Thursday, October 31, 2013

Work Hard...Work Hard

I think somewhere along the way I've forgotten the "Play hard" part of that phrase. I have been working hard this week...but my energy is low and my body is fighting me. No surprise, really, after the hell-bent-for-leather show prep and then the load car / drive seven hours / unload car / set up booth / stand on asphalt for two fourteen-hour days / break down booth / load car / drive seven hours / unload car that was my schedule from Friday through Monday. I can't imagine why my body would be a little worn out!

And I was looking forward to a little break, but after coming home and looking at the inventory I have left, there's not enough to give to either of my galleries right now. And there's not a good cohesiveness to give to either one of my galleries right now. So, I am working as fast as I can to make new inventory and have it all ready by the November 14th and THEN maybe I can work at something less than hurricane pace. Although I have several custom orders to do to...for which I'm very grateful, no doubt about it, but WHERE is the downtime??

Here are the stones I'm making settings for this week:

From top to bottom: turquoise, larimar, kingman turquoise, larimar, peruvian opal (2 pairs)

And these:

From top to bottom: Royston turquoise, laguna lace agate, labradorite, larimar, labradorite x2, kingman turquiose, eudyialite, dendritic opal.


The bezels are all made and I have to do the embellishments...which I'm about to get started on. I'm not feeling like it at the moment, but usually once I've gotten two pieces done I'll be in the groove. I don't think they'll all get done today but I'm hoping to have half today and half Monday, then I can clean up and set the gems...and hopefully by the end of the week I will have a decent amount of items to give to both galleries for the holiday season. THEN I can work on my next looming deadline...

What happened to Friday, you ask? I'm actually taking  a much-needed day off with my husband. Even the "work hard, work hard" girl needs a break once in a while.  :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fabrication Details

I have had some questions about how I make the embellished gemstone designs, and I thought I'd share a little more about that process. I've shown you the steps to making a rimless bezel setting, here, but now I'll show you what happens once the bezel and back plate are soldered together.

Mostly I sketch a rough idea first, though a select few of these pieces actually come together all at once at the work table. The rough idea may or may not end up being part (or no part) of the final piece. I am a bit of a "punter" with this kind of work; I use estimates and guesses and fiddle around until things look good to my eye. I hate to measure, so unless I'm making earrings I don't measure anything.  :)

I start out with the bezel on a piece of painter's tape, and then I add in the pre-shaped pieces until I have a design I like:

The design laid out the way I want it. Nothing is soldered in place yet, they're all just loosely resting on the tape. At this point I will often snap a photo with my cell phone so I can reference the placement of the embellishments if necessary.

Sorry for the blurry-ness of these quick snaps. But you get the gist, I hope. Anyhoo, the only thing different above is that I've marked up several areas with a Sharpie. Kind of hard to see but the blue spots (including the blue areas inside the bezel itself - mostly running down along the left side of the pendant (your left as you look at the photo) are guidelines for where I"ll place the solder. Otherwise once I remove the separate pieces I will have no clue where exactly the solder should go.

Wire embellishments have been soldered in place. If you look closely at the lower level "wing" on the right side of the photo, you'll see that some solder ended up on top of my texture. That will have to be removed in the cleanup process.

Balls are now also soldered in place. This is typically a pretty happy moment so I put in a smiley face. The only thing left is to solder the bail, and then I can move on to the clean up process.

I actually got excited about making this design and forgot to do a stone check once I'd soldered down the bezel, so I did it after the extras have been added. Fortunately it still fits! The dental floss is there to remove the stone, otherwise I'd have no easy way to get it back out and it's nowhere near ready to be set yet.

Bail's on! I cut a piece of tubing and soldered it on to the pendant. The chain will run through the bail and out the other side so the pendant slides freely.

Next is the cleanup process and then finally the stone can be set:

Voila! Now you know a little more about how the magic happens.  :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Am So Close to a (Somewhat) Regular Schedule

..and I can't stand it. Today I am really *not* wanting to work...I mean, I DO want to work, but my body is tired and my energy is low. But I'm in the same situation I've been in all year - too busy to stop, too busy to address anything but sitting-at-the-work-table-and-fabricating, too busy to catch my breath.

Once the Memphis festival is over next week, I have two months (or most of two months) to work my schedule and take my time designing, working toward a larger goal than "in ten days I have another festival". I am really, really ready for it. I have had several things click into place, or at least start to, in the last few months, but no time to fully develop or work on my grander plans.

I'm not the patient type, as anyone who knows me will tell you. So I'm waiting, gritting my teeth, trying to calm my mind from all the things I'm thinking about and trying to focus on the necessity. Which is having more inventory to sell:


I've been trying to slowly step back into wholesale, but growing a wholesale business takes time (lots of time) and a product range that I simply don't have yet. I've designed several new rings, just recently, and I think they'd be great wholesale items. But I can't make the mosaic ones fast enough, and I have NO MORE STONES that will work for the pop rocks's sort of a problem, no? So wholesale plans are a bit stymied right now.

Also I am wanting to really stretch the mosaic designs to their fullest, and those are so time-consuming that I can barely keep three or so in stock at festivals. At Nashville, a woman randomly said to me, "Well, you must have had a good show!" I asked her why and she said, "Your booth looks a little sparse". always looks like that! At least this year it has. I actually had as much inventory out as usual, but absolutely no back stock to fill in with. 

So it's back to the making. Which I do love. But maybe notsomuch when I HAVE to make it every day. My shoulders don't love it that much. Or my more big push for Memphis and then I can regroup, refocus, and (maybe) even relax, a little...

Monday, October 7, 2013

From Chaos to Clarity

At least, I hope that's the progression. It's funny how small, unexpected things can cause seismic shifts in your life...

