Friday, 30 May 2014

Bench Work

A Ring + Earrings

Well, the household chores took a bit longer than planned (don't they always?) but I got back to my bench on May 29 and took up a couple of projects.

Garnet Ring Done 

I made this ring some time ago but never got around to the final polishing. It is similar to the moonstone ring I made a few months ago but, where that was pierced with tiny triangles to each side of the stone, this one features a pair of silver balls flanking the garnet.

Garnets are said to be protective against evil and to release bad karma. Not a bad combo! Personally, I just love the deep reds. If you can't afford a ruby, this will do ;-)

It's Summer and Earrings Should Move

Just my opinion but I really prefer wearing studs in winter (well, except for parties). Dangles can get caught on turtle necks, upturned collars and wooly scarves. But, come summer. . . .

I cut these squares from sheet sterling silver then filed and sanded the edges to make them smooth.

To create texture and sparkle, I hammered the squares, leaving them with a dimpled surface.

Because I wanted the squares to swing freely (more sparkle), I decided to create ear wires with balled ends and drill the squares so the wires could hold but not grip them.


To the right, the squares and the formed wires. The balls were created by holding the wires upright in heat-proof pliers and applying the torch to one end. In only seconds, the end of the wire forms a ball. You pull the torch away quickly. If you do not, the ball is likely to fall off the wire (I always do this over a charcoal block for obvious reasons!). In the photo, the wires, roughly shaped, are ready for a bath in the pickle pot.


To finish the squares, I gently forged them in a dished wood block. Did you know that silver reflects light much better when it is curved than when flat? Some pieces need to be flat, but if they can be curved, go for the better effect.

I use these odd-looking pliers to finish shaping the ear wires. They do a great job when shaping ear wires, bezels for stone, wire or sheet for rings — pretty much anything round. I really love good tools!


Wednesday, 28 May 2014


So, Here's the Deal

If I get all this done this morning. . .

Vacuum all floors...

Clean the mirrors and shower doors

Wash kitchen and bath floors...

I get to work here in the afternoon!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Picking Up Where I Left Off

Back to That Blue-Grey Agate

Back on May 5, I posted a photo here of the roughing in of a big, bold agate pin. Of course, it being spring, I got side-tracked. There was the Mothers Day Show and Sale to prepare for (and unpack from). Then there is the garden — with the interior done, it is our project for this year.

Here Comes Summer

Hanging baskets are so rewarding, aren't they? Buy them, hang them; you've got a garden!

Our vegetable garden now contains various herbs plus lettuce, tomatoes and — if everything comes up — carrots and spinach. Pots of flowers brighten the patio area. We have also begun some heavy work to remove unwanted plants, enlarge the patio and prepare to change the gravel you see here to lawn. Can't wait — have you ever tried to rake laurel leaves out of gravel? All sounds like a plan for a restful summer, doesn't it?

Jewelers Bench Time

Today, I took a break from the yard to rest my back and turn my attention to the agate brooch.

There was not too much left to do. I had to solder on the pin hinge and catch, secure the pin into its hinge (and shorten it a touch so it will not stab someone).

Here, the polishing has begun. You can see how the claws to hold the stone were cut from the center of the brooch. I bent them up earlier and made sure the stone would fit. That little hammer was used to drift a texture across the brooch.

The final step was setting the lovely stone.

Here it is, just waiting for me to hammer and burnish the claws over the agate to hold it. The claws are fairly large because that stone has some size and weight. Would not want it to fall out later!

Agates are forever amazing. They come in many, many colors. This lovely, translucent one shades from a rich gold tone on one side, through blue-grey to almost white and is speckled with a deep, dark brown. A stone with character.

Take a Look Backstage

When I was photographing this brooch for my etsy shop, I included a view of the back. It shows how the claws were cut from the sterling plate and pulled to the front to grip the stone.

Obviously, this is not a pin for a summer dress. It's big and bold and needs to decorate a heavy scarf, sweater, jacket or coat. But, because people sometimes shop well ahead when buying online, I will probably list it later this week.

