Tuesday, 26 August 2014

August 26

A Start and a Finish

Late summer is always a busy time around here. As if the vegetable garden – with those fast-growing zucchinis – wasn't enough to keep me busy, summer in this family means a crowded calendar. Between June 15 and September 10, we celebrate five birthdays and a couple of wedding anniversaries.

Any creative work has to fit in amidst gift buying, gift wrapping, vegetable garden weeding and harvesting. Oh, the house demands a bit of vacuuming and dusting, too!

What follows was spread over most of August!

Design Phase – New Inspirations

The Creative Jewellers Guild has chosen celtic as the club theme for the 2015 BC Gem Show, so I've been browsing through the books we picked up when touring Scotland for celtic design ideas.

As you can see,  I began with some rough sketches inspired by actual celtic designs.

The round (well, almost round) one was inspired by the Kildalton Cross on the island of Islay. I took several photos but some of these show it better!  <https://www.google.ca/search?q=kildalton+cross+islay&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=-Rr9U8PeG6mwigL054HoCg&ved=0CDkQsAQ&biw=1341&bih=835>

I decided to start by working up the shield (lower right corner sketch) in copper. The backplate will be copper and there will be a silver bar down the center. If I like the effect, I will also make a reticulated and polished silver version later.

Start with Sketch & Pattern

I keep this little notebook handy and, when I decide to put a sketched design "into production" (how pretentious!), I make a quick reference sketch of it here. It lets me keep notes of materials, weights, etc. so, if I want or need to make something the same or similar, I can find all the information.

Finishing Up with Polishing and Photography 

While the glue on that paper pattern was drying, I finished polishing a silver brooch I started weeks ago.

The stone is an 8 mm, smoky-brown quartz cabochon. I forged the pin from a piece of heavy-gauge square sterling silver wire (at this size, it doesn't look much like wire, does it?) I designed it to be worn with the stone at the bottom (the pin catch is hidden behind it) but it could be worn in a horizontal position, as well.

I think this would look great on a grey or brown coat or jacket lapel for fall and winter. It's a bit too chunky for summer fashions.

The final step for this one: photograph it for my etsy shop listing.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Late Summer

So Much To Do

Wow, past the middle of August already. This has been one of Vancouver's very rare endless summers but it still seems to be coming to an end too soon. All those end of summer things are piling up around my ankles, knees, thighs....

1. The Garden

The hanging baskets are getting kinda ratty (despite daily watering and weekly feeding). I guess the cooler nights are hard on them but I will not knit them little sweaters. The flowers in the planter are doing better but deadheading the geraniums and petunias is becoming a boring chore ;-)

The vegetable garden has become a jungle. That Indigo Sky tomato (see August 8) is still climbing. The arugula bolted weeks ago and I really should uproot it. I also need to harvest a bunch more tomatoes plus radishes and carrots.

And, just when I thought I'd get around to all that, in came. . .

canning peaches!

So far, there are 13 jars on the counter and I have enough on the table to double that. The Big Guy doesn't think that will be enough (okay, he really likes peaches).

Just before the peaches hit the local market, I finished a couple of pieces of jewelry ;-)

2. Jewelry: Plain Can Be Perfect

The ring is a plain hammered silver band - no overlays or stones. I really like the simplicity.

Shield Pendant

The pendant is another of my colored copper experiments – this one shaped somewhat like a shield. I love cooking the copper elements, then pulling them from the smoldering needles and leaves to see what colors have come forth. This one is shot with golds, greens and browns.

The business of designing cold connections for these pieces is challenging. Here, I knew I wanted a tapered bar of reticulated sterling to rise high enough for a hidden bail. I finally elected to pierce the copper near the bottom of the shield and thread the tip of the silver through. At the top, I drilled both elements and fastened them together with a tiny brass nut and bolt. As always, the final step is a coat of archival wax to preserve the patina.

Both items are finished and photographed. If I can escape the peaches for an hour or two, maybe I can do the write-ups and get these into my shop for early Christmas shoppers.

Friday, 8 August 2014

August Already?

