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Archive for June, 2011

SUPERSTARS TONIGHT!

You might not want to miss it!

z-beads sterling and glass bullets, june 2011

Look for these and more at tonight’s sale.

Sale preview:  7:30PM CT – 8PM CT.
Sale starts 8PM CT.

See you there!

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… because it’s going to be a long, sad one.

The Buddhists say “monitor your input” or something to that effect. Mom and I were discussing this just the other day. I wholeheartedly agree, and realize that doesn’t just mean what you put in your mouth or your rear end. It also means what you allow into your head and your life. It’s why I rarely leave the house or socialize with neighbors. People grow more incompetent and irresponsible by the day, and it infuriates me. If so many people were not so willing to burden others with their baggage and screw-ups, I would probably like them much more than I do. Case in point:

One April day, I was about to leave the house with Mom to run some errands. I opened my front door and saw the most adorable young orange tabby in my driveway. As soon as I opened the door, it ran away. It was clean, and looked like someone’s beloved indoor pet, and that it must have escaped from the safe confines of its home. We tried to follow it, but it was too quick. So we went on with our day.

I returned home later that afternoon, and not too long after, I heard shrill calls for an “Emma”. “Come HEEEAAARRR, bay-BEEEEEE!” I knew it had to be the owner of that orange tabby. I went outside, even though that was not the way I would have normally responded, and told the shriller that I saw an orange tabby earlier – was that who she was looking for? Long story short, yes it was, and I spent the next couple of hours helping this woman look for her cat. The cat was nowhere to be found, imagine that. But I learned a few things: this cat was NOT spayed, and was just as unlikely to have received its vaccinations, and that the woman’s significant other had a bad habit of letting the cat outside when the woman wasn’t around to prevent it.

That evening, and the woman called me around 10pm to let me know her cat still hadn’t returned home. (And I’m thinking, duh, your cat is probably getting knocked up and who knows what sort of feline disease as we speak because you couldn’t be bothered to take some responsibility). But I kept that little gem to myself.

Time passed, and during that stretch, I’d hear the same woman shrilling the same old song outside my house about once a week, but I didn’t bother to help her. I thought it better to avoid her altogether. In my neighborhood, unwanted cat overpopulation is a big problem. Not that the cats are doing anything wrong, other than the fact that they exist. People see a cute kitten and “must have cute kitten”. Once these cute kittens come of age and start acting like the animals they are, like yowling and pissing everywhere and being generally obnoxious (this is the time to spay or neuter your pet, btw, which will nip those behaviors in the bud), the lazy fools cast them outside instead, only to create more unwanted cats.

Anyway. Fast forward to last Wednesday evening. My doorbell rings, and I reluctantly answer it. It’s that… woman… with a large bag of cat food. She asks me to put the bag of cat food on her porch, but not until after she drives away. I ask why, and she says she can’t go home, she left two days ago. I have no solid information on what this was REALLY about, but I had a few ideas. She had an empty cat carrier with her, and though I didn’t see what she had been doing with it, I figured it was one of two things – she was either looking for the cat to take it with her, or she had dumped the cat out of it near her house. (the latter is more likely the case than the former, now that I review those few moments.) Lo and behold, as soon as I walked over to her house with the bag of cat food, I heard an unhappy yowling and saw a delightfully stripey orange/blond tail slinking onto another neighbor’s porch. I dropped the food off, and walked back towards my house, and still heard the yowling. I got close enough to see, and sure enough, it was that little orange (strikingly beautiful) cat. I sat down and gently requested she come to me, and she mewed and came right over. I gave her many skritches and pets and marvelled at her sagey-golden eyes, prominent pink nose and perfect whiskers and a purr that rivaled Mo’s 1000 decibel rumble. I instantly fell for this cat, and I fell hard. But moments later, I saw the significant other on the woman’s porch, and advanced toward him with the cat. He put up his hand and said “Not my cat”. In one way I understood his position, but that cat had been living at his house, and was his responsibility whether he liked it or not. But what was I going to do? Just leave the cat where I found it? Some people might, but I couldn’t do it.

It’s been hotter than a mamma-jamma over the last couple of weeks, and knew that surely, SURELY, that… woman… would be back for her lovely cat. So I reluctantly (but admittedly, not too reluctantly) brought this cat into my home. We snuggled all night and we attempted to integrate her with Fred and Mo. That worked about as well as we expected, some hissing and growling, but no sniping or screaming. Yet. Orange wanted to be friends right away, but Fred and Mo would have none of that. Mo in particular, which came as no surprise, either, with her being the most territorial of the two.

