Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm Not a Beader but...

Some time ago, I got a custom order from a customer at Malibu Tan (one of my consignment shops). I have created pieces for this customer before and she has very exquisite taste. The request was a necklace with a large blue focal piece. She then saw a beaded necklace and asked if I could make a similar type necklace to go with the focal piece... so... my mind starts thinking... can I bead crystals?

First... the focal piece needed to be large and it had to be a Swarovski crystal (pear shaped). So... checking with all of my suppliers and the largest pear shape I could get in was about 30mm. Not big enough! I was looking for a piece that was about 40mm (1 1/2 inches). I finally hunted down a dark sapphire blue crystal through a chandelier supplier. OK... I have the crystal now have to think about the necklace. Swarovski came out with a new color this year... an indigo blue which I thought would look good with the pendant but... what size do I need... what is the best shape. I ordered in 2.mm bicones, 3mm bicones and 3mm round - I know... fairly tiny beads but hey... I do love a challenge.

Now, the beads are in what is the best way to approach this? Pulled out some of my beading books and thought I would do either a round peyote or spiral stitch but... either way, I knew I needed to bead a tube that would be strong enough to hold a 40mm crystal. First, I thought I would run a rubber tubing inside the beaded tube but, when I tried that, the color of the tubing showed through the crystal beads. I've thought about this project on and off for a couple of months and this weekend, I came up with another idea. First, I took 2.5mm crystals and strung them onto sterling silver Accu-Flex. I figured this would give the piece strength. Next... using a combination of the round and bicone crystals, I did a spiral stitch around the crystals I strung onto the Accu-Flex. I hadn't beaded in a long time so, it took a few efforts to get it just the way I wanted it and even while working on it, I wasn't sure if I was doing it the right way.

Well... I finished the piece today. There are over 820 individual crystals in this piece and because crystal can cut thread, each crystal has been stitched with the thread passing through it a minimum of 3 times. The ends of the necklace have been finished with sterling silver end caps. I will be taking it in for the customer tomorrow - I hope she likes it... if not... I can always put it in my Etsy or Artfire shop! :) I'm not a beader but... I think it turned out OK!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Copper for a Friend

I know it's been a while since I posted a blog and I apologize. Some of my readers have been concerned, asking where I am and if I am all right. I am very touched and I just want you to know that I am fine - just been a little busy. Now... onto my latest project.

A few weeks ago, Sharon, a very dear friend of mine asked me if I could create some pieces for her using copper. She loves the look of copper and the warmth it gives off. Of course, she had some idea of what she wanted and this is what she sent me (she wanted the bracelet without the extra chains).

Both are very nice pieces but... in my mind they are not quite her! When I design pieces for Sharon, I do them to suit her personality which is fun, loving and very out going... these pieces did not scream that to me... they were more of a whisper of what she really needed. So... I went to work. I used the same weaves (Euro 4 in 1) as the above pictures but, I added what I call the Sharon flair! Here is what I came up with!

I sent these pictures to Sharon yesterday so, I'm not spoiling the surprise for her by posting them here today :) And her response... "holy crap...these are STUNNING!!...like em...more like LOVE EM!!!" I think I'm safe to say, she likes them. :)

Sharon has inspired a few of my pieces so far... maybe I'm going to have to start naming my pieces by the people that inspire them... this is part of "The Sharon Collection".

Sharon - thanks for the inspiration... and most of all, thank you for allowing me to create these pieces for you!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tetra Orb Earrings

I've been slacking in creating new chain maille pieces. I looked at my shops and realized that I hadn't posted a new item in over a week. For those of you who sell on Etsy and Artfire, you will agree that's not too good because if you don't post new items... you don't get new traffic to your shops. No traffic to shops = no sales!

Part of my problem has been filling in person orders for items that I have previously created. One of my post popular bracelets for men and women is the byzantine weave. Sure... I love the weave and I think it looks great but, it does get boring after a while.

This weekend, I took a time out. I've had a list of new weaves that I have been wanting to learn so... I started working on that.

This first little weave is called a Tetra Orb. It's tricky and it took me a while to figure out the right combination of ring sizes to make it work just right. To complicate it further... because I love incorporating crystals into my work... I had to figure out how to get a crystal inside the orb. In the end (once I got the ring size figured out), they were fun to create and I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. I posted these earrings in my shops last night.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Featuring Honey Beads

I love lampwork beads and I really look up to those that can make them. For a while, I have been wanting to incorporate lampwork beads into my chain maille pieces but, I don't think fire and I would get along too well as I tend to burn myself a lot.