And, while I'm thinking of it, which term do you prefer — pin or brooch (sometimes broach)? I can never decide so always list them as both (or all three). Wonder if it's a regional thing?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

May 14

Mothers Day and Beyond

My Display

I was a bit uneasy about taking a table at the Artisan Jewellers Show & Sale on Mothers Day. Had no idea what might happen.

So ...
the good news is, I quite enjoyed the day. The bad news is, I did not make even one sale. Ah, well.

The other good news is that it was a fun event. It appears most people enjoyed it and quite a few vendors made sales. Perhaps the Guild will host this event again next Mothers Day!

I was pretty busy getting set up for the show, and putting everything away again after, but I did finish the custom order earrings and shipped them off yesterday. Now I want to get back to that agate brooch but-- with summer weather happening here -- a few other things also want my attention.

Projects Galore

1. Veggies
The vegetable garden is finally underway. April was too cool and way to damp to get much done but a few dry days here and there let me turn the soil and dig in line and mushroom "compost". Jeesh, when we had the horses, we called it mushroom manure!

A couple of days ago, it got dry enough for a final tuning and raking. All that has been much easier than last spring when the garden had seen no attention for several years. Now, if the local bunnies will just let things get well started....

2. Patio to Be

We also got a couple of orphan cedar hedge shrubs (assume they were once part of the hedge to the left in photo) removed last week. Once we get those dreadful stumps out and level the ground (no small task), we can create a nice patio of paving blocks to extend the available seating area for summer. There are times I really wish I was ten years younger!

I guess, as the weather is supposed to shift to damp on the weekend (why does it do that?), I guess I can get back to the bench and the agate on Saturday.

Saturday, 10 May 2014


Progress on the Silver Half Hoops

Black oxidation added and partly removed by sanding.

Process is easy enough -- the chemical is painted on (or, if you want to oxidize the whole piece, you can dip it). Next, rinse, rinse, rinse. After that, you start removing some of the black with fine sandpaper.

Once you have taken away enough, you use a steel burnisher to bring up a shine on the revealed silver.

I'm working with the customer to achieve exactly the amount of oxidation she wants. It's quite easy to add (or remove) the patina. A bit painstaking, but not exactly brain surgery ;-) Actually, the most difficult thing is to get a really good photograph!

Another view

I really think these shots look darker than the earrings are to the eye. It is so hard to get the light just right for communicating with a client.

Our Artisan Show and Sale is tomorrow. Once that is behind me, I will try to get better photos (the light is supposed to be getting brighter, too).

I made another pair of earrings today but have not taken any pix (camera battery wanted feeding!). If they do not find a home tomorrow, I'll get them set up for etsy.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Busy Mothers Day for Me

Artisan Jewellers Show & Sale Sunday

This will be a first for me. I've never tried a craft fair or farmer's market for selling my jewelry before (BTW, Spell Check, two Ls are the Canadian spelling). I guess I got brave because this event is hosted by the Creative Jewellers Guild of BC, so I will be among friends, not total strangers. Now, of course, I'm getting nervous ;-(

Items Ready To Go

Having never done it, I am discovering that "live" selling involves some tasks not required when selling on etsy. First, because my etsy prices are in US dollars, I have to convert to Canadian. I am rounding up or down to achieve even dollar amounts to handwrite on a tiny price tag for each. Next, every piece gets polished with a silver cloth and slipped into a new plastic baggie so nothing gets scratched in transit. I'm almost done with pendants and bracelets. Still have many pairs of earrings to polish, mount on earring cards and apply price tags. After all this, I sure hope a few items sell!

Work in Progress

A charming repeat customer recently asked if I could make her a pair of textured, oxidized, half-hoop earrings. I started with a copper prototype (see blog of May 5). Now, I'm working on the sterling silver pair.

First Step

To the left are the silver bars. I cut them from sterling sheet, filed and sanded the edges, then hammered them to get the texture.