One big problem… we soon realize that this cat is pregnant. Of course she is, why wouldn’t she be? I have no experience with pregnant cats, because guess what – WE SPAY AND NEUTER OUR CATS at the first possible opportunity. We had only a couple of days to decide what to do about this. The burning questions: will all three cats get along? Since this cat is almost certainly pregnant, how far along is she and what sort of cluster are we facing here? How quickly must we act on this, and the vaccinations? How is this cat going to behave and how much of a challenge will it be to train her? It was instantly obvious that this cat is very well behaved – she minded when I yelled NO and didn’t do it again, whatever it was. She (initially) displayed a desire to be friendly with Fred and Mo, and we knew there was a decent chance that they would come around eventually. So I was seriously leaning towards a vet visit on Friday, which would include vaccinations and a spay, possibly a pregnancy termination and me likely being out at least a couple hundred dollars… Time was of the essence, but this would leave us without much time to figure out if she was going to fit in with the other two. Late Thursday night came around, and I decided that we ought to wait the weekend out to see how things progressed.

Meanwhile, I called and considered everyone I could think of that would possibly be able to take in a cat AND take very good care of it… I could find noone, everyone I spoke to already had a cat and couldn’t take another. The weekend went on, with the disagreement between Orange and Mo escalating to the point of Mo being nicked on the nose – it was nothing major, it’s fine, Mo probably deserved it, but it’s alarming just the same. Then Orange spitefully soiled Mo’s and Fred’s favorite napping spot when she had been faithfully using her litter box previously. This cat is a feisty little booger who wouldn’t take Mo’s bullying lying down, and things would get much worse before they got better, if they ever did. Whatever the case, we had major cat turmoil upon us, and a line had to be drawn. Although money wasn’t necessarily the object with the issue of keeping this cat, peace and quiet was more important for Fred and Mo in their golden years, and so is the (somewhat) cleanliness and low stress level in my home. I felt terrible about thinking that “if it weren’t for the other two cats, Mo in particular” I would have kept this cat, no ifs ands or buts, because I knew this cat was a jewel. But my cats were here first, and they aren’t going anywhere.

I kept thinking of that ridiculous woman who abandoned this wonderful cat. When you have a cat like that, you treasure it and take care of it. She didn’t deserve that cat, and even though I knew I did, I also knew my other two companions did not deserve to be this uncomfortable. I found myself in a very sad quandary, simply because I answered my door that fateful evening and had a kind heart. The decision to take this beautiful creature to the animal shelter had to be made, there was nowhere else. I looked into cat rescues, but those places only take in animals from the main shelter moments before their scheduled euthanizations. The Humane Society has foster programs, but they’re all booked up and are referring everyone to the shelter. I knew it would be better than putting her back outside or exposing her to Mo’s wrath any longer.

I held back tears the whole way to the animal shelter on Sunday, and once we got inside, I came unglued. Not wailing and sobbing or anything like that, but shedding tears in public definitely falls within my personal definition of “unglued”. Mr. Sarah asked me if I needed to change my mind, and I thought again of Fred and Mo and knew I couldn’t. Then I stepped outside of my grief for a moment and looked around. Seriously, this place is NICE. They had several large, comfortable rooms full (but not TOO full) of kittens and cats right there in the front lobby, some cats very small and some Orange’s (not quite adult) age, most looking healthy and napping comfortably on pillows, plush chairs and sofas. It was cool, clean and bright, and the people working there were incredibly nice and understanding. In the few minutes we were there, I saw a kitten adopted. It didn’t make me feel much better about letting go of Orange – it was my own fault for allowing myself to get so attached – but I felt better about leaving her there to be taken care of, sheltered from harm, her pregnancy dealt with whichever way it had to be, and surely adopted fairly quickly. Orange’s beauty and charm is impossible to resist, and gave me hope for her future.

