Archive for May, 2011

ring #2, may 2011

I made another ring last Monday when I couldn’t turn the kiln on, thanks to the lightning storms. It is a rainy day kind of ring. This time I squeezed in every technical element I possibly could: 3 solder jobs, filing, stamping, forging, drilling and stonesetting.  It took forever, but I’m sure I’ll step it up with practice. I’m not exactly thrilled about this ring, but it was great practice and for my first try, I’d say it turned out pretty good. It’s big, and I like that.

Now that I’m no longer afraid of that little torch and understand the stages of flux and how to come at it with the heat, soldering the bezel went without a hitch. The bezel fit the stone a bit too snugly – I couldn’t easily slide the stone out both ends – so I rolled it ever so slightly on my steel block with a mandrel inside of it, and that stretched it out just enough. Soldering the bezel to the back plate was a bit more of a challenge. Even though I checked the fit numerous times and was satisfied, I think the metal moved a bit from the heat on the first try, leaving the smallest gap that the solder wouldn’t fill. Then I had a bright idea – I tapped the bezel down just the slightest bit in that area with a small hammer, it didn’t need much – then I re-fluxed and soldered again, and it filled in beautifully. I used the tripod/mesh screen for this particular solder job, and was quite certain I burned the heck out of the silver, but nope – it came out of the pickle very clean.

Then there was the task of soldering the ring shank to the back plate. That was not easy, even with two third hands. I opted for heavier gauge round wire for the shank, and offset towards one end, so that I could wear it with my other ring on top. I forged the ends for a larger surface area for the join, and it was a bear to get the ring shaped around the mandrel, and then filed flat enough for a clean join. That solder job took me a couple of tries as well, but I finally licked it. I’m thinking that the next ring will have a rectangular shank, and I can use binding wire and might have better luck with a good, flat joint.

The piece of labradorite isn’t the finest cut, but it was nice and big and the price was right. It has a vague seafoam/pink/peach flash that can only be seen from certain angles, so I was sure to set it at just the right angle for the best view. The stone setting was a challenge, but went better than I anticipated. It’s the slightest bit loose, but you have to really fiddle with it to get it to move at all. It doesn’t rock, it turns side to side just a hair. This stone is not calibrated – for those who don’t know, it’s not exact or perfectly round. I think it turned out as well as it did because I had John Cogswell’s Creative Stone Setting as a reference. Even for beginners, his instruction is easy to understand and covers just about everything you would want to know about stonesetting, and a few other things you didn’t know you needed to know. I could not live without that book, I’ve decided. It was the only one of the several books I purchased from Amazon that was not reduced in price, and it was worth every penny.

it's a bit boogered on the edge, but that's already been fixed

I love this process. So far, I’m squeezing it in on the weekends. It’s much less flame intensive than the glass, so it’s something productive I can do when it gets really hot or really cold. I’ve been able to use my left hand for holding the torch more efficiently than I expected, although the use of both hands equally when making beads has prepared me for that. I’m not ready to start selling anything quite yet. I don’t think two rings under my belt is enough. I’m test driving these for comfort and durability, and they pass the comfort test for sure, even though I’m not accustomed to wearing any rings other than my wedding band. Time will tell on the durability.

I don’t know what I’ll do about a hand model. Since I rely so heavily on my hands, they get pretty scuffed up and dried out. Right now, I have a monstrous blister on my index finger from an unpleasant incident involving dop wax. Glass has never done me that badly…

Thanks for reading!

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Crickets in the floor furnace, ants on the stove
Grabbed a map to Crazy and I hit the road.

I completely understand why the more selfish creative types lock themselves in distant cabins with no telephone and ingest enough alchohol to intoxicate a small village, all behind the guise of humoring the muse. It’s just a fancy way of checking out when things get too real, and if I had it in me to do, if I didn’t care so much, I’d have checked out years ago.

