Tuesday, 19 July 2011

This weeks fixation is . . .

Further to my last post about the new teardrop pendant I'd been working on, as often is the case, I get somewhat fixated with a design idea or technique and work several variants of it in short order.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

I don't suppose for one minute that I'm any different from other designers in this respect - once you get attuned to working on something, your mind just runs away with it and the more you work, the more variants and ways you can use the element pop into your mind.

Thus is has been over the last few days. I've fine-tuned my method so that I can make them consistently and with a symmetrical shape and my head is full of ideas to work on - like it needed any more in there fighting for my attention.

The first photographs above are of what was the initial prototype I made from a soldered oval I already had on my bench. As the soldered join was a little untidy, I thought it might be nice to cover it with a molten silver nugget and make a feature of it. It was also quite small and didn't have much weight to it, so this will help it hang nicely. I'm going to keep this one myself and as I almost always wear pendants on a Sterling silver snake chain, the silver nugget will co-ordinate with that.

I also made some larger copper teardrops, more in line with the shape of the silver one - which had been my intended shape all along. I kept one highly polished and plain like the silver and another I adorned with an internal squiggle with hammered molten button ends, wrapped to the outer teardrop frame and supplemented with a couple of wrapped tiny copper beads - antiqued to enhance the textures.

It perhaps isn't evident from the photographs above, but the bails are at 90 degrees to the body of the teardrops , so that they hang perfectly perpendicular to the chain they're on. I'd photographed at angles to show the twist between the two loops of the teardrop and bail eye, but it does sit straight and central to the body of the pendant. I'll unfortunately have to leave my ideas for a day or two as I have other non-jewellery work to do.

Post script:

Famous last words above; I knew I wouldn't be able to help myself. I had to wait for a client to get back to me today before I could complete some work for them and I was able to finish this further variation that I started a couple of days ago. I've done various pieces with rosebud knots in the past and seeing (at the time) a rosebud knot piece in the 'I'm currently working on' box on the right, I wondered if it could be combined with the teardrop shape - which would rely on the knot retaining its shape whilst I made the pendant shape above it - which places quite some forces on the metal.

Thankfully, in this gauge of wire, it did and I was thrilled to bring two of my favourite recent techniques together. Even as I write that, I have a further idea to bring the teardrop together with another of my often used techniques - so it's off to the sketch book yet again.

This version is made from a single length of heavy copper wire, which hasn't been soldered in this instance, the knot holds it together.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A postponement and an opportunity

I was scheduled to have dental surgery this last Friday - something I'd been waiting to have done since February and had had the appointment for since early May - and for reasons I won't bore you with, I've had to postpone it, much to my significant annoyance.

But having expected to be out of action for a few days, or at least a bit below par, I'd been working towards the date for a couple of weeks, trying to get ahead of myself with both work commitments and household chores - and had done a pretty good job of organising myself.

Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

I haven't been very far this week, so my only photographic opportunities have been local. In this case, I was trying out different film simulation modes on my camera. This one is Astia - a little rich for my taste, but with saturation reduced too, it might give very nice results.

Consequently when it was cancelled for this week, I found myself with some time available that hadn't been planned and was reluctant to just squander it by just getting on with my usual routine. So I decided to use the opportunity to make something totally new - not just replacing the stock I'd sold, or on customer orders, which had taken up most of my recent 'making' time - but something completely from scratch from the massive pile of as yet unmade sketches in my book.

I've always had a thing for daisies - they're just perfectly beautiful and I always have them in my garden. Whilst messing with the close up filters when the sun was low, I noticed how gorgeous this was underneath when backlit. It pays us to occasionally just look at things we take for granted, beauty - and I do love the gorgeous abstract nature manages - is right there under our noses.

So as I finished my breakfast on Thursday I perused my sketchbook to see what leapt out at me first and took my fancy. I pondered the shapes and tallied this in my mind with materials I had available and as I progressed to washing the breakfast pots - a task I've often posted that I consider to be quality and valued thinking time - my mind went off on its own, taking some of the shapes I'd reviewed and developing them further. As it does.