The moral of this story is: Please spay and neuter your pets. Please. If you can’t afford to do that or don’t want to mess with it, reconsider keeping a pet at all. The Humane Society has low cost spay/neuter programs, and it’s absurd not to take advantage of them. If you don’t want an animal, take it to the shelter. Even if the animal is not adoptable for whatever reason, it’s still the most humane thing to do with an unwanted animal. To abandon a pet and hope that it won’t freeze or bake to death out in the elements, or that some poor slob will come along and feel sorry for it is anything BUT humane to the animal and the people who care about animals. Please consider making a donation, even if it’s small, to your own local animal shelter. It does make a difference.

Thanks for reading.

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Still Alive!

my beloved coneflowers, june 2011

But barely. It’s been unseasonably (unreasonably) hot, and although today is the first day of summer, it’s the coolest it’s been in days. We had about 3 straight days of above 100 degree high temps, and if you know me, you know that is not my kind of scene. My coneflower plant, on the other hand, loves the summer. I tried working at the torch during those days I was rising with the sun, but the reason I decided not to do that long ago came back to me: I love to work at night, any time of the year. It’s quiet, the phone isn’t ringing – not that too many important people call me besides my parents – but if the phone rings and I’m awake, I check to see who it is. And in the middle of the night, nobody is deciding suddenly to take a half day off from work and coming home and demanding kisses and an impromptu netflix marathon of some sort in the cool of the window AC unit.

click to see details (and pollen!) the bees have been enjoying these...

So, all of last week I worked on silver. I don’t have much to show for it, either, but I definitely learned some more things. I learned that I hate, hate, HATE making jumprings. HATE. I learned that soldering is the least of my worries, I mostly have that licked. It’s the design and assembly aspect that’s demanding so much of my time and attention. Much attention must be paid to the order in which things are assembled, and I’m slowly figuring out what’s first and what’s last. In my opinion, functional parts like bails and jumprings are just as important to the design as stones and focal points, so they should be just as interesting. I probably spent two days trying to figure out how to get a flat bail to hold still, parallel, on the flat back of a piece so I could solder it. I was almost in tears at one point. I’m probably trying to get too complicated too fast, but I have these ideas that will not be ignored, or else they’ll go boil a rabbit on my stove. Mr. Sarah came in to the bead cave to ask what I was working on and I’d say “this” and show him, and say “I’m not too happy with it.” He says “You say that about everything you’ve been making” and I tell him that’s because I’m still in the “throwing stuff to see what sticks” phase. It’s part of the learning process and key to making better work. You have to do things that you end up unhappy with to move on to what you ARE happy with. People tell me I shouldn’t be so critical of my work, it’s lovely as it is. But I know what’s wrong with it, I know how it could be better, and if I consistently accept those drawbacks as perfection, or even “good enough”, that’s the first step down my path of complacency, or dare I say, mediocrity. I may rent a crumbling house on the corner lot and have a dirty kitchen floor, but when it comes to my beads and jewelry, only my best, quirky as it may be, will do.

when the bullet hits the bell...

This piece: a bullet and a bell. Yes, I made the bell, and it actually tinkles. THIS I am happy with, both the design and the technicals. This pendant is one of my first silver ideas – to make a large jump ring with various interesting things hanging from it. It is discreetly signed on the back of the jump ring, so you can wear that side to your chest. Don’t like the bell on the left? Swing it on over to the right side. It will be for sale at some point. I’m not sure if it will be Etsy or Superstars, because I’m thinking I’ll save everything I make over the next week for Superstars on the 30th. Either way, you’ll know if it’s going on Etsy if you subscribe to this blog.

...it makes a pleasant tinkling sound...

You’ve likely notice that I haven’t sold much on Etsy lately. It honestly has not been purposeful – not consciously, anyway. My order queue is fuller than it’s been in a while, so I’ve been focused on that, and having postponed the last two (tentatively planned) Superstars sales, it’s time to get on the Superstars. As I mentioned before, Etsy takes a back seat to orders and Superstars, and if I can get away with it, I like to give a third party such as Etsy as little of my money as I can. Admittedly, their reasonable fees are a small price to pay for the convenience of the simplified shopping experience, but over the last month or so, Etsy listings have been the farthest thing from my mind. After a week plus of sawing, hammering, filing, sanding, soldering and cursing, I cleaned up the messy bead cave last night and for the next week at least, it’s back to the easygoing colorful melting of glass. One thing I noticed about metalsmithing supplies and tools – there isn’t much color to them. I easily lose track of files and hammers because they’re all virtually the same blah group of colors and I have such limited work surface to pile them onto. It’s bad for files to rub against each other, so I get pretty creative about where I lay them down and instantly forget. I may very well end up painting every handle a different color and rearranging my tool area once again.