Summer Harvest

I don't know about you, but I find it hard to believe that summer is half over already. July just flew by (maybe due to all that garden work) and now the first week of August is gone, too. Work in the garden has slowed -- although the weeds never rest —and we are beginning to harvest tomatoes and zucchini (you can always count on zucchini!).

Left: here it is, the first full-size tomato of the summer. Our Tumbler cherry tomatoes have been ripening for a couple of weeks and they are delicious — and very abundant — but this is the first tomato that would make a sandwich.

The next photo shows two of our four tomato plants. The two behind (hidden) are quite ordinary. These two, however, are just amazing.

The Long and Short of Small Tomatoes

In the foreground, the little Tumbler plant. Not quite knee-high, it is covered with rapidly-ripening fruit. Behind it, reaching for the sky, is a tomato I hadn't seen before. It's called Indigo Sky and the tomatoes themselves are just slightly larger than cherry tomatoes. The plant, however, is now about 6 feet high and shows no sign of stopping!

These are such pretty tomatoes — when they ripen, the tops are purple but the lower part turns yellow. As the plant is loaded with them, I foresee some really attractive salads this year. Good thing that basil plant in the foreground is also producing well. Just add olive oil and balsamic — perfect.

Our Patio is Now a Place to Sit (and Create)

With all that construction work done, the patio has become a place to sit on warm afternoons. As it happens, a friend from the Creative Jewellers Guild taught me a new skill last week. A spool of copper wire, a pair each of pliers and cutters plus an old knitting needle is all the equipment it takes to weave a wire chain. It's a perfect occupation for a summer afternoon — no hot torch required! In this photo, I have begun a length of chain. Once enough is woven, you thread the end through all the loops to secure it and then draw it through holes drilled in a piece of hardwood. That compresses and smooths the chain. Can't use a steel draw plate as the metal could cut your copper wire. The final result looks rather like Viking Weave.

More Jewelry (or Jewellery to us Canuks)

A couple of recent mornings were cool enough to get the torch working again. This photo is of pieces of reticulated sterling about to become long dangle earrings.

It took a lot of filing and sanding to smooth the edges of the dangles (they are a touch more than two inches long). I cut the squares they hang from out of the same sheet of silver. Then I soldered posts to the squares and drilled holes in all four pieces so I could connect them with jump rings. Final result below.

Samurai Pendant

Right: my other new item. I'm still having fun "cooking" copper to create a Raku finish. I wanted to highlight this piece with a rough triangle of reticulated silver. Not wanting to use a torch (and mess up the Raku!), I cut a slot in the top of the copper sheet, threaded the silver through it and bent the back of the silver into a bail for this box link chain (no, I did not make that fine chain — my eyesight is not nearly that good).

The earrings and pendant now online at <DixSterling.etsy.com>

Saturday, 2 August 2014

August 2

Been a Busy Summer

Okay, I know I've been pretty silent of late but not without cause. These photos tell the story.

 All that gravel was awfully dull to look at and left our yard seeming like part of the street.

Early in the spring, we hung those baskets to provide some color.

A little later, we brought in these 5-6 foot cedars and had them potted and arranged alongside the planter we built last summer. Not total privacy, but much better.

It was beginning to look decent.

Landscaping - Lots of Landscaping

The photo to the right was taken in June. The plants were still a bit on the small side.

We had been using the end of the driveway as a patio but it was not big enough so we had a stray cedar shrub removed and set about building a proper patio to expand it.

Above: root ball waiting for removal.

Right: our new patio ;-)

The wheelbarrow is a give-away. We still have to finish installing about 3 feet of pavers for the walkway in front of the shop.

This area is great in the morning and evening but can be awfully hot in the afternoons. The second, paler, umbrella marks an area where that cedar hedging offers a shady nook.

Cutler's Cool Corner

The chairs and table on the grass give us a spot that is about 10 degrees cooler than the paved patio. Ever so welcome on hot days.

To make it seem even cooler, we sprang for this charming fountain. It is really restful to sit and listen to it chime and gurgle.

Oh, just one more thing: summer brings us four birthdays and two wedding anniversaries. Busy, busy, busy!