My next and probably best option was to find myself someone who makes the beads and order them. That's how I came across Kristina from Honey Beads. I was searching Artfire and found her shop. I really liked the colors of one of her beads and contacted her to see if she could make a long bead using the same colors. She could and... she did. It was stunning!

Kristina has been mastering her skills over the past few years and her work today is absolutely beautiful. Every time I look at her shop I find more and more beads that I want. Her turn around on custom work and her customer service is amazing!

If you haven't checked out her lampwork beads yet, I suggest you do here at Honey Beads.

Here are some of my favorites and yes... I currently own some of them :)

Aren't they beautiful! It is truly an honor for me to feature Honey Beads!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Would You Like to Win Some Chain Maille?

Would you like to win one of these beautiful chain maille creations?

Well, you can and I'm going to share with you how!

The Etsy Chainmailler's Guild had a contest for their members. We were to create a chain maille item fitting a "Romance Blossom" theme. The entries are in and now, we are asking you to vote for your favorite! Vote for your favorite, leave a comment with contact information (email) and on April 18, winners for the voter prizes (pictured above) will be chosen via random number generator.

For all the details and to vote, please click here and you will be directed to the Etsy Chainmaillers Guild blog.

Want to get some extra opportunities to win these fabulous prizes? Twitter the URL to the blog, blog about the contest, post in any forum, use Myspace bulletin or Facebook announcements and leave a separate comment for each of these things that you did. Each one of these will give you an extra opportunity to win one of these prizes.

Thanks for voting and good luck - hopefully you will win one of these prizes!

What to Make with Crystal Beads?

A couple of years ago, I purchased some phone charm holders. They've been waiting patiently for me to do something with them. This weekend I was playing around with crystal beads and just started sewing them together. I finally put the phone charms to use!

Nothing fancy... very simple, I made these little Swarovski Crystal balls and attached them to the phone charm holders. It had been a while since I've done any beading and it took me a while to figure out how to make these little balls but, in the end, I think they turned out pretty neat!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Artfire Easter Egg Hunt

The Easter bunny has finished painting all of the eggs and they are safely hidden in various Artfire studios. Now, it's up to you to find them!

Who can participate? Anyone can participate. You don't need to have an account with Artfire and there are no fees - it's free!

Here's how it works...

The contest will run for 3 weeks (April 1 - April 21). Colorful Easter eggs containing letters or the word "space" are hidden in the participating studios. You will need to get the contest form which contains the clues that will help you find the eggs. Click here for the contest form.

Once you have the entry form, go to http://www.artfire.com/ and using the clues, navigate through the shops (utilizing the search function available on the site) to find the eggs. At the end, you will have enough letters and spaces to form a sentence. You will receive points for each correct letter and for each correct word in the sentence. The sentence has to be in the exact order to score all the points. When you start assembling the sentence, you will see when it is correct (that's a tip). Once you think you have it, complete the entry form and submit it. The people with the highest scores will receive gift vouchers which they will be able to use in any of the participating shops ($50, $20 and $10).

While you are searching for the eggs, take a look around for any goodies you might want to purchase with the vouchers should you win one! All participating studios are looking forward to your visit and will welcome you with open arms... and an egg! Each studio has a "contact" button should you have any questions about the products they sell. If you are not a member of Artfire, you can make purchases without the need to register, making the buying experience very easy for you.

For complete details, please go to the official Artfire Easter Egg Hung blog. If you have any questions, enter them in the comment section after the topic on the blog and it they will be answered for you as soon as possible. Also check back on the blog during the contest as further hints may be provided.

Good Luck and happy hunting!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Romance Blossoms Contest and Etsy Treasuries

Do you ever have a vision in your mind of something you want to create but, when you go to execute it, it just doesn't turn out the way you envisioned? Well, that's what I have been going through trying to create a piece for an Etsy Chain Maillers Guild contest. The theme of the contest is Romance Blossoms and the deadline is April 1st.