Long story short, I did more than my fair share of feeding, cleaning, comforting and waging ant war last week, and there’s more to come this week. Does such a place exist where it never gets warmer than 60 degrees, there’s Astroturf instead of grass, no bugs, plenty of rainy days, everyone is happy and nobody is sick? Pre-color 1950’s TV, maybe. I can’t stand unfiltered sun. It got all over me yesterday and made me more blue than I already am. I hate bugs taking up residence in my house and refusing to pitch in for the rent. I’m not feeling particularly creative and would do better to work on orders this week, rather than attempt to hurry and come up with something new and fabulous for Superstars this Thursday. I’m postponing Superstars until week after next, and maybe June 9th will have mercy and take its sweet time getting here.

Thanks for checking in!

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my first ring, sterling

I finally, finally worked up the courage to light my little jeweler’s torch. Much like my Hot Head did almost exactly 13 years ago, it sat in its box for weeks before I made myself turn it on. Here’s what happened.

Some time last week: I dug out a heavy strip of sterling that measured about 6×1.5mm and wrapped it into about a size 7ish on the mandrel. After filing, tensing, more filing and more tensing to make a flush join and still no luck, it was obvious that it needed to be annealed before going any further. Great, I guess I need to use that darned torch.

Saturday: I successfully annealed and pickled the sloppily formed band after reading and re-reading the torch instructions for a couple of hours. (I’m using regular table salt and distilled white vinegar pickle heated in a small crock pot, and FYI, it works beautifully. It removes the various stains and goop almost instantly, and I happen to have the stuff on hand whenever I’ll need it.) After annealing, I was easily able to hammer the strip flat again to check the ends and get a better view to file them perfectly straight. I eventually got a join that I couldn’t see light through at all, so… time to solder. I have to solder. I have to learn how to solder.

I apprehensively placed the ring standing up like a circle, liberally fluxed and with two pallions of hard solder. On the first 5 tries (yes, 5), I used the superfine boric acid + denatured alcohol combo dip for firescale prevention – since I was sure to completely ruin it with firestain, you know. I then painted the boric acid + water flux onto the join. On the first three tries, I think I used way too much flux. It got really big and white and crusty, and it reminded me of Good Stuff. It would settle down with a bit more heat, but the solder would not melt, period.  I referred to one of my books that describes the stages of flux. It all checked out on my end, but I was still getting absolutely nowhere. I continued with the denatured alcohol dip, and used a bit less flux. I tried it on charcoal, I tried it on solderite. I could not get those pallions to do anything but sit there and kind of glow at me. 

I had fluxed, heated, pickled, washed, fluxed, heated, pickled and washed that poor piece of silver within an inch of its life. It’s 5am. This soldering thing is never going to happen, I’m a complete failure at this. I’ve wasted my time and money. I thought I knew what to expect. I know my way around a torch and I’m no stranger to heat control and melting stuff. Why isn’t this working!? I should stick to glass, I know glass. I was feeling disheartened, but I don’t give up that easily.

I had to sleep so that I wouldn’t fall over, but before I did, I decided to check out Art Jewelry Mag’s videos. The shots in those videos are pretty good, and I thought they might assist me in determining the color of the metal and how long it should take to reach soldering temperature. Lo and behold, Addie Kidd had made a new video since the last time I visited, and what was it about!? Soldering a simple band ring, what serendipity. So, I watched it, and I had almost everything right. The only difference was that she laid hers down so that it stood like a cylinder, she used medium solder, a negligible amount of Handy Flux and no other protection for the rest of the ring. She came at the solder from the inside of the ring, with the pallions on the outside, and the solder flowed. She heated the flux first, then the rest of the ring, then focused back on the solder flow. I made a note of a few key things and was excited to try it again Sunday night. I kept the tarot’s Fool card in mind – he who knows nothing has everything to learn…

Sunday: I did something right, apparently. I skipped the pre-dip with the boric acid+denatured alcohol, and painted on just a tiny bit of boric acid+water flux. I think skipping the dip might have helped me see the color of the metal better. I also think putting it on its side on the charcoal helped keep the heat more even throughout. Plus, it made it easier to come at it from the other side of the pallions, and my spinning annealing pan sure came in handy here. I had also moved the soldering get-up to my regular work table, and perhaps that made me more comfortable. It took a few tries – on the first try, the solder did melt, but did not flow into the join at all. It just globbed up on the side, but that irritating little glob told me that I was about to get it right. I wasn’t sure if I should heat it again and try to move it, so I just left it. I tried again with another pallion, and it flowed into the join, but not completely. The third try with pallion #3 was a success – the join was entirely filled.

