Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Clearing the decks and sub-conscious solutions

I have an airtight compartment box that lives permanently on my work bench.  It originally landed there to keep finished items waiting to be photographed safe.  But in reality, I found that items just-made that excited me, didn't hang around long to be photographed, as I wanted to get them out there to sell.  

But the box did gradually fill over time with pieces.   The items that ended up in there seemed destined for a long stay.  They tended to be pieces that I'd either not quite finished and wasn't sure what they needed to call them finished, or I simply wasn't happy with some aspect of them. Sometimes just leaving a piece alone and returning at a later date, your sub-conscious just decides in its own time, what needs to be done, as has happened with some of the items described below.

Some of the jewellery items took up permanent residence in my box, purely because I knew they'd be a pig to photograph and I was procrastinating.  Hence, some time ago, I ripped the "To Photograph" label off and replaced it with "Procrastination Pieces".

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

These garnet and silver earrings fell into the category of 'pig to photograph' and I'd returned to them several times and not been happy with the results, but decided I would just have to persist and get the job done.

Looking into this box one day I realised it was now full of a lot of jewellery that would simply never sell sitting in there, so I decided to clear at least half of it out, one way or another and found myself in just the mood to tackle it.

I made this polymer clay cabochon some time ago and had it on a rigid silver plated wire choker, but knew it was going to be tricky to photograph. I hadn't wanted to put it on chain as the tube bail on the back tends to make a rasping sound as it moves about on chain, which I find irritating, so suspect others would too. So I changed it onto a silvery grey flexible PVC thong necklace, with hand crafted cord ends and clasp and am much happier with how it works - it looks good and is nice and quiet too!

So I considered each piece on its merits and assessed why I hadn't finished the listing process for that particular piece.  I just grabbed the bull by the horns and after a week, I've just about emptied my 'Procrastination' box.  Some items I just took the easy option and plonked a price ticket on and put them in my craft fair stock, they just weren't worth the effort of any further time.  A couple of items I cut apart to do something entirely different and with the materials.

A couple of pieces I combined the parts of into new pieces.  The pendant above was one such item.  It was much as you see it now, but with much fewer buds - I had another pendant with a similarly scanty supply of buds, so combined them and am in the process of doing something different with the pendant from the other.

This bud-wrapped pendant piece was another I wasn't sure about.   I originally had it hanging vertically with one large oval jump ring bail, but the buds weren't symmetrical around the hanging point, to it didn't sit comfortably with me, so after looking at it laid the other way round on my bench, I decided that joining the chain to it in two places, sat much more comfortably and works rather better with it hanging in the centre of a necklace rather than just as a pendant.

This etched daisy pendant has featured before in the blog as an early piece in my copper etching adventures.  This was the first piece I tried by making a resist from one of my own photographs and the printing method I used worked pretty well, but wasn't quite resilient enough for the process, so areas that should have remained clean were eaten away a little during the etching, giving a rather rustic appearance.

My husband always said he preferred this rougher version and thought I should put it on sale anyway.  It had got rather used to its home in my procrastination box, although I'd taken it out and looked at it many times, wondering what to do with it.  Two small events gave me the answer.  Firstly, a very good Stateside customer ordered one of my chunky copper pendants but asked for it on a much longer chain.  I tried it on once I'd finished it and thought it worked really well worn that way - which was something I wouldn't even consider for myself - as I'm just too clumsy and something long and dangly would be a recipe for disaster with me personally, I'd get snagged on door handles or the like.

I also bought new stock of antiqued copper chains and one was a lovely chunky copper belcher (rollo) chain which I thought was perfect for the long treatment with this chunky pendant.  So I've teamed it with a 28"+ chunky chain and it works very much better.  It was worth waiting for the right solution for it.

This little turquoise pendant was one I just decided to put on sale, as it was, with its flaws and reflect them in the price.  I loved the rough little turquoise nugget - but as the hole in it was drilled at a wonky angle, it was never going to sit very evenly.  Plus, I misjudged on the size of loop I left for the bail, so it can only take a fine chain and it doesn't move freely once on, so hopefully someone else will like it too and love it despite its shortcomings.

My work often flows in themes and I've made several pairs of earrings with a spiral wrapped around the bead and decided to try combining that with coils of fine copper wire too - these are Chinese Green Jade teardrops with spiralled coils of antiqued copper.  The pair below with purple glass hearts arose as a customer wanted me to re-make an old design with a variation of an Egyptian Scroll, to which I added some further wrapping and topped the hearts with matching rosy copper buds.  I've made a turquoise glass oval pair too, but am going to have my work cut out with photographing them both as the double articulation in them ensures that they're impossible to pose flat and I'm probably going to have to wrangle and tame them with Blutak and bad language!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Trying to think a little differently

It's all too easy sometimes to just pop nice beads onto a hand crafted headpin and make them into simple earrings, so I've been trying to think lately about different approaches to beaded earrings and other jewellery items.