Mr Boo had one of his 'brainwaves' whist walking the other evening - he thought a slightly different route home would be nice - although it was rather further than he'd remembered and we were fighting off invisible ninjas all the way through long grasses. But we were rewarded by the odd gorgeous scene as the evening sun filtered through the trees.

I considered mobius rings and the idea of twists and by the time I was pulling the plug out of the sink, one particular shape was already settled as the one I wanted to try. As with many metalwork designs, you have to consider the methodology carefully - working out in which order to form the shapes - when to hammer which bit and where to place any soldered joins, so at this point I almost always work a prototype in copper first - especially as this was a design that I thought lent itself to highly polished silver and I wasn't even sure it would work, or what size to start with.

For example, I made these earrings in this session too, as they were long overdue to match the larger pendant I made a little while ago. I found out the hard way - as we often do - that it's vital to work in a particular order - and in this case, the curved curly cut ends must be polished and pretty much finished at the very first stage, as once you make up the heart, you can't get to the ends in order to finish them to the same standard as the rest. This particular shape, like many, needs hammering in a particular order too as you form the shape.

And this is where my design journal earns its keep - I initially make rough notes as I work in my sketch book - often changing it as I work it through - when satisfied, I write this up in my proper final design journal and this acts as a recipe book for my designs. If you find something out the hard way, there's no value in repeating the lesson next time you make the design - that just wastes time and materials.

I've always had a passion for very simple designs with clean lines - but you can only pull this off if you do it well - your workmanship has nowhere to hide, so you have to do a damn good job with it. I still haven't reached the stage where I can produce results of this nature to the level of perfection I'd like, but only practice will improve me.

I wanted to make a teardrop pendant from a single loop where it was twisted at the top to form an integral bail - one closed enough to prevent it slipping off the chain and turning upside down, but clearly visually all one sinuous shape.

I grabbed an already soldered copper loop, that I'd stretched to an oval, to work out the details and was incredibly happy that it worked just as I hoped - I learnt enough through the process to know what order I needed to work in and made the appropriate pencil scribbles in my sketchbook. Then grabbed a length of silver. I wanted it slightly larger than the copper with more of a teardrop and less of the ellipse the copper had become.

With the first one, I hammered an area that I decided would work better if left round and hammered later, so on the third version, I felt I got exactly what my mind had visualised - exactly the shape I hoped for and I was delighted with the result.

I now want to work on the method a little more to see if I can make it with less tool marks - it doesn't matter sometimes how well you dress your tools or the care with which you work, when you apply considerable force to metal, it's sometimes inevitable and unavoidable.

I've now part-worked a third version in Sterling silver by a method my subconscious has worked out in the meantime and it's already looking better.

I suspect that this was considerably more fun than I was scheduled to have on Friday and I feel that it was a suitable outcome from finding myself with a creative opportunity that I didn't want to squander.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

We managed to eat lunch al fresco every day

I apologise for my posting tardiness of late, but between work commitments and a recent holiday, I haven't been able to find the time to do it justice - or if I'm honest, I've not really had anything much of interest to say.

So, for now, I'll just post some photographs from our recent 'summer' stay in the Lake District. Incredibly and unusually, after our lovely spell there over the Easter period, we also had largely gorgeous weather this time too. There were odd periods of rain or occasional showers, but they never happened when we were actually outside and it didn't divert us from our plans.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

Sea Thrift growing along the shoreline at Arnside in Cumbria, one of my favourite spots to feel the breeze through my hair - and on this particular evening, there was a lot of breeze to feel. Combined with dampness it made a right old mess of my hair.

We can always get a snapshot of the success level of a holiday with regard to weather by how we eat our lunch - we are almost always out for the day, with a recent habit of doing our walking when we arrive at our chosen location, taking a snack to eat with us at a suitable spot part way along our route, returning to the car for lunch, which is often quite a bit later than lunchtime by then.

The goldfinches just loved the seeds from the thistles growing in the orchard beside the caravan.

I've seen Mum doing this, how hard can it be?

