.

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I'm still playing around creating setting with graceful vines and flowers.  With this one, I used recycled sterling to create the flowers.

I always have scraps of silver lying around.  When I get around to it, it's easy to melt them down into spheres of various sizes.  Here, I flattend out a few balls of silver into discs and stamped them.  I like the way the stamp wasn't perfectly centered on each disc - it looks more natural that way, as though the flowers were being swayed by a warm breeze.

If you'd like to see more photos of this pendant, they can be found here.

The stone is a chrysocolla.  They've sometimes fooled me into thinking that they're turquoise, except the color can be a bit more vibrant  bluish-green. Chrysocolla is found in quite a few places in Europe, North Africa, and the United States.

It has many metaphysical properties attributed to it. In Eqypt, it was thougth that this stone had the power to make violent people more sensitive and tolerant, which is apparently why Cleopatra carried chrysocolla with her everywhere she went.

Native American Indian cultures regarded chrysocolla as a healing stone. This earth-like stone was used to strengthen the body's resistance and calm a person when he or she was upset.


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Thursday, May 6, 2010

I used to keep all my cabs in a candy bowl.  Everytime I got a new one, I'd drop it in.  Then when I wanted to design a new piece of jewelry, I'd start rummaging through the bowl to find what I wanted.

This was OK for a while, but when my collection grew, I started forgetting about what I had.  And sometimes cabs would be missing because it was so easy to leave them lying about all over the house. 

When I  showed my cabs to someone,  I'd just spill out the contents of the bowl on a table and we'd sift through all the pretty stones.  Fun, yes, but not very efficient or professional.

What to do with them?!

I thought of organizing my cabs in those acrylic organizer boxes that are used for beads or embroidery thread.  But that would just mean that the cabs would still be strewn in little containers - just more of them!  Then a friend of mine suggested using a scrapbook.  Why didn't I think of that!

I found a couple of scrapbooks for $1.99 on a clearance rack.  These look like photo albums but have clear plastic sleeves that you can slip things into. 

And I found the best time to do a little organizing.  Our family was planning a long car trip, so I brought along my cabs and the scrapbooks for the ride.  Rather than sitting around bored or looking at scenery, I spent several hours happily organizing the cabs into the books and labeling them:


The cabs are roughly organized by color or type of stone and each has been labeled with the type of stone, where it was purchased, and how much I paid for it.  I secured them with double-sided foam tape which holds the cabs firmly, but allows me to easily pull them off when I need to.  Plus they're protected in the plastic sleeves. These scrapbooks are expandable which is helpful, as the cabs are bulky and they're easy to page through.

And, happily for me,  I still have plenty of room to expand.




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Monday, May 3, 2010

Because MooShu is such a little guy, he's very sensitive to temperatures.  During the winter he got cold so quickly.  We wanted to make sure that he didn't get chilled, so we let his hair get long during the winter months - and kept him bundled up in sweaters when it got really chilly.

This didn't mean he didn't get a trim now and then. 

Because it's so inconvenient to routinely take him to the groomers, I decided that I would take the shears into my own hands.  Over the years I've trimmed the hair of my husband and son, so I thought I could do the same for MooShu.  So I bought some pet clippers and sharp scissors and kept him tidy.  Plus it was fun trying shape his hair and allow him to grow out his whiskers and a top knot.  (And look at that cute little beard!)

But now that the warmer weather's arrived, he gets hot very quickly - his fur is dark and it tends to absorb the heat.  But there's another problem: his fur is just so soft.  MooShu is a cross between a maltese and a yorkie and, rather than the silky hair of a yorkie, he's inherited the hair of a maltese.  It's so soft and fluffy that it tends to mat.  Between the heat and the knots, it seemed that a haircut was in order.
But, of course, before the haircut, comes a bath.

Why is it, no matter how casual and nonchallant I might be, he knows. 

Yes, he knows. 

And he runs.
I chase him around the living room and, eventually, he decides that it's no use.  He cowers, shows me the underside of his belly, and I pick him up and away we go for to the kitchen sink.

But this time, there was more than just a routine bath.  Yes, much, much more.

It was time for (...cue the music...) T.H.E.  H.A.I.R.C.U.T.


It takes all of our patience. And about half a cup of Cheerios, a favorite treat. 

Then, after it was over, we probably had enough hair left over for another Mooshu.  Maybe even two

And now, with his hair shorn off, he looks like a little puppy again!

Although he definitely felt the entire process was an ordeal, it seems as though he's really enjoying his new haircut.  He's been running around more than ever, playing and chasing after his toys. 

He's so full of joy and seems to be pleased with himself and with everything around him.  Oh, except for one thing. 

After all the trauma I put him through, I'm persona non grata - he's pretty much avoided me for the past few days. 

But I think it was worth it.






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I spent about 6 hours making/finishing pendants on Saturday and even with all the time I spent, I didn't complete a single project.  What you can see above are pendants in varying stages of completion, as well as earrings/earring components.  Several pendants only need chains, but I still need to make/attach them, decide upon what kind of clasps I want and then make them.  And I know its going to take longer that I really want it to. 

In case you're wondering what kind of stones these are, going clockwise starting at the upper left: a blue/green chrysocolla, a bird's eye rhyolyte, a Prudent Man Agate, and a Flower Jasper.

I wonder if other metalworkers are as slow as I am?  Lots of times I don't have the entire completed piece in my mind, but I'll create it as it develops.  So I'll often be at a loss as to what to do next.  This means that a half-completed piece will go on my shelf, waiting for inspiration to hit me.

I'm feeling a little bit of frustration and it may be time to take a break from soldering.  I have a couple of wirework commissions and maybe I'll focus on that area for a while.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

This past weekend Indianapolis featured  annual Mutt Strut  which  benefits the Humane Society.   You get to walk your dogs on the Indianapolis 500 Speedway.


These photos are from our local paper.  And even though it was raining, it looks like the participants, both 2 legged and 4 legged, had a great time.


I missed out this year.  But  next year, MooShu and Indy will definitely need to participate.


And yes, there is nothing "so ugly I'm cute"  than a Chinese Crested Hairless.  Except maybe one decked out in rain gear.  






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