...and everyone lives happily ever after

We have kittens living under our deck. All 4 – momma and 3 little ones – are black and white. We’ve been handling them when they’d let us, and they grow less fearful of us by the day, which will be convenient when it’s time to find them homes. (Someone has already laid claim to momma, thank goodness – if you’re in the OKC area and are in the market for a black and white kitten, drop me a note.) One has half a tail, I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s the least fearful of them all and let The Spawn hold him like a baby on his back and grew very relaxed while she pet him and stroked his little face and tummy. I’d get a photo, but they’re all too wily. Everyone in the immediate area has been feeding them, and my neighbor was out of town for a week or so and had everyone in HIS family coming over during the day to tend to them. He has his own batch of kittens in a drawer underneath his bed. Kittens. I wish I could take them, but Mo wouldn’t be too nice about it. Fred, I think he’d tolerate it pretty well, but then I think about getting a third, even fourth cat and can’t justify it. The initial shots and the neuter/spay is just the start down the road of lifetime cat maintenance, and if you’re going to maintain cats, two is better than three, and so on. Mo has been pretty maintenance free, but Fred has had to have an emema and two teeth pulled over the years, and even though our vet is inexpensive comparatively, I still paid out the nose for it. (if I can get a photo of the little tuxedo young’uns, I’ll post it here.)

Okay, that’s enough for now. Sorry I’ve been so scarce lately. I’ve been in more of a mood to do it, rather than talk about it.  Since I mentioned rearranging my tool area only moments ago, it’s all I can think about doing. Thanks so much for reading!

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Pendant #1

first pendant, june 2011

I spun glass, I sawed, I dapped, I soldered, I filed, I cursed, I coldworked, I took a few chances and I screamed in frustration – and I learned a whole lot about what NOT to do, and more supplies to add to the list. Setters wax and heat shield are at the top.

Over the weekend, I righted my sleep pattern. Again. I’m going to attempt to keep a day schedule for a least a while through the summer. I’ll try to work in the cool of the morning and sleep in the dark. So, that’s what I was doing when making this pendant. I was running on steam, and by the end of the day yesterday, I was hallucinating shadows in the hallway and bugs flying around. I finally crashed at 9PM.

This thing made me so mad that I don’t even want to talk about it. I’ll just say that the star thing was actually the easy part. One word of caution – unless it’s just little holes, don’t dap a metal disk AFTER you’ve sawed designs into it. Dap first, THEN saw. (This particular pendant does not include the miserably failed dome I allude to.) Let’s just say this is the prototype – it’s too flawed to sell. Split tubing, off center holes, ridiculous jump rings, a loose bead in the setting, incomplete joints and I completely forgot to add my *z*. The next attempt at something similar will be much more elegant and the assembly will be better thought out. It gives me a good excuse to keep it. In some of the photos, the silver has a bronze cast to it. Photographing silver is not as simple as it is with colorful glass. I double checked, and there’s nothing bronze about it to my eye.

reverse side

Okay, so these three posts today should make up for the previous two weeks and the next two on the blogging schedule. Ha! Back to work with me…

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There’s no way I’ll be able to have a Superstars sale until the end of the month. I’m about to get dangerously behind on orders. I was in the kitchen all last week fighting the ants. They are everywhere. There’s something about ants in my kitchen that fills me with a rage that can’t be quieted. The good news is, they aren’t living in the walls – otherwise, we’d be seeing ant hills inside the house and ants all year long. That gives me some hope. I made a concoction of white vinegar, water and mint, and put it in a spray bottle, and it seems to help keep them under control and out of the cupboards. And yes, it stinks to high heaven, but doesn’t linger too long. Thank goodness for incense.

So, I’ll be working on orders and Superstars until the end of the month, and there’s a small chance I’ll add a little something or other to my Etsy shop between now and then. (That is, unless I save it all for Superstars.) So as it stands right now, we’re looking at Thursday June 30th for the next sale. I’m sorry to those who were looking forward to the one this week, but I honestly have nothing to sell you. Who knows, if I can let go of the anti-ant obsession long enough to get some serious work done, I might even have a ring or a pendant ready in time. At the very least, beads for sure.