On try number 2 or 3, I had to do some fancy footwork to get it to the right place – I melted the solder into a ball on the tip of my pick and stuck it where I thought it should go. Honestly, I’m not completely sure what exactly I did right, it was a nervewracking blur – I’m just glad it worked. The only thing that melted was the solder, and what little staining there was cleaned right off in the pickle. Maybe I was too worried Saturday night about melting the silver band before I got the solder to flow. I decided on Sunday that if melting the silver was going to be an issue, it would be most likely to happen with hard solder, and that I might as well get that lesson out of the way now.

So there you have it, my adventure in making my first ring. It’s nothing special or fancy, but I can’t stop looking at it. It’s so silly, but it’s a big deal to me. I’ve mostly conquered one of my biggest perceived obstacles. I knew that once I muddled through my first soldering project that it could only get better from there. I’m not sure what I’ll try next. But it will have to happen in between beads… I’ve had to put the metal away so that I can get some glass done.

I know I’ve gone on and on, I’m just so excited. If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading!

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Thank You.

Everything I put in my Etsy shop Friday morning sold within 12 hours.  I’m not bragging. I’m saying thank you, not because it’s the professional thing to say, but because I really and truly mean it.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not the most employable person. I can’t seem to keep a normal sleeping schedule and I like to be left alone. Employers don’t have much sympathy for that nonsense. Then there’s that issue of having had no further education beyond high school. Even though I’m highly trainable, that doesn’t matter much to most employers without the Grand Certificate Of Jumping Through A Bunch Of Hoops And Going Into Debt Over It (aka a college degree from my perspective). All I have is my own self motivation, a good idea of right and wrong, and the ability to make stuff with my hands. I feel like I’ve just been in the right places at the right times, and happen to have a good sense of color and love for glass. 

The way I earn my living is by producing luxury items. I realize that my position is precarious even on the best of days, and depends heavily on the economy, my ability to meet demand, conduct my business as a professional, all the while concocting something new and different that will keep you coming back. Sometimes it feels as if though I’m balancing it all across my shoulders with my hands tied behind my back, unable to stretch out for better equilibrium and to catch whatever may fall. Some days I feel like it would be more simple to just fall flat on my face and stay there for a while, but my will to live and make sparkly things keeps me upright.

Waking up yesterday to find that all of my piddly baubles have sold is a wonderful way to start the day. More importantly, I found that you have fallen in love with pieces of glass formed from my own ideas, life experiences and two hands, pieces that you felt were special enough to invest in. I know my beads are not cheap. I am fully aware of the copycats who charge a fraction of what I charge, and that some people are going to buy their stuff. That’s their choice, it’s a fact of life, and there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is be good to those of you who DO choose my work because you know it’s the real thing and understand the value in that.

In other words, I can barely express how much I appreciate all of you fine bead addicts.  I’ve been so lucky to have attracted such literate, intelligent and kind patrons from all over the planet. I never could have imagined that working 12 hours a day for 21 days straight, just trying to meet the demand and keep everyone happy, could be so liberating and satisfying. I don’t want for much, just basic human American necessities, with a little bit left over to spend on new projects and interests. Thanks to you, I have exactly that. I am humbled by your generosity and support, and I’ll never take it for granted. Because of you, I get to be me every day without much hassle at all.

Again, thank you. For buying, for reading, for just looking and enjoying the color with me. I appreciate you all.

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ETSY! Finally.

 I can’t get the images to cooperate this morning, so this little glom of thumbnails that refuses to directly link will have to do until I figure out what I’m doing wrong. So, please do CLICK HERE to visit my Etsy Shop, where you can see all of these items.