Late Sunday evening I had to compromise on my vision a bit but, I finally came up with a piece that fits the theme (in my mind anyway). It's not completely finished yet but, I should have no trouble meeting the deadline. The contest is open to all members of the Esty Chain Maillers Guild and the voting is open to everyone... that includes you! Anyone who votes will be eligible to win a prize that has been donated by Guild members and there's going to be some great prizes. :) I'll post all the links and more details when the voting begins and hopefully, one of my readers will win a prize!

I woke up Sunday morning to find out that I am in not one... but two Etsy Treasuries. It's always such an honor when someone chooses one of my pieces to include in their Treasury. They expire on Tuesday so, if you have a minute please check them out... click, comment and send them some love - Thanks!!

Wired and Wound - click here for link. Chained and Beaded - click here for link.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Artfire Easter Egg Hunt

The Easter bunny will be hiding Easter eggs in a number of Artfire studios and it will be up to you to find them to fill your basket. These are very special Easter eggs... each one of them will have a letter or the word "space" on them and it will be up to you to collect all of them. Once you have all of the eggs, you'll have to arrange them to form a sentence. The hunt will begin April 1st and will run for three weeks.

A list of participating studios with clues will be provided and yes... I will be one of the studios that will be hiding an egg. Before you even think of asking... no... I'm not going to tell you where I have hidden it because that would take all the fun out of it!

There's more... the three highest scores will receive gift vouchers ($50, $20 and $10) to be used in any of the participating studios! Now that has to be worth the search!

Please visit Moonstone's blog for the entry form and all the details!

Special thanks to Moonstone for all her efforts in making this happen!

Don't go searching for the eggs just yet though... the Easter bunny still has a little more painting to do. Don't worry, he will have them all done by April 1st!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Featuring Fun Toys for Kids

Today I am doing a very special feature on an Etsy shop called Fun Toys for Kids!

What makes this shop so special is the artisan, he is only 11 years old and he does some amazing and very fun chain maille pieces. Greg originally learned how to do chain maille when he was 7 years old at a summer camp. He has since mastered some very difficult weaves which are listed at Fun Toys for Kids. He has a number of other projects that he is working on which will be listed soon so, keep your eyes on his shop!

Greg is also a member of the Etsy Chain Maillers Guild!

These are just some of his wonderful chain maille creations. Check out Fun Toys for Kids for more!

It it truly an honor for me to feature Fun Toys for Kids!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dodecahedron Pendants

The Dodecahedron pendant has to be one of my favorite pieces!

The pendant has 12 sides and and is made from 96 individual rings that are opened and closed one at a time. Hidden inside each of these pendants is a genuine Swarovski Crystal with an Aurore Boreale finish. These crystals are just stunning and when the light hits the pendant in just the right way, you see the beautiful sparkle of the crystal come through.

The pendant currently listed in my shop is made from solid sterling silver wire and measures just under 1 inch. I will be posting a smaller version which measures just under 3/4 inch in my shop later this week.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Copper Bracelets

The use of copper for medicinal purposes is found throughout recorded history. Today, thousands of years later, pharmacies around the world offer copper bracelets as a first aid for joint pain and swelling. Although not scientifically proven, it has been found that in general, people with arthritic pain, found the symptoms decrease by wearing a pure copper bracelet.

Ancient Egyptians wore copper ornaments and jewelry as a mark of high status in society. The love affair with copper continues and it's warm red hues, has made it popular for fashion jewelry today.

Whether for fashion or medicinal purposes, I have had a significant increase in requests for copper jewelry. As a result, I have been increasing my copper chain maille line. I use pure copper wire in the making of these bracelets and pay the same amount of attention to detail as I do to my sterling silver pieces.

To keep your copper pieces shinny, here is a simple recipe: Put a couple of tablespoons of lemon or lime juice in a small container and add a teaspoon of regular table salt to the juice. Drop in your item and swirl it around. The tarnish is gone instantly and your jewelry is bright and shinny again. Be sure to rinse the jewelry well to remove the salt as copper corrodes easily.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Celebrating Spring... a day late!

I had to be reminded last night that yesterday was in fact the first day of Spring! Wow... I can't believe that I missed that one. Sure, I saw posts on Artfire... "show me your Spring" etc... but, for some reason, I didn't clue in! It's even printed on the calendar - I guess I missed that one too! But in all fairness, I actually thought that yesterday was the 19th! So, somewhere during the week I lost a day.
Better late than never, I thought I would celebrate Spring with a bit of color.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cosmic Crystals

I'm a little late getting a post up today due to the effects of a cold that I have been fighting this week but, I am determined to keep my blog going so, here I am! Better late than never right?