Thanks for sticking with me!

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holey golden dome, may 2011

Yeah, I know it’s June, but I made this ring weekend before last. I’ve been working on something every day, whether it be Ant Patrol, bead orders, silver, email – but not on posting on my blog. Sorry. Some of you may be worried that I’m going to ditch the beads for the metal. Well, worry not. It isn’t going to happen. I’m just excited about the metal right now. So excited that I’m staying up WAY past my bedtime. All these years of reading, studying and strategizing have paid off in halfway decent results. This metal thing is going much better than expected.

This one is a doozy, folks. It was as much of a doozy to make as it is to wear. Not pretty – indelicate, in fact, and about as subtle as a Sherman tank. I don’t live to make “pretty” things, so it sets well with me. It’s composed of silver, brass and glass. I had this bright idea to trap one of my lentil shaped beads under this holey dome of brass. (The bead is a ravishing red, and almost impossible to see in the photos just how wonderfully red it is.) I had to figure out how to get the bottom of the bead flat enough, which was doable thanks to my lapidary machine. This took a lot longer than I thought it would. When the bead got too short to safely hold with my fingers, I called dad and inquired about the dop wax he tried to give me years ago, and he produced it out of his stacks of tools. It was as hard as plastic, and older than me. Maybe that’s why it didn’t work so good… But with the assistance of extra caution, I finally got it down to the exact height and circumference it needed to be for a snug fit between the dome and the backplate.

I should have made the bead first and then the brass dome to fit (and saved myself a lot of time), but I was already playing around with the brass because I wasn’t sure what it was. The lady who sent it to me said it was copper, and I was skeptical of both that and the copper sheet I bought at Westlake Ace – which one was actually copper? I showed the yellower piece to Mr. Sarah and he said copper, but then I showed him what was sold to me as copper and compared the two, and he changed his answer. I decided that what she sent me was brass since it flaked gold when sawed and sanded, but then, I couldn’t be sure if it was regular old brass or NuGold. There is a difference, and to me, the most important one at that moment was the fact that the annealing process is different between the two. According to Robert von Neumann’s The Design and Creation of Jewelry, regular brass anneals at a brighter red and is air cooled, and Nu Gold is annealed the same way as copper, silver, etc. I’m still not sure which it is, but I’m not too concerned because the dome seems to be work hardened enough and is apparently stable.

I went through the soldering business for the bezel, bezel/backplate and ring shank to backplate, and the struggle with getting the shank to hold still continues. I couldn’t affix it with binding wire, it simply wouldn’t hold, and the third hands weren’t doing it, either. (I’ll be looking into my small library for the answer to this soon enough.) In my experience, the super fine borax/denatured alcohol dip is better suited to this particular join because the shank wants to float higher on the larger particle borax flux. Anyway, on the first attempt, it moved significantly and I didn’t notice, and I quenched and pickled before I caught it. Ok, so what do I do? I said frig it, used some gravity, and heated it until the shank turned loose. Filed, sanded, did it all over again. This time, the shank only held on one side. I fiddled with it, tried binding wire (to no avail once again), I even tried a c-clamp, which failed miserably, and then I finally decided to spread it apart just a bit, and boom-shocka-locka, it fit, and was on just about as centered and straight as it was going to be. Dumb luck. (But the solder ran into one of the asterisks, bleh… I’m about to order some yellow ochre, so hopefully, that sort of thing will soon be a thing of the past.)

John Cogswell says that 24 gauge sterling sheet makes a handsome bezel. And it does. Perhaps “handsome” also means you need strong hands, wrists and shoulders for such heavy bezels… good thing I do. This bezel required some shortening and filing, and was still quite a bit higher than I thought it should be with my eye. Since my eye has no experience with this, my eye had to trust John’s advice about bezel height – 1/4 – 1/3 the entire height of the stone. I had to say frig it (again) and start setting. I worked as instructed with the pusher, 3, 9, 6, 12, 1:30, 7:30, 4:30, 10:30, etc., and once I got that far, I could not imagine how this would clean up into a decent looking bezel. I mean, it was gnarly, folks. But I persevered – I got it as snug and un-kinked as I could and proceeded to file, sand and burnish. It seemed nothing short of a miracle when it actually began to look like someone who knew what they were doing was on the job.

There you have it – ring #3. More to come!

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