I planned on getting all of my Etsy stuff ready yesterday, but ended up sleeping until 6pm. I didn’t want to do that, but I went and did it anyway. I did get my photos taken, though, thanks to my corner house with the unobstructed window that faces west. In the warmer months, I’m blessed with good light until 7pm. Oh, and Mr. Sarah went to the doctor for the first time in 15 years, and I had to know all about it. And what would a long overdue doctor’s visit be without an unnecessary prescription for vague pain from an unknown source? 

I may have mentioned this before, but I do not like pills, and any prescription medication that’s been approved by the FDA is questionable at best. Unless you’re going to die without them, or you can’t correct your condition with improvements to your lifestyle and diet, you should stay the hell away from pills. Prescription medication should be your last resort, not the very first thing you reach for to alleviate vague symptoms. These medications have side effects, serious and not so serious, and there are pills for those, too. Before you realize it, you’re taking 39 pills a day, and your vision will be so blurry and you’ll be so disoriented that you won’t be able to read the map to find your own ass.

Is your stomach on fire? What have you eaten? Oh, french fries with chili, gravy and cheese, you say? Go ahead and eat 3 more buckets of gravy. There’s a pill for that. What did you drink today? A 12 pack of Dr. Pepper? No wonder you can’t pee right. If you feel like it, go ahead and drink a 24 pack tomorrow. There’s a pill for that, too. Are you a normal, healthy, energetic toddler that drives your mom up the freakin’ wall? There’s definitely a pill for that, kiddo, and you’ll be a droopy little wallflower within a week. By the by, how much vitamin C did you eat the other day when you thought you might be getting a cold? Is that right!? Maybe that’s why your bowels let loose like Hurricane Danny, and your eye is twitching so hard it feels like it’s going to jump out and do the Pop and Lock on your forehead. But hey, we’ll figure out something to prescribe for that, even though it will go away on its own within a day or two.

Use a little common sense. Do your research. The internet is a wonderful tool for looking into all of these weird prescription medications with names we can’t pronounce – names that they change periodically to keep us dull and confused, or when they decide to market to a new demographic. While you’re at it, you might find out that nifty pill you just started taking causes cancer or loss of vision. Why didn’t the doctor tell you THAT? In his or her defense, the doctor sees a lot of people and deals with a lot of drugs in one day. A PhD is not a degree in omniscience. That is why it’s your responsibility to find out, and it’s ultimately your choice whether you take a medication or not, or to seek an alternative medication.

Just one schmoe’s opinion, so don’t substitute this shmoe’s opinion for your own.

Anyway. Enjoy the new beads, and thanks for reading my recent rants in angst minor. I never pretended to be a shiny happy robot, but at least my beads are shiny and happy, and that’s really what you’re here for, right?

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Change is good.

I think we all need it from time to time. Now, my blog is more readable, and I don’t know anyone else with this theme right now. When I first started this blog (I’m still wondering why I went ahead and did it), I chose the entirely black background theme for the sake of continuity, since my entire website is mostly in black… but when it comes to reading my excessive rambling, a white background for the larger type makes for more comfortable gawking. This new theme allows for a backdrop in any color or photo I choose, so, of course, I chose black. A most agreeable compromise has been reached. I feel an odd sense of relief.

In other news, my jeweler’s saw and I have finally made friends. I’m not sure what happened over the weekend, but I was suddenly, magically, able to saw straight lines and curves almost effortlessly, and without the blade breaking on me even once. I wonder if it was because I was practicing on copper. Is it because copper is softer than silver, or is it because it’s cheaper than silver and my nerves were better for it?

I’ve gathered up a few more supplies for soldering, and Dad was going to come over yesterday and supervise the first lighting of the jeweler’s torch. I’m still nervous about the pre-mix thing, and he has experience with those types of torches and soldering. But it was unbearably hot over the weekend and I refused to turn the AC on, because I turned the heat back on and was wearing multiple layers just three days earlier. I finally broke down and turned it on yesterday when it reached 95 degrees, and after I told Dad it was too hot over here. We both had headaches anyway, there was a storm brewing just southwest of us. (Dad’s sinuses can predict a storm hours before the fancy gadgets at the weather center can.)  I hate summer, and the incessant whirring of the window units. I like fresh air and quiet. Can’t we have spring and fall and keep the windows open all year long? It should cool off again by the end of the week, and that will be nice.