I just finished a bracelet yesterday that I will be posting in my shops sometime today - once I get the proper pictures taken.

I originally made this style of bracelet about 1 1/2 years ago. The inspiration came when I took some earrings that I made into Malibu Tan - a great tanning salon that also sells my jewelry. The earrings were made using these gorgeous Cosmic Crystals and a simple byzantine weave. Someone at Malibu Tan saw the earrings and said, "a bracelet made from those crystals would look really nice - if you can figure out a way to link them together". I thought about it for a while and decided that I could link the crystals using the same byzantine weave that I used on the earrings. The Cosmic Crystal bracelet was born!

I recently had a special order for this bracelet and the customer wanted clear crystals which I wasn't really fond of but... everyone has their own taste right? I ordered in some clear crystals but at the same time, I also came across these Crystal Cal V SI colored ones so... ordered both in. When the crystals arrived, I thought the Crystal Cal ones looked brilliant. They looked like silver crystal. I made up bracelets and matching earrings using both crystals and decided to give the customer a choice. When she saw both of them, she was drawn instantly to the set using the Crystal Cal color. She loved the sparkle that the crystals gave off.

I loved the crystals so much, I made another set to sell in my shops. Here it is...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

PMC Pendant

Today, I thought I would share with you my experience making a pendant using PMC (Precious Metal Clay).

This whole project started one day when Dave (a very dear friend of mine) approached me with a picture of a pendant that he saw in a magazine. He really liked it and asked if I came across anything like it with any of my suppliers - could I order it in for him. No problem! But... what exactly is it? He wasn't sure but the one thing he did know was that he really liked it!

Here is the original picture... you tell me... what do you think it is?

At first glance, it reminded me of some kind of coin... but what kind of coin could this be? You have to love the internet for this... I started searching... and searching and then... did I see what I thought I saw... did I see a picture of a coin that resembled this picture? I did - it's an old Spanish Doubloon! Great, I now knew what it was. Onto suppliers... no luck, not even something that closely resembled it. I just so happened to have some PMC and I thought... why don't I try making it!

First approach... I could order in a toy replica, make a mold and press the PMC clay into the mold. Not a bad idea right? I did manage to find some Doubloon replicas and ordered them in. Here it is...

Looks like the picture doesn't it? Only one problem... the details on the coin were not defined enough to make an impression.

Onto second approach... one of my first passions in life is to paint. Thinking... I could make a flat coin from the PMC and using PMC Paste, I could layer all of the details on. I did start this and before too long realized that it was going to take forever to get all the detail onto a not so large coin!

I hadn't given up yet although I knew, Dave probably did. Just to give you some perspective on the elapsed time here... I had been pondering this project for about 8 - 10 months at this point!

I am a very determined individual and I don't give up too easily. Then one wonderful day, I came across this stuff called Photopolymer sheets! Wow... could this be my answer? I quickly got my hands on some and went to work.

It's a really cool process. First, you need a black and white image which you need to copy onto a transparency. I sketched the image onto a piece of paper, scanned it into my computer and went to work using Paint Shop to clean it up. Here is the black and white image.

Now, time to make the mold which is a really simple process. You build a sandwich (bottom to top), a piece of wood or tile, the Photopolymer sheet (remove the plastic film), the transparency that you copied your image onto and a piece of glass. Clamp it all together and expose it under a UV lamp for 30 seconds. Next, place the exposed Photopolymer sheet in tepid water and wash away until the unexposed surface has receded and no longer has a sticky or slimy feel (about 5 minutes). Dry with hair dryer and expose in the UV lamp again for one minute. You now have a mold that can be used over and over again with PMC.

To make the coin, I pressed PMC into the mold, and did a bit of cleanup before the PMC started to dry - you only have a few minutes here. Next, let the piece dry completely either overnight or in my case... I used the toaster oven at a low heat for about 45 minutes. Once dry, I did a bit of sanding, and then, into the kiln it went. Once fired and completely cooled, onto the burnishing and polishing stage. Since it was a replica of an old coin, I didn't want to polish the whole piece to a perfect mirror finish... I wanted it to have the look of an old coin. Here is the coin in the clay form and finally the finished piece! The finished piece is 99.9% pure silver.