Sometimes with a design the metalwork is the main feature, accented with beads to add colour or interest, sometimes a gorgeous bead needs little to detract from it and is best left simple and sometimes, a bit of fancy metalwork can lift otherwise fairly ordinary beads into something a bit more special, where both bead and metalwork compliment each other in an equal balance.

That was how it was this last week. In a recent move round of my materials (a.k.a. a vain and largely hopeless attempt to be more organised and tidy), I rediscovered all sorts of materials I hadn't seen in a while.  They had perhaps slipped my mind because they weren't that exciting - but they certainly had potential (and seemed all the more exciting for not seeing them for a while) and I wanted to try them in a recent design that featured more metal, where a modest looking bead works best.   If you have something detailed or gorgeous, you don't want it competing too heavily with its supporting metalwork. 

I made three pairs of copper earrings to the same design, one each featuring Green Jasper beads, Brown Swirl Jasper and Red Flower Marble.  The earrings feature a hammered paddle pin and spiral wrapping around the bead and terminating in a wrap around the paddle.  I was really happy at how they turned out, the beads worked ideally with that treatment and the oxidised Brown Swirl pair are already winging their way off to sunny California.

During my re-acquaintance with these past treasures, I also found some large oval beads in Mustard Jasper that I was never quite sure what to do with.  I started thinking about shapes and different types of potential 'headpin' or mounting for the stones and decided to try a design that I use with smaller ovals for earrings - using a hammered leaf spiral bent over the face of the stone to keep it in place. 

I did almost come unstuck, as I wanted a chunky feature spiral on the front, but didn't initially check that the gauge of wire that I wanted to use would actually go through the holes in the beads.  Thankfully, one stone in the batch did have a large enough hole, so my efforts to make the initial spiral weren't actually in vain.   I'd like to make some more like this, so will need to ream the holes a little larger first.  This is an especially robustly patterned stone, which I think looks like splodges of paint in a modern abstract painting.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Birthday walks and extreme picnicing

My husband's boss called it infantile - that he wanted the day off for his birthday this last week - "what are you; 12 years old, that you want a day off on your birthday?" he laughed. It's something we've always done, try to take a day holiday for birthdays so that we can get to spend it doing something nice.

We're not terribly adventurous in this regard, but it is nice to spend the whole day doing something that you choose, without feeling the need to get on with chores or meet commitments. Unless you're actually away on holiday, probably not many of us actually spend days just doing what we want, so it's a nice and much appreciated treat when we do - and all the more enjoyable for it.

When it was my own birthday in January, we had intended doing the same, but the weather was about as horrid as it ever gets and we were both laid very low with a terrible cough, so just decided not to squander a valuable day when we weren't fit to fully appreciate it and it just wasn't suitable to be outside.

So this week, when it was Mr Boo's birthday, it happily fell on the most perfect winter day - deep clear blue sky (albeit starting foggy) and very crisp cold air. The snow of the previous weekend was still lying and frozen solid, so it wasn't good underfoot, but we were determined to make the most of it and headed off to one of our favourite spots, with a picnic packed, including hot soup, freshly baked bread and pots of birthday sherry trifle that I made the evening before.

The area we visited had less snow, so although the ground was clearly very, very cold and walking on rutted mud that's frozen solid is an odd sensation, the going was pretty good and we wrapped up in many warm layers, opened an air activated hand warmer and managed a decent walk. It's always a treat to get out mid-week at this time of year as you often have the place to yourself and we only passed a few other 'mature' couples walking dogs or spending their days off doing the same as we were. So it was especially enjoyable and very peaceful.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
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The cold did deter me from much photography as my hands were incredibly cold, despite the hand warmer and thick ski gauntlets, so I don't have much to show for the day. But as I've posted often, I do have a passion for the sight of sunlight through trees and occasionally it caught some of the lifting mist, highlighting the shafts of sunlight.

It's much easier to see in person than it is to capture well in a photograph, the light is much too subtle to freeze in a split second, but hand holding the camera I couldn't really allow a slow enough shutter speed to do it justice. But they're probably enough to show why it was such a lovely and enjoyable day.

I decided to have a tinker with the camera's built in panorama feature. I love taking panos, but usually take my own frames and stitch it myself, but the camera has the ability to take 120, 180 and 360 degree panos (in any direction) - giving rise to a reduced resolution but pre-stitched and finished image. It was too cold for messing to take my own frames, so I mounted the camera on the tripod screw my father added to my walking pole and just spun it round slowly to take this 120 degree frame of the woodland. The resulting image was rather poor quality at pixel level and almost entirely lacking in colour, but with a little work, I made something acceptable from it, although it isn't good enough quality for anything further than viewing at this scale.

We relocated the car a couple of times during the day to enjoy the best light and views and as sunset approached we settled in one of our favourite laybys to catch the sun setting over the Fylde coast (Lancashire England) and we had a little snooze in the car before heading back. As darkness drew in, the light went very cold and the atmosphere grew misty again and diffused the last rays of light from the sunset, leaving these three closest trees in relief against the mist and pastel coloured sky. Not a bad way to end a lovely day.


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