A few weeks ago, I was approached at an art festival by a fellow jeweler. One of the other jewelers in our community had died, and she had taken on the task of clearing out his studio / workshop for the family. This man taught classes and had / has a very large space dedicated to jewelry design / teaching in Georgia, which is slowly being cleaned out, items sold, as they fit other jewelry designers' needs.

I went out to the space last week, and was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of STUFF in there. When you're teaching, you have to have a lot of extras in stock - pliers, scissors, rulers, etc. And I think we designers are all just naturally hoarders - we always think we can use "something" for "something" - even if we don't quite know what any of the "somethings" are just this I don't mean that the shop was hoarder-like; it was very organized. But the amount of things in there...boggle the mind.

I came home with a random assortment of goodies: visor, shelving, books, files, clamps, ionic cleaner, and the best find of all - a dapping block and punches:

Mine is nowhere as clean and shiny, nor as nicely organized as the one shown above. It's got some rust, some patina, some scars. But some sandpaper and oil will take care of the rust. And the patina and scars would happen with use, anyway. This one's already broken in.  :)
The set is American made (so it's O-L-D; nearly every jewelry tool I buy is from overseas, either Pakistan, China, or Europe. Tools like this are not U.S.-made anymore). And it has been on my list of things to add to the studio. Plus I got it for about half of what a new one would retail for. :)
The day after I'd visited that studio, I went to my jewelry supplier for some metal and to ask questions about the other things I was considering buying. And I came home with this:
(the large version on the right). Which has NOT been on my list of things to buy...but I have had a sort of piece-meal, self-made organization system (i.e., not really working for me) system on the work table for some time now. Andthis looked like a much better solution to some of my storage / accesibility issues with tools, burs, etc. So I put some stuff into it and on it, but then realized I'd have to make some studio changes to accommodate it and also for the dapping set. Which made me realize (and it wasn't all this weekend, and overhaul's been sort of coming on for a while) that the studio needed some serious TLC and re-org-ing.

So that's where I find myself this morning:

Can you see the storage caddy? (just to the left of the trunk, in front of the drawers). Not exactly working to capacity from the floor.  :)

to the further left (not see in the photo) is my work table. I have a tiny path from the computer to the work I can work on my very necessary tasks...but the rest of the studio is a little out of seems like I have to make things even more chaotic and messy to arrive at a working solution! I'd hoped to be further along after this weekend but I obviously set my hopes too high.  :) dapping set and one storage caddy have brought about a whole overhaul-in-the-maknig. For want of a nail...

I'll post some more when it's further along but for's jewelry making time.  :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Peering Through the Murky Darkness

I see a ray of light. Or hope. Or whatever it might be that makes me feel a bit better. I'll take it, whatever form it chooses.  :)

My last two shows have been very good to me - not huge moneymakers, but solid returns. And the customers have been excellent! Especially this past weekend in Nashville - a very similar reaction to the last time I was in Nashville. Warm and fuzzy, buying bigger ticket items, and very interested in the design work. It feels like a really grow-able market for me. With where I want the jewelry to go, I have to play a long game of sorts...not expecting huge dollars at every new show, but hopefully building a mailing list and loyal crowd of collectors. And Nashville feels like it could become part of that.

Finished it last week, sold it last week. It's hard to keep these in my inventory. 

In my last post, I mentioned that I sold 9 stone-set pieces at the Atlanta Arts festival. In Nashville, I sold 13 pieces. !!! (I had made 12 between the Atlanta and Nashville shows). I had no back stock to replace them with by the end of the show - whatever was on display was all I had. So guess who's going to be at it again, making a bunch of pieces to replace the sold items?? Yep. I have almost four weeks before I head to Memphis for my next festival. Hopefully it will be enough time to accomplish all that I want / need to...leaving, I also hope, some time to work on OTHER designs. I sold several of the mosaic pieces in Nashville (finally! a market that likes that series!) and need to make new ones not only to sell, but to send off to be photographed for jury shots.

So. I'm starting to see some things clicking into place. Patterns are emerging. I first introduced the newest line in April, and it sold regularly, from the very first show. So now I have to refine what I can, like having stones that really suit those designs, or having someone else help with cleanup or stone free up some of my own time to design, create, move the business forward.

And the mosaics...they didn't work out as well as I thought with casting the pieces. Sloooow movers. So maybe they're not meant to be cast. Maybe - light bulb - not everything I make is going to be cast and available to the masses. These, with their high labor factor, are more collector-type pieces. So far they've been rather niche-y; they don't appeal to everyone. Or they appeal...but not as much as some of my more mainstream work. So I'm going to treat them as they deserve to be treated. I've fabricated chains for the necklaces I made this year with the mosaics, and made bigger, more statement-y necklaces. I don't think I've quite hit my rhythm yet with these designs, but I'm working on 'em. I have a whole series of smaller, less labor-intensive designs to start working on whenever time permits, but they're never likely to be my bread-and-butters. And that's okay. I want to push outward and upward with my jewelry, and these will let me do that.

It's been several years since I've been comfortable with what I'm creating. And with what I'm displaying at festivals...the fabrication journey has been a hard one. I used to have this stuff figured out - but I think I'm moving toward having things figured out (as much as they ever can be) again. I can feel ideas flowing, designs coming together so that my creations look like a cohesive whole.And I just listened to a webinar yesterday that made me re-think a lot of a lot of pondering to do while I'm working.

And this quote is now on the bulletin board:

"Follow your passion, do not settle, see beauty in the unexpected.
Oh, it will be difficult if you want to be the best, you'll have to deal with that as a constant."

- Todd Reed, jewelry designer  (want to see his web site? The work (and the overall aesthetic - for his designs and how he lives) is amazing! Click here