Friday, 15 June 2018
Trials of Selling OnlineI started selling at etsy.com in March of 2009 and was thrilled when I made my first sale, shipping this brooch off to a buyer in the eastern USA. I guess she liked it. This was bought as a gift but she ordered a similar piece for herself soon after.
Demanding a Different Skill SetWhile that got the ball rolling, sales came slowly for the first couple of years. As I was still "working for a living", I didn't spend a great deal of time on my etsy shop <https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/DixSterling?ref=seller-platform-mcnav> but I did prowl around enough to realize that I needed to brush up on photography, learn a bit about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and give a lot more thought to writing titles, tags, and descriptions. It paid off. By 2012-13, I was selling two to three items per month. Clearly that was not going to pay for a trip to the famous Tucson Gem & Jewelry Show, but it did cover my material costs so I could keep playing.
"The Times They Are A'changing"As things turned out, 2012-13 was pretty much my peak with etsy. There were lots of changes on etsy and they seemed to render some shops invisible. As you might expect, a lot of etsy sellers got frustrated and went seeking a new online site to sell through. In time, we found ArtYah.com (crest below) and I opened SterlingByDix there <https://www.artyah.com/seller/sterlingbydix>
At the moment, ArtYah is small. It is more like shopping at your corner store instead of a big box store but, unlike the big boxes, this small store offers only genuine handmade or vintage items plus craft supplies.
If you like to buy from people who thread their own needles, wind their own wool, clean their own paint brushes and hammer their own silver, check it out.
Thursday, 31 May 2018
My Sterling Rain ChainsA few weeks ago, I created a pair of copper rain chain dangle earrings as a prototype. I have been wearing them quite a bit recently and decided they are enough fun that I should make a pair in sterling silver. Yesterday, I deserted the vegetable garden and sat down at my bench.
Take 2: Doing It Right This Time
When I made the copper prototype, I punched out the tiny discs first, then drilled them. Difficult to say the least.
What follows is a better planned way to create these fun for summer earrings. First, I drew the ten circles I need on 28 gauge sterling sheet. I used a felt pen for that and to mark near the center of each circle. The center marks are not exact because I like the way they do not hang perfectly straight. In this photo, I am using my Dremel drill press (great tool) to quickly drill all ten center holes. Compared to holding each tiny circle with pliers to drill, this was a snap!
Next Steps: Punching . . .
Have I mentioned that I love good tools? With so many jewelry tasks, there are various ways to do the job. Long ago, I cut out discs by hand. A good way to practice sawing, but awfully slow. As for trying to hand cut ten one centimeter circles, it's a sure way to go crazy! With my disc cutter and a brass hammer, it took only a few moments and my sanity is intact.
. . . and DappingOnce I had all the predrilled circles on the bench, I used
This is another of the super useful tools my husband gave me some years ago. He drilled a piece of handrail wood to hold each of the steel dapping punches, too, so they are easy to pick out. As with the disc cutter, I use a brass hammer for striking because I don't want to damage these terrific tools.
Obviously, if it's a chain, it has links. To link the discs up, I used two centimeter lengths of sterling wire. I went with 18 gauge this time, as it was the finest in my stash. Bending it into loops proved a bit of a chore so, for future earrings, I will order some 22 gauge round wire.
Mini-assembly line: I measured and pencil marked two centimeters from the edge of my bench pin to speed cutting.
And Assembling the Dangles
Suddenly, my bench was cluttered with tools: mini anvil, wire cutters and several pliers. It takes quite an array to thread these beauties together!
Ready to Polish, Photograph and List in My Shop
Thursday, 24 May 2018
My Bench is Lonely Because...
Well, because it's May and the garden rules. We are getting seriously summery weather after a very, very soggy April and the sun has been luring me outdoors. You know how that goes, right? You decide to take your coffee outside and bask in the sunshine. You barely sit down when you start seeing all the "must dos". Lawn needs cutting. Hedge needs trimming. Planter needs planting. Okay, I get it. Time to get to work.
