Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Backward Glance (and a New Idea)

Back in the summer of 2010, when I was really starting to use the torch on a semi-regular basis, I set myself a goal: learn to solder small jump rings. I had fount it relatively easy to solder larger pieces and thicker jump rings, but most of my "joining" rings were 18 gauge silver and I melted nearly as many as I soldered. Or I ended up with a big solder blob and would have to sand it off later (trust me, soldering blobs off of eentsy rings is not a fun job. There's no room to hold anything and you end up sanding your fingers half of the time).

For reference, 18 gauge is about 1mm thick. 1 MM, not 1 cm. It's pretty darned small. A stack of 18 gauge jump rings should give you a good visual:

So I started trying to solder them closed..I .must have soldered a hundred or so. And I still wasn't very consistent. So I decided to give myself a break and jump up to 16 gauge rings instead. 16 gauge is only one size larger but it makes a difference (or at least, it did for me). I had some scraps of wire lying around, and I laid them out with the jump rings in different patterns to see what would happen (at this point in my soldering skill set *I* was not in control of what would happen, so I spent a lot of time "winging it").

And after a lot of putting shapes together, taking them apart, and moving them around, I ended up with this:

and this:

They had this sort of watery, cascading effect, and in fact, that's what they ended up being called: the Cascade series. I went to my casting company and had the designs (nine in all) cast for me. And thus began a whole new problem...clean up. Cleaning up these castings was a long, tedious, drawn-out affair. And I was relatively new to cleaning up castings, so I didn't know what I was doing, so they were just a mess for me. They turned out all right, and sold moderately well, but I learned a big lesson from the experience. I haven't made anything like them since.  :)

But now it's late 2012!  I've been at the fabrication process pretty steadily for almost three years, instead of eight months, and I receive a request for a custom order: a big circular necklace based on one of the Cascade designs. I received the request around the 8th of December, and I hesitated. Busiest time of the year, and a custom order for something that had caused me a lot of grief in the past...I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle it. I well remembered the days (yes, days) spent moving little bits of sterling around to create a balanced design with the original pieces. I wasn't sure if I could actually make the piece work in the time allotted (holiday shipping and all). But I went ahead and accepted the offer. And you know what? It was...well, not easy...but much easier than the original pieces had been - both the design and the fabrication work. And the clean up was quicker! (though that might have been because I only cleaned up one piece this time...doing twenty in a row might have made me think it was just as bad as before). 

I really am thrilled at how the finished piece turned out, and it's given me a design idea as well (I'll share more about that later):

It's circular yet the inside is asymmetrical, and I feel like the dots add a bit more "oomph" to the overall design. There's no bail to connect it to a chain or anything, because the customer will supply her own, so I only had to make the pendant itself.  It's fabricated with thicker wire than my original designs because of the size, and I'm telling you - bigger is better. It's a bit under two inches across, has a nice heft to it.

And it's nice to see some real progression in my work - almost everything I'm doing right now is coming pretty easily to me, which tells me it's time to tackle some new projects, some more advanced techniques, and some more intricate designs. I'm ready for a whole new year to learn, grow, and improve my skills.  :)

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