Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Grander Plan: Designing a Series

I've been working on honing not just my technical skills, but my design skill as well. And this month, I took on a design series. Instead of designing one or two pieces that complemented each other, I designed...twenty-four.

That is a LOT OF METALWORKING! I am tired. My body aches. B-u-t I have twenty-four stone-set pieces that complement one another. 

I did make it a little easy on myself because I had bought a good quality of  Red Creek Jasper stones this winter, and they usually can be a little mix-and-match-y to begin with. And I was playing around with a new design feature, which transferred well among the stones. I'd started sampling it with single-color stones, and I liked it...but it's subtle, and I felt like it needed some more vibrant stones to accentuate.

So I sorted my stones into groups with similar patterns:

I made the bezels, textured the backs (the back of each piece in each grouping has the same texture), and then the fun started. I played around with wire, tiny silver discs, even tinier silver balls, and jump ring placement (for attaching ear wires and neck chains), until I had the designs worked out. Then I moved on to the next series:

And repeated the process. Different back texture, but assorted dots and lines and discs on the top and sides.

And once more:

Voila! Several groupings of mix and match designs. Any pendant could go with any earrings in the series.

I really enjoyed working on these, and I also managed (a twofer!) to refine my skill in joining pieces of metal together like this. I've been able to solder a join on a single piece of metal easily, and I can sweat solder pretty well, but I've struggled with this kind of work for a while. And since nearly every piece (the curved wire, the discs, the balls, and the jump rings) all have to be "side-soldered", for lack of a better term, I think I've improved my abilities just a wee bit. Which was actually part of the plan to begin with.  :)

Now that these are finished, priced, and listed on line, next week I'm going to be working on some more "Capital A" Artisan pieces. Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Working Through It

Last week I posted about the sudden death of my friend, Kathleen. It's still incomprehensible to me that she's gone...I keep thinking of the times we shared and the talks we had. And there's a "Friends and Family of" Facebook page that's full of photos and memories of her. I only knew her for a few years, but some of her older / closer friends have shared such wonderful remembrances and photos.

Kathleen lived a very full life, living in NYC, London, Los Angeles, Atlanta...and traveled all over the world. This last trip to Mexico was just one vacation in a long, long list.

Sometimes (okay, often) I get stuck in a rut here in the studio. I love working on jewelry designs. And working from home means that I don't have to get out of the house and interact with the rest of the world. For an introvert like me, it's great. But too much solo time can be detrimental, and for several reasons, I feel like I've pulled even more inward this year. While it's helping me create more designs, it's not necessarily best to live like a recluse most of the time.

Kathleen's death made me realize how great her reach many people touched by knowing her, grieving her loss, remembering her through shared words and photos. It makes me want to reach out to all my friends and make sure I spend a little more time with them. And it reminded me of how short life can be, and that's part of what propelled me out of the grief and depression last week to pushing hard in the studio.

In addition to hearing the news about Kathleen last Sunday, my festival was rained out that day, which meant significantly fewer sales, and I got three other show rejections last week. I was a mopey girl, feeling bad about myself and my work, sad about my friend, and generally low. But toward the end of the week, I was online, perusing some other jewelers' creations, looking at the people who *didn't* get rejected from those art shows, and I thought to myself, "Well, you can be the girl who mopes about it, or you can get cracking and be the girl who can compete with them!" So...I got cracking.  :)

Here's what I did yesterday:

I bezeled 26 red creek jaspers. This is just a sampling of them...there are more...and then I soldered seven of them to the back plates and finished the decorative details on three. Whew!

You can't really see the detail work at the top, and they're all white from being in the pickle. And they still need bails. But they're 99 percent done. On to the rest of them today.

Last week was pretty much the worst week of the year so far. Which I guess means that there's nowhere to go but UP!  :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Who Loves Color??

It's a bold, beautiful, colorful spring for Blue Piranha:

I have been wanting to work with some of the beautiful larimar stones I've collected, and finally got a chance to last week. Larimar is a gorgeous sky blue stone found only in the Caribbean, which is where I was first introduced to it, on my honeymoon back in 2000. While considered reasonably priced on the islands (or at least it was when I was there; I think I paid $38 for a pair of Larimar earrings), it's a somewhat expensive export.

I never used it when I was working with beads, because it was quite pricey compared to other colored stone beads. And I have to have an open mind about buying it, because sometimes there's not much available and it's on the expensive side...and then sometimes I can catch a good price on it. But not often. So I usually have a small stock on hand, because I like to have at least one Larimar design available for art shows. It's always a conversation piece.
I've also been working with a little more turquoise:

All of these pieces are using the dot-and-line designs I'm playing around with. I'm liking the asymmetry of some of these pieces; it's fun to work out balanced designs for these pieces that aren't symmetrical. And I'm thinking of maybe wholesaling these in the future, assuming I can get access to stones that will work for a small wholesale line. It's tough to wholesale with colored stones, because they're almost all one of a a kind and so stores can't just reorder the same item if it sells...but if I can develop a "look" with the metal work and the colorful stones, I think it might work on a small scale. 

Here's the other pair of earrings I made last week:

I love the bigger size of these stones and the mixed elements on top. It took some time to get a balanced design with the jump ring not being exactly centered, but the final result was worth the effort.  :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Hard Loss

This past Sunday, while working at the Inman Park Festival, I received news of a friend's sudden death. I'd been texting with her just last week. And now she was gone. A bit of a shock...unlike the long "lead time" (for lack of a better term), with my father's cancer, this was more like a punch to the gut.

As it turned out, the festival got rained out on Sunday afternoon. It was bad for business, but good for me personally, as after hearing the news, I really didn't have the heart to smile and interact with customers. I packed up the soaking wet booth, went home to change clothes, found that the roof was leaking, and stood outside for another hour to try and help my husband fix it. Another clothing change and then I crashed on the couch, and didn't get back up. For three days.

I am a bit surprised at how hard this news has hit. My friend was out of the country on vacation when she died, and news / details were sketchy at first. Then I unintentionally learned more details than I really needed to know and couldn't stop thinking about what her last moments must have been like. It's taking some work to get my perspective back.

 Me, Kathleen, and another friend at a 4th of July party last year

My friend, Kathleen, was someone whom I didn't see much - she moved from Atlanta to Los Angeles last year, and I'd only seen her once since - but we stayed connected on Facebook and via texts. She was one of the nicest girls you could ever meet. We bonded over a shared love for music, movies, and shoes. She lived her life to the fullest - I know it sounds like a cliche, but she wrung every drop out of life - and was a bright spark for so, so many people. We're all a bit stunned that she's suddenly gone.

Memorials are being planned in both Atlanta and Los Angeles, and her New York peeps and London folks are planning less formal get-together remembrances of her. Flags flew at half-mast on Monday at the company for which she worked. Facebook photos and remembrance postings have been both comforting and heartbreaking.

My memories with Kathleen are not many, but they all have one thing in common - they're happy. Not that she was bursting with joy all the time, but this girl had a very positive outlook on life, and her presence left her mark on everyone whose life she touched, no matter how briefly.

I love you, Kathleen. I wish we could have spent more time together, but I cherish what we did have. Your memory will always be an inspiration to strive harder, love more, look forward, and to just live every experience. I'll miss you. 

Currently wearing: OPI "It's All Greek to Me". Because I know you'd want to know.  :)