Two Successes to ReportWe have made progress over the past couple of weeks. Lawn has been cut (three times already). Hedge has had first light trimming. Planter and window box have been planted. Hanging baskets purchased and installed. Fountain removed from shop and set in its place. Oh, oh, it seems the pump housing has cracked. Off to hardware store for new pump. Install same. It's too powerful, water splashing everywhere. Fountain empties swiftly. Remove that pump. Off to different hardware store for different pump.
Success 1: Pump Problem Solved
We bought this delightful pottery fountain as an anniversary gift to ourselves a few years ago. About the time we moved off the river, various aspects of getting older also convinced us that it was time to retire our motor home and give up camping. We sure miss setting up camp beside B.C.'s many chuckling, gurgling creeks. At least this pretty fountain provides that cheerful, restful sound of splashing water. The fact that it lives in a sheltered nook near our bedroom window makes very welcome on hot summer nights.
Success 2: Labor Saving Device Installed
Lose-lose is the struggle to drag a heavy hose about 25 feet across patio and carport to water the baskets each morning. This year, we finally bit the bullet and bought all the materials needed to run a drip watering system to feed the baskets. Wouldn't you know it: the first hardware store had everything we needed except the 1/2 inch tubing and the faucet connector. Once again, we had a two-store project! Then installing it became a two-day project. Never mind, now that it's done, the only labor required will be dragging out a ladder to get up there and fertilize them every few weeks. A small price to pay.
Also One Failure
Our current home has a raised bed vegetable garden. For the first few years, I kind of enjoyed it. Late last summer, I got lazy and it began to run wild. As winter moved in, I quit thinking about it. Weeds took root. Then we got hit with a super soggy March and April. There was no hope of any digging out there. By the time the weather warmed up, the weeds were flourishing. I have launched into the clean up but fear it may be fall before I am ready to plant anything. Just look at that mess!
Friday, 27 April 2018
My Not So Secret Recipe
If you want to have a go at this process, you will need:
• a piece of copper jewelry
• a plastic scrubbie
• scouring powder (I use Bar Keeper's Friend)
• a small lidded cooking pot (I got mine at a thrift store)
• some dry organic material: pine needles, bits of cedar, anything with high resin content
• a torch (jeweler's great but propane plumbers' torch will work for this)
• heat safe soldering tweezers
• archival wax or spray sealant
I photographed the tweezers (upper left in a third hand holder, which is handy but not essential) and my cooking pot at my soldering station but you really want to set up for this outdoors — it gets campfire smokey pretty quick. Obviously, it's not a task for a windy day.
Create Your Copper ItemOf course you need to create a piece first! In this case, I am working on a pierced pendant. I used 24 gauge copper but your design will determine your gauge.
This photo shows the paper pattern glued to the copper sheet for sawing (see part of my saw on right of frame). I drew in the bail for style and placement but, of course, it is not cut out as part of the circle.
Pierced & Punched
I used my saw to pierce out the large circle but was able to use my punch for the cutout (photo left).
I also created a pattern for the folded loop bail and cut it out with the saw.
Check the Fit, Remove the Pattern
Here, I am checking the fit for the bail (using its folded paper pattern) on the copper piece.
You can see that I have sanded the pendant to remove any scratches.
Once satisfied with the style and fit, I glued the bail pattern to another piece of copper and cut it out. You can remove the paper with soap and water or just use the torch to burn it off.
I put the bail on an old hockey puck (we jewelers can find a use for just about anything!) and forged it to the correct shape using shaping pliers and my rawhide mallet.
The next step was to finish all edges with files and sandpaper before closing the bail around the pendant and soldering it shut. At that stage, I took the piece to the sink and scrubbed all sides super clean with scouring powder and a scrubbie. When the water was sheeting off all the metal, I dried it very carefully with paper towel (touch edges only) and put it into the tweezers, positioning them to cover a minimal part of the back of the bail. Next step: torch it and cook it.
Painted and Protected
Once the piece cooled, I coated it with a spray sealer and hung it over the edge of our patio table to dry. All ready to list at SterlingByDix on ArtYah.
Go ahead; try this at home ;-)
Friday, 20 April 2018
Sometimes, a Project Takes a Lot of TimeThis is a bit of a saga. Many, many months ago, a family friend came to me with a bag of jewelry she had inherited. It was all pretty old fashioned and she wanted to know if I could come up with ways to update some of it.