I posted the photo in an etsy convo to be sure these had enough texture to please her. With that established, it was time to solder on posts, then shape the half-rounds. The pickle left them with that milky finish. Today, I will polish them, do the oxidizing treatment, then polish the resulting black off the high parts of the texture.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Color, Color

Coloring Copper, Finding Color in Agate

I tried a different approach to color copper this time. First, I hammered and shaped this pair of copper semi-hoops, then soldered on posts. Next, I poured a small amount of household ammonia into a plastic tub, hung the earrings above it and put on the tightly-fitted cover. A few hours later, the copper had darkened — a lot.

Make It Bright

In this photo, the hoop on the left is how they looked after the fuming process. It is not very interesting, is it?

To achieve something worth looking at, I took a sanding stick and polished the edges and the face, just enough to brighten the high spots and leave the hammered hollows dark. Bingo: contrast.

I finished these with an archival wax to preserve the color but, since I have no idea how they will look in a month or two, I think I will keep them here. I'd hate to sell them and have them turn all dark and dull later this summer!

Pretty Blue-Grey Agate

I bought this agate months ago. The misty blue-grey tones appealed to me and I thought it would make a great pin.

Today, I started working with it. At this stage, I have cut out the shape of the brooch and cut an oval within it (under the stone). I'm also trying a new way to mount the stone. Instead of soldering posts to the backing to serve as claws, I cut four prongs from the backing sheet and raised them so I can press them onto the stone later. I also hammered a drifting pattern across the backing. Here, I've ensured the stone will fit inside the claws!

To do later this week: file and sand, file and sand. Also, solder a pin and catch to the back of the piece so it can be worn. Watch this space for more on this project.

Mothers Day

Event Coming

If you are in Vancouver, Don't miss the Creative Jewellers Guild Show & Sale at VanDusen's BMO Great Hall!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Spring Chores

More Chores = Less Jewelry!

The Vancouver area got two days of real summer weather this week. I realized that I had better turn the soil in the veggie garden now or it will be too late to plant anything this year. I have mixed feelings about that garden. It's a lot of work but the fresh veggies are great. Also, if I don't dig and plant, it will just be an ugly weed factory.

That said, my aching arms, legs and back so miss life on the river.
Three potted tomato plants, a few hanging baskets and pots of flowers took so little time and effort.

On the other hand, this sure looks better — and was way less work — than last spring when the raised bed had been abandoned to nature for three or four years. That took about five afternoons of digging, weeding, digging, weeding, etc.  This time, I think a second light working will get it ready for planting. I also got a head start: the rhubarb is flourishing as is the sage. I also have a couple of volunteer green onions that survived the winter.

Time to Lanscape

Spring also brought renewed determination to increase our space for sitting outdoors. We turned the end of the driveway — near the wee shop — into a patio but space was limited by a pair of hedging cedars that sat apart from their mates. They looked stilly and blocked plans to enlarge the patio. This morning, a local gardener delivered his hard-working crew, In short order, they dispatched the offending shrubs and trimmed an overly-ambitious laurel as well. Best of all, they took all that mess away when they left!

Leaves us with lots of work to do but we now have room to do it. Stand by for further developments with this project. We need to pull out those roots (nice that, as they were in an ersatz planter, the roots are pretty much above ground). We got rid of one like these last summer without too much labor.

Once the roots are gone, we will replace all that gravel with sand and install paving blocks level with the existing concrete. Hope to have that done in time to relax there with a cold drink come the hot days of July and August!

Jewelry Not Forgotten

I am sort of glad the weather is to turn damp again for the next few days as I am working up a pair of textured hoop earrings for a super client. I've made a prototype in copper but she wants more texture so I've just hammered this sheet of silver with a bigger hammer.

While the rains come down over the weekend, I will cut two strips from this, bend them into 3/4 hoops (similar in shape to these in my etsy shop Final step will be to cut and attach sterling silver ear posts.