At this point.. about a year had gone by but, I was finally able to give the pendant to Dave and he loved it! Told you I was determined! I really loved working on this project and and it is my all time favorite piece!

Dave - thank you for the challenge and the opportunity to make this for you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chain Maille and the Process of Cutting your Own Rings

Today, I'm taking you into my world... the world of Chain Maille. I thought I would share with you the history of Chain Maille and the process I use to cut my own rings.

First the history - don't worry, since I didn't care much for history myself when I was in school - I will make it a short lesson!

Chain Maille is the ancient art of weaving small metal rings into patterns. It was the earliest form of metal armour and was probably invented before the 5th century by the ancient Celts. The name mail comes from the French word "maille" which is derived from the Latin "macula" meaning "mesh of a net". The armour itself involved the linking of iron or steel rings, the ends of which were either pressed together, welded or riveted. Sometimes the rings were stamped out of a sheet of iron and these were then used in alternate rows with riveted links. End of history lesson - that wasn't too bad was it?

My Chain Maille jewelry is a modern interpretation of this ancient technique.

Now... onto the process. I make all of my own rings using solid sterling silver, copper or gold fill wire. First the wire... nothing fancy... just wire and this is how I receive it... in coils, no labels - here is where it is wise to own a caliper so you know which wire gauge you are working with - this is very important and I will tell you why.... another day!

I coil this wire onto different size mandrels (for different weaves) using a jump ringer system. There are a couple of different systems out there and I am not going to recommend one over the other. The coil is then coated with cutting compound and placed into a coil holder.

A top plate is finger tightened over the coil. To cut the coil, I use a jewelers blade and blade guard. The power behind the spinning blade is a flex shaft - do not use a Dremel as even the best Dremels will not get you the rpms that are needed to cut through the wire - especially the heavier gauges. My flex shaft spins to a maximum speed of 18,000 rpm and I make sure it's spinning at that speed before I attempt to cut the coil. If the speed is not fast enough, it will bind. Oh yes... very important... always wear eye protection! There will be metal dust spraying out at you and there have been many times where I have had wire or a piece of the blade come flying out at me.

Once the rings are cut, they are placed in a tumbler containing stainless steel shot, a bit of water and dish soap - that's right... dish soap is not just for cleaning dishes! The cut rings are then tumbled for several hours before they are ready for use. The tumbling does two things; first, it polishes the metal, removing small scratches and burrs and secondly, it hardens the metal. Once this process is complete, the rings are ready to weave into intricate Chain Maille pieces - if you click on the picture of the rings you can see just how shinny they are! You can use different metals together in one weave, add crystals or make pieces using just one metal. That's where your imagination and creativity comes in!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Featured Artisan of the Day - Ninja Jenn

My feature Artisan for today is Jenn from Ninja Jenn.

I first came across Jenn in the chatterbox forums several weeks ago. My first impression when reading her posts is... what a nice person! I was curious... what does a person with the shop name of Ninja Jenn sell? I was amazed when I checked out her shop. Jenn makes beautiful pendants from scrabble, domino and other tiles. I had never seen that done before! Jenn also creates custom pieces. Well... I had to have one. I have a ring that is engraved with... Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none (Shakespeare quote) which I wear all the time. I asked Jenn if she would create a tile for me with the same saying. The next day, Jenn contacted me with about 7 or 8 different options - here we go again... decision making time!! Luckily I was able to choose one. Here is the pendant that she made for me - I love it!

All of Jenn's pieces are made with love a great attention to detail. She is such a conscientious seller... following up to see if the pendant arrived safe, worried if you are going to like it - just amazing! On top of that, Jenn goes out of her way to help other sellers. Not only does she help in the forums but, if you go to her blog, she has tutorials on Twitter and RSS feeds. I guess my first impression of her in the forum was spot on!!

Jenn calls herself an all-around dabbler. She started out painting, has had her hands in sculpting, sewing and her current medium of choice is resin and decoupage. You have to check out her wide selection of pendants in her shop - Ninja Jenn. Here are some of my favorites!

Jenn just recently opened a new shop on Artfire - Ninja Jenn2 and I just had to check it out! The shop is new but the items she has here so far really display her artistic abilities! Here is a hand painted rosebud pot from her new shop - just beautiful!

It is my privilege to feature Jenn from Ninja Jenn!