Sunday, January 27, 2008

Double Beez to Butterflies Chainmaille Bracelet

So, back in November, 14 year old DS pulled out some red colored copper wire that I've had for ages and decided he wanted a bracelet. So I sat him down with my chart of weaves and he picked out the beez to butterflies weave. But with the guage of the wire, the bracelet would be too skinny, so we decided that I could double it.

I had every intention of finishing the bracelet before his birthday in the first week of December, but I really underestimated how much work it would take. These are tiny rings, 2.75mm, 20 guage wire, and it took a gazillion of them. I could only work on it for a little at a time before I'd have to put it down.

Then my trunk show came up, and then the holidays, and other projects, and then, I ran out of wire!! It was a couple of weeks before I was able to find and purchase more. This last week I've been determined to finish it, because I am so over the darn thing!!!

Well, I finally finished it tonight!!!!! Yessssss!!!!! So without further ado, here it is!!! It's a good thing I love my son!!! lol!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Quick Chainmaille History Lesson

Maille was invented some time in the mid 1st millennium BC, but it is unknown where and by whom it was first used. It may have been invented independently in Japan and in Europe. The earliest finds altogether are from 5th Century BC Synthian graves. Etruscan or Celtic examples date to ca. the 3rd century BC.
The Roman Republic first came into contact with maille fighting the Gauls in northern Italy. It so impressed the Romans that the Roman army adopted the technology for their troops.

The use of maille was prominent throughout the High Middle Ages, and reached its apex in the 13th century, when full body suits of maille armour were developed.

In the 14th century, plate armour began to replace maille. It could still be seen after this point being worn by those who could not afford plate, however, and it was also common to wear a shirt of maille beneath plate armour to protect the joints and the groin.

Today, very few examples of ancient mail survive. The vast bulk of maille was broken up, and used as scouring pads through the late Middle Ages.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Chainmaille Series

Okay folks, here on our little journey, I am going to be taking you along sort of a side path, one that will help you understand one of my major jewelry loves - chainmaille. We will take the path in little bits and pieces, so as not to give you too much information at once. In fact, I'm sure I'll learn a ton along the way too!!

"Chainmaille?" you're probably asking, " you mean like knights in shining armour and stuff?" Well, yes, but I gotta tell you, chainmaille has come a very long way since those days of yore. True, some people do still make chainmaille armor, but it is only used for display or re-enactment (as in people that participate with the Renaissance Fairs), or in the case of swimming with sharks (but we won't go there today :-) ).

What it's making a strong showing in now is the jewelry world. It is possible to use the ancient chainmaille "weaving" techniques and patterns to make gorgeous, and yes, trendy jewelry. It's one of my favorite techniques, it's one of my favorite looks, and I look forward to sharing this little side trip with you!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Playing With PMC

I've been playing with PMC!!!!!!

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking right now. You are probably saying "Huh? What the heck is PMC?"

Well, here's a brief description, from the Learning Center on our website:

"PMC (Precious Metal Clay), is a clay-like medium used to make jewelry, beads and small sculpture. It consists of very small particles of precious metals (such as silver, gold or platinum) mixed with an organic binder and water. You shape the clay just like any soft clay, using your hands or moulds, leave it to dry, and then fire it. Firing can be done in a kiln, with a handheld gas torch, or in the case of Art Clay, also on a gas stove. The binder burns away, leaving just metal. The resulting object is smaller because the binder has been removed and the piece has shrunk during the process of sintering. Shrinkage from 8 to 30% occurs (depending on the brand used), but this has been exploited by artisans as it allows very fine detail to be achieved.
The silver version of the clay is the most-used of all metal clays, resulting in .999 pure silver. "

Sooooo, clear as mud?? Here are a couple of pendants I made previously using PMC. As you can see, it's pure silver, almost exactly like working with silver sheet, only a bit easier in many ways.