The first project was to extract a pretty oval malachite from a very traditional brooch and turn it into a very modern ring. It was fun to work on and we were both pleased with the transformation.
The second project involved finding a way to marry up the stones from a pair of classic birthstone rings into one ring for our friend's niece. Because they were virtually the same size, it was feasible to put both the garnet and the aquamarine into one ring.
First, To Select a Design
I sketched up a few ideas and they chose the overlap with a tapered shank as a good fit for the two oval stones (see below).
Stone Removal Done (Carefully)
Here, a photo of the wrecked rings and the freed stones.
That done, I set the stones aside while I prepared the ring itself.
Making the Ring Blank
I used 18 gauge sterling for the ring, shown here wearing the paper patter I used to cut it out.
I love my shaping pliers and they were especially useful for coaxing this ring blank into the correct curve.
In the background, you can see the copper ring I made as a prototype. I needed to be sure that my design could actually be made and, just in case the answer was no, copper is a lot cheaper than sterling! Happily, the design worked.
Ring Soldered: Next Up, Bezels For Stones
The following photos outline the next steps.
Here, the ring has been soldered and is ready to receive the stone settings.
Making those bezels took a bit of time. It's fussy work to fit silver around the little stones (5 mm by 8 mm). Once the outer bezels were done, soldered and tested for fit, I made thinner ones to fit inside. Soldered into the main bezels, they serve to support the stones so they will sit level (and not drop right through the main bezels, of course). Here they are, all ready to go.
It All Came Together — At Last
Once the bezels were soldered onto the ring, I set the stones. Once again, I worked slowly and carefully. If I shatter a stone I bought, tough luck. Shattering heirlooms is just not acceptable. I'm quite pleased with the final result. I hope its new owner will enjoy her old/new ring for many, many years.
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
A Pendant Pair of CirclesA friend recently purchased a pair of fire painted copper dangle earrings and wanted a pendant to go with them. Life has been a bit crazy lately but I finally got around to the project.
One Large Plus One Small
These steel punches, driven home through steel guides with a brass hammer, make short work of creating metal circles — but only up to a one inch diameter. That worked fine for both sizes I used to make the earrings but not for the pendant. After using the cutter to get a one-inch disc for the smaller circle, I had to get my saw going to cut a larger one at 1 3/4 inches.
Ready to Link Up
Here are the two discs ready to join up for the pendant. After I cut both, I filed and sanded the edges smooth and drilled holes to accept a copper jump ring. It will hold them together and provide a way to hang the piece from a leather thong. I also sanded both faces to take out any minor scratches — the first step in preparing them for coloring. The process is similar to the Raku method used on pottery: the very hot metal is placed in a container of combustable materials. Although various materials will work with pottery, for metals, I use dry plant materials with a high resin content. Bits of pine needles and cedar twigs seem to be best.
Linked Up & Ready to Clean
Here the circles are hanging from my third hand tweezers after soldering the jump ring. The pattern you see on the copper is from the paper patterns I had glued on to guide the cuts. Once the jump ring was soldered shut, I used a scouring pad, hot water and a powdered cleanser to get the faces super clean. Only once water sheets off all of the metal surface can the fire painting process work well. Next, I torched the pendant until is was red hot and immediately dropped it into an old saucepan full of the organic materials,
Generally, when I work with copper, the final step is to protect the surface with a thin coat of archival wax. It works well and can always be renewed by the eventual owner if any signs of wear begin to develop. With this pendant, however, I was concerned that there will be a slight degree of abrasion as the smaller circle —despite being gently domed —swings in front of the larger one. With that in mind, I opted to use a clear spray on finish instead. I clamped the jump ring in a pair of jewelers' tweezers and headed into the great outdoors. After checking the wind direction (duh), I held the pendant at arm's length and sprayed the clear coat on all surfaces. Finally, I hung is over the edge of a patio table to let the coating dry.
Pretty Good Match
Considering the organic, and somewhat random, coloring process, I think the pieces match up pretty well.