Sometimes we eat where we've parked, often we move to a favoured spot where we know a good sheltered or quiet place to park or where there are picnic tables. If there are no picnic tables, we have a system of setting up a 'table' in the hatchback of the car and eating lunch there standing up. It probably sounds a little odd, but it works really well and we've practiced and perfected a technique that really suits us. We also have an [unfortunately] practiced technique for eating inside the car where conditions outside are unsuitable.

The skies were largely blue with fluffy white clouds, which made a delightful change.

Perhaps if we took ready-made butties for lunch, life would be so much easier, but where's the fun in that? We tend to take fresh bread and an assortment of cheeses, meat and pate and just have a little of whatever we fancy.

It has always been a bit of a challenge having to organise fresh bread or needing to shop every few days when you don't have much of a freezer, but the last couple of trips we've used part-baked rolls that have a long use by date and can be baked fresh each morning whilst we have breakfast. We supplemented this by making our own bread too (an easy soda bread where we measured and took batches of the dry ingredients ready prepared and bagged and just combined with a carton of buttermilk), made life significantly easier and we don't know why we haven't thought of it before - it has worked like a charm and freed up that shopping time to be out in the fresh air. And saved us a considerable amount of pennies too - appreciated as this was very much a holiday on a tight budget.

So, judging by that criteria, the fact that we didn't have to retreat to the inside the car for lunch any day we were away, makes it a pretty good holiday - weather-wise at least. It certainly adds to the pleasure when you're blessed with sunshine in which to enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

I love the tilt screen on the camera that allows me to take low shots like this without getting muddy knees and eliminating the need for lots of trial and error using the self-timer.

I was extremely delighted to snag my first proper dragonfly photograph - taken with the maximum zoom as it was about 6 feet away down a steep marshy bank and I had no option to get any closer - largely as my husband refused to hold my ankles.

Further to earlier comments about my most recent camera, which turned out to be faulty, was returned and repaired, came back seemingly fixed, but wasn't, was returned and I paid the upgrade fee to get the newer, now currently on sale, model. Thankfully, it performed flawlessly and I realise that my original camera was never right and the problems I had with it from the start were not the user error I blamed myself for, but it was genuinely faulty. So I'm much, much happier with it now and can concentrate on composition and creativity rather than trying to get the camera to focus properly etc.

We went past the pig farm that has an outdoor pen several times whilst up there and this little chap was by far the tiniest piglet in there and he saw me from right across the enclosure and set off to investigate, but was waylaid en route by another piglet wanting to play, so I never got to tickle him.

"OK, own up, who farted?"

On the lane up to the farm we stay at there was a little group of bunnies playing one evening at the field perimeter and we weren't sure whether they were hares or rabbits - as we have seen hares in that spot previously. I was taking a few shots in far too low light levels, just to give me the chance to identify them properly, when this chap popped his head up out of the long grass - and disappeared again before I got chance to snag him. So I spotted where he'd been and pre-focused, hoping for a reappearance, which he made again briefly. Not the best image by any measure, but it amused the heck out of me.

And as often happens, we were delayed several times with holiday traffic jams:

And you can probably make up your own caption for this particular shot:

"Well, just come back over the same way you climbed over in the first place!"

Full gallery:

The rest of my holiday collection are in one of my on-line photo galleries.

Panoramic photograph of Tarn Hows:

One of the photographic areas that has always fascinated me is in creating panoramas and wide angle shots in general - you'll notice that many scenics and landscape shots I take are at very wide angles.

I haven't created a new panorama for a while - although I'm sure I've got lots of saved frames waiting for my attention - but I took a series of 5 overlapping frames to test out the new camera's suitability for this process. Although the starting frames weren't very good (some were a bit underexposed and dark for starters, due to the huge contrast across the scene), I've managed to do some work with them and make something good enough to reassure me that it will work well for me in future. Creating panos requires meticulous preparation when taking the frames to ensure that the individual photographs all have the same exposure and are focused in the same plane and positioned and overlapped so that they will line up carefully to give rise to an accurate and tidy stitch of the individual photographs when brought together.

This is Tarn Hows in the Lake District, from one of the less popular paths. 5 individual photographs stitched together.

If you click through from the image above it will give you a medium sized copy to view, but if you'd like to see it larger, this link leads to a larger version.


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