Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Waiting on the Work Table

Heading to Arizona tomorrw, but here's a quick glimpse of what's currently on the work table...waiting for settings.

 Sorry again for the quick snap - but left to right: dendrite opal, boulder turquoise (you may remember it from this post, and a lovely piece of larimar.  :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bezels and Bezels and...

...more bezels.

Note: I *don't like* to make bezels. It's one of my least favorite parts of the fabrication process. I find the fine silver to be too flimsy, floppy, and delicate-feeling for my hands (and yet also stubbornly resistant to being formed into a bezel at times. Odd, that). Last year I paid someone to make bezels for me, because I figured if I wasn't going to get them made, I'd never get the rest of the process going.

So I got my bezels, and set some cabochons. It was a start! But though this woman has made excellent bezel-making skills, her costs added to the price of my finished work. And she could only deliver every two weeks - totally understandable, but what if I needed some pieces for a show and couldn't coordinate with her? And really, if I can't at least comfortably know how to do the work myself, I'm not truly owning that part of my business, am I?

So this year, while taking a fabrication course at the Spruill Center, I made bezels my focus. For the first four weeks of January, every Thursday morning for three hours, I made bezels. The first Thursday I only made 4 bezels. Can we say, "rusty skill set?" Yikes. But the second Thursday I made 10 bezels. Then I made several small bezels (it's trickier to work small). Then I tried some bezels with corners. Ugh! So, so much more difficult. But they took, in the end.  :)

Below is just a sampling:

And all in all, I made 48 bezels between January and early March. Whew! I can safely say that my skill set is far less rusty. And I've learned so much (for example, stay the hell away from sharp / pointy - cornered stones. There are a few left in my stash that I will be farming out to the lovely bezel-maker extraordinaire, but otherwise it's rounded- / curved-cornered stones for me).

Due to travels this first quarter of the year, I missed several classes, so I only have one left. And it's going to be used for setting stones (I have already set a few, the ones I posted about here) so I can get that skill set up to par a little more as well.  Then I'm taking a quarter off from jewelry classes, both because of time constraints and because I need some practice doing the things I've learned in my own studio for a while. Hopefully I'll rejoin the jewelry school world around June or so.

But for now, as time permits, I'll be bezel-ing and stone-setting away!  Let the fun begin!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finally, I'm Official

In late February, I went to Arizona for the Fountain Hills Great Fair. And I had a moment that really made me stop and appreciate where I am and what I'm doing. I've had many moments to cherish in my chosen profession, though in recent years it definitely feels like swimming upstream (luxury product in a recessionary climate, anyone?). But I love what I do...so I still get up every day and do it. There are worse things!

But at the Fountain Hills festival, I sold my first stone-set piece of jewelry. And I know that stone setting isn't the holy grail...there are so many more things for me to learn (tube setting, hinges, etc) but....for me, being able to set a stone in metal is pretty much the mountaintop of jewelry making. For so many years I was a "beader", then a "wire worker", and I always felt like that was never  quite good enough for me. I wanted to be a "real" jewelry designer, and by that I mean designing from scratch...jewelry fabrication.

I've been collecting cabs since long before I knew what to do with them, and I just started learning to set them in late 2010. The first few were gifts (or trades - my hairstylist and my massage girl are always happy to trade!), and I started displaying my stone set work in November 2011. So I showed those pieces at two festivals last year, and then at my first festival this year...I sold one. It went home with a fabulous woman who, I believe, will cherish it for years. And as happy as it made her...it made me a million times happier. I climbed the mountain and finally reached the top - and someone stepped up and said, "Yes! I love it!".

So much of our own selves is tied to what we create...it's hard not to take the bad (show rejections, the mistakes, the slow sales days) personally. And I do take them *all* personally, despite my best efforts not to. But I have also learned to savor the good. And this was one of those really, really good moments.

Here's my first stone-set piece that sold:

I couldn't be happier.  :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What's Been Goin' On

...to paraphrase Marvin Gaye...a lot's been goin' on. I wish I could be more on top of the blog, but it seems that life never gets back to a slow speed anymore. My father has been ill and I've been spending a lot of time traveling to Arizona to visit. It's the kind of illness you typically don't recover from - Stage IV prostate cancer. So I was in AZ (for both work and to visit my folks) for 20 days out of the 29 days we had in February. That doesn't allow much time for blog updates or anything else!

However, I'm home now and have a brief bit of time before I leave again (unbelievably, my March schedule is even crazier than February's was), and I'm so excited about some new work that I wanted to share it with you. Most of my work days (if I'm not at a festival) are spent cleaning up castings and for the *next* festival, but I am pushing myself to still work on creating new stone designs. So here's what's currently on the work table (forgive the down-n-dirty shots):

It's tough to see but this is a lapis lazuli cabochon and the setting I've created for it. The stone isn't set yet because I have to patina the metal and then set the stone (same is true for all the shots here) but I'm almost there. Hopefully this and the others in this post will be done by the end of this week!

Next up, a beautiful ocean jasper:

I promise to post a better photo when this is all done. The setting nearly broke me and you can't really see the beauty of the stone here, but I promise it will all come together.   :)

And finally, a Peruvian opal I picked up on this year's Tucson trip:

I found several of these opals and can't wait to set this and make metal homes for the rest of them. I think they're going to be very well received.  :)

More details hopefully this weekend! Stay tuned...