The reason I'm so excited about playing with it? Well this stuff is not cheap, actually it's pretty expensive. It runs about $29 for a little 20 gram chunk. I used a full 20 grams to make the pendant above, and another 20 grams to make the one below. It's not stuff you normally just play with, unless you know exactly what you are going to do with it.

Which is why I had an unopened 20 gram package of it sitting in the drawer for over 10 months. I was almost afraid to open it and use it. Well, a few days ago I finally came up with the perfect idea, so I made myself be brave and I opened up the package. I shaped and formed it the first night, and allowed it to dry for 24 hours. Then I filed it and smoothed the edges and used my torch to burn off the clay bonding. And finally today, I polished it up and oxidized it to bring out the design.
The result? Well, I'm sooooooo happy I made myself do it!!! I will get pictures of the finished product and share it!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Copper Viking Knit Bracelet

Viking knitting, one of the oldest known forms of knitting, is a looping technique that preceded traditional knitting by centuries. Many of these chains were found buried in tombs of some of the most famous and powerful Vikings. It is so lightweight it feels like lace!

This bracelet was quite a challenge for me (yay! I love challenges!). I have seen several tutorials online, but not one of them showed you how to finish it off and attach a clasp.

The weave turned out to be quite easy and went together really quickly. I even made my own homemade drawplate for this project. A drawplate is a metal or wood plate with holes of varied sizes through which wire is drawn to get the desired thickness.

Finally after about 4 tries, I think I finally figured out how to finish it off. Here's one way, and I know how to do one other way too. I've even promised some of my fellow jewelry makers on the forum that I would try to come up with some sort of tutorial for it. Guess I better get working eh?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Finding Inspiration

As an artist there is one question that I get asked a lot. "Where do you get your inspiration?" One would think that would be such an easy question to answer, however, it's one I struggle with each and every time I'm asked.

My inspiration comes from all over the place, from nowhere, from nature, from architectural designs and curves, sometimes even just from something someone said.

Sometimes the inspiration is quick and instantaneous, like a light bulb getting turned on in my head. Other times it takes time to cultivate in my imagination. And sometimes I have to force the inspiration by getting online and pouring over hundreds of pictures of all kinds of things.

It's something that it always there, though. Even now, as I finish up a piece, my mind is already working itself around my latest inspiration - a contest on a jewelry community forum that I'm involved with (which, by the way, is a fantastic collaboration of like-minded individuals.). The contest is to make a piece with a butterfly incorporated into it, using one of the color palettes found here - These are all colors palettes of real butterflies! How fun!! So my mind is racing with inspiration at the moment.

So you see, a question that is seemingly such a simple one, is one of the most difficult for me to answer.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

First Stop In the New Year

The first stop of the year in my wonderful journey is really no surprise to me. It combines two of my loves - metalsmithing and victorian/romantic style jewelry.

I am in love with this set! The pendant (as well as the entire set) was very lovingly handcrafted. I even soldered it for extra sturdiness under all those little wraps.

The copper in the entire set has been hand formed, hammered and even given a heat patina to add to the antique look of the pieces.

I also used freshwater pearls in baby blue and peach and delicate Swarovski crystals to adorn them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The beginning

Everything must have a beginning... There are so many people that ask me when I'm going to start a blog. "Oh, sometime." I've always responded. Well, with the new year came new goals for me. Not resolutions persay, just things I aspire to acheive in the coming year. This blog is one of them.

As any of you that know me well already know, making jewelry is a very important part of my life. Instead of just being a hobby or even just a job, I am discovering that my relationship with the art of jewelry making is a journey. It's a journey in which I hope will take me in a particular direction, but as every journey does, this one has many twists and turns along the way, many of which are dictated by my muse. As an artist, I follow her along willingly, and every time we turn the corner, I am more than delighted with what she has to show me. I do believe this will be a life long journey for me, as I never want to stop learning, and trying new things, and following my muse wherever she feels I need to be led.

I've decided that this year, I would like to invite you to enjoy a bit of my travels in this wonderful journey, if you would like...