Mom and I went to the bead show last weekend. Evidently, I was in a cool color kind of mood. I made myself remember that I had more than plenty of red, orange and yellow, and that helped me resist the warmer tones. Except for the seed beads. They had a true red on hand, not dyed, and dyed red Japanese seed beads were all I could find at the local bead shop weekend before last. I don’t understand why they would feel the need to dye anything red, since that particular shade is so readily available. 

Remember that thing I said about being disillusioned with Etsy? How I indicated that you might have a long smartass tirade to read? Why bother? See REGRETSY and you’ll get an eyeful that entirely sums up my feelings about Etsy. Ebay doesn’t pretend to be nice or to care. I can at least respect Ebay’s honesty.

regretsy sums it up

Okay, I’ve neglected my emails long enough. I plan to have something for Etsy this week, and also, to be in a better mood. Thanks for sticking with me and my beads, what with all of my social and political ignorance. I’ve never been a cause-haver, but I dated one in high school. Maybe that has something to do with it. Either way, I appreciate you immensely!

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Sorry I’ve been so quiet here. My life is doing mostly fine at the moment, but the rest of the world seems to be in the crapper. It’s quite depressing, really. I can hardly make my usual snide jokes about dumb stuff without feeling like a total heel. I can barely stand to watch the news lately, but last night, I woke from my nap that started in the middle of CSI Miami to the announcement that “they” killed Bin Laden. That’s all I could stand to listen to. I don’t even know the specifics, and I can’t imagine what good it will accomplish besides a short-lived feeling of Justice For America. (You watch, one of the various newsmongers is going to use that one all week). It isn’t going to solve anything in the greater scheme, and the terror alert will be elevated for a while, and we’ll all be on pins and needles, waiting for the sky to fall. I’m wondering why they didn’t drag him all the way back here just to torture and behead him later, like they did with that other guy. (or maybe they hanged him. shows how much I’m paying attention.)

I’m sure I’m coming across as dismissive and insensitive to some of you. I’ve all but checked out on world news, not because I don’t care, but to save my own sanity. If that makes me selfish and irresponsible, I’ll wear that label if I must. But the burning question is, why do people insist on behaving like animals? It’s getting really old. We brag about being so smart and civilized, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, our opposable thumbs and organized religion are two core differences that set us apart from the animals, and we use them for destruction and hate. If the human race was so advanced and wonderful, we would accept each others’ differences and beliefs and mind our own business. We don’t even have to LOVE each other – we could simply agree to disagree, kindly and respectfully. What’s the point of causing unnecessary dischord and horror on top of the heaps of unmanageable crap the earth shakes out on us every day? Why can’t we enjoy the fun and beauty that life has to offer and let the weather and fault lines be our only worry? In a perfect world, I guess.

me and shoogs, I miss this dumb little cat


I wish I were a house cat. Thankfully, I have a bunch of orders and a couple of weeks of pre-recorded soaps to catch up on. Sparklies and numb. That’s the good stuff, right there.

I realize I haven’t had anything for sale on Etsy over the last several weeks. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy with orders and Superstars, but it might also be that I’m kind of peeved at Etsy right now. For several reasons, which I may bore you with later, in my usual smartass way. Mom and I were talking about being a couple of smartasses just the other day. People either think you’re funny, or they think you’re mean and bitter. It beats the heck out of being smiley and fakey all the time, and falling to pieces for no apparent reason in the middle of the shampoo aisle. (With my hair being what it is, I’m surprised that hasn’t happened to ME, although in my case, it would be apparent to the other shoppers around me with one glance at my massive grease mop. No amount of smartass could help me deal with my hair.)

Thanks for reading.

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