So many things in my head.

For starters, I’ve taken up those domed cabochons that seem so popular with the kids these days. It’s a tight market, and it’s a time consuming and labor intensive process, so I don’t know how that’s going to go; we’ll have to wait and see. I did about 8 pairs of earrings (well, 9, but I’m wearing one now. Purely for testing reasons! Just wanted to make sure it wouldn’t make me itchy! It had nothing to do with the fact that they were really, really pretty, honest! And they have already gotten the attention of my co-workers without my having to go “Lookit Lookit what I did,” so that bodes well, anyway. And of course, because I’ve worn them, I couldn’t possibly sell them, because that would be icky. Oh well!), and when I saw the prices that similar earrings were going for, I was really disheartened; the amount of time and effort to make them way outstripped what people are getting for them. I was figuring I might have to sell them as a set with a matching necklace, or include matching earring jackets as part of the item (which I may still do, we’ll see). But I have a secret weapon called allergies that may very well allow me to charge more for them, even without that, so that works out.
I also had it in my head I was going to take up metal stamping, but then I couldn’t find my stamps that I bought years ago, and new stamps cost a mint. Then I found them, so that point is moot. Still, I may have found another way, that will be less noisy and make the cats less miserable: StazOn ink. Don’t know much about it, so this is going to be a learning experience. That said, the pair of earrings I have that, without question, get the most comments, are the ones I made out of copper washers and colored with alcohol ink. Going to try to take that theory and run with it, maybe with some soldering or riveting, coupled with this other idea for sort of motivational/inspirational jewelry that’s been puttering inside my brain for ages. Nothing hokey, though. Well, not VERY hokey. Hokey in my own special, obnoxious, pessimistic optimist kind of way. Y’know, life sucks today, but there’s always a 50% chance tomorrow will be better. OK, so it wasn’t yesterday. Or the day before that. Still – you never know. TOMORROW COULD BE THE DAY.
Hey, man. I enter the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. Every. Single. Day.
Why?
Because tomorrow could be better.
Also, it’s free. Because the Powerball/Mega Millions jackpot has that same sense of possibility and hope, except it costs money, and I don’t have any.

Getting things started costs $

Why must all new endeavors be so freaking expensive?
*sigh*
Working on compiling a lampwork shopping list. So far: Devardi Glass Advanced Starter Kit ($193 or $199, depending on where you order from. Contains:  @5 lbs/80 rods of Devardi glass, 10 3/32″ mandrels, 1 3/16″ Pandora-style size mandrel – feh, 6 1/16″ mandrels, 8 Pandora inserts – double feh, 3″ x 4″ aluminum marver, handheld marver, lampworking torch – I already have one, purchased for enameling, but hey – the more the merrier – with stainless bracket – not sure what that is; maybe to hold the aluminum marver on the torch?, double-ended rake, bead release, cooling fiber blanket, 5 oz. of frit in random colors, aluminum heatproof desktop protector, 4 sets of tweezers, glass rod warmer to prevent thermal shock – a.k.a. you put your rod near the fire and it goes ‘splody, which, hey, seems like a good plan – stainless rod rest, instructional DVD which wasn’t well reviewed), rod rack for rod warmer, $5, Devardi Glass Mini Annealer (currently out of stock. Which is fine, because I currently don’t have the $ for the $200 starter kit, much less the $76 + ?$ shipping for the annealer, and the next two items on the list! That said… It’s a lot less than a $600 kiln PLUS all this stuff), ACE didymium over-glasses safety glasses ($53. They cut out the glare while lampworking while still allowing you to get a decent read on color. Supposedly. Dunno, we didn’t use them on Saturday), and various marvers to smooth the beads, and make them certain shapes/add grooves/make them groovy – $18 – $30 ea.
If the mini-annealer were in stock, we’d be looking at $352.48 in startup costs.
Again… if I were to remove the mini-annealer and pop in a real kiln (which I STILL hope to do, someday), it’d come to $882.48. That makes $352.48 seem positively affordable, in comparison, but it’s still high.
So!
Decisions, decisions.
This is me, we’re dealing with, here – I’ve learned something new, which I both enjoyed and had pretty much immediate aptitude for (all but my very first bead, which is to be expected, and my very last bead, where I got ambitious) came out really quite shockingly well. Like, I would use these beads in a sellable product, well (if they’d been annealed. Which they weren’t. Which pretty much makes them shiny ticking time bombs, because they WILL shatter. One already has, and one is visibly cracked. ANYWAY…). This, predictably, makes me want to BUY ALL OF THE THINGS.
The voice of reason, quiet though it may be, says, “Do I REALLY want to do this? It’s a lot of money, and a lot of work. Will I USE this stuff/skill? I didn’t move forward with polymer clay.”
BUY ALL OF THE THINGS voice: “I’ll use it! I will! I spent $9 – $12 PER BEAD for lampwork beads at the last Innovative Bead Expo, for use in the kumi stuff I’ve been working on. OK, yeah, there’s an initial outlay to get started, but wouldn’t it be more FUN to be able to say that ALL OF IT was made by me, instead of just, y’know, ASSEMBLED by me? Plus… FIRE! MELTY GLASS! COLORS! SPARKLY THINGS! COME ON!!!!!!!”
Voice of reason: “You started off well, but then… way too many exclamation points. You know that, right?”
“Yes. But you’re also having a conversation with yourself, so it’s not like this is the thought process of an entirely sane person.”
“…Solid point.”

So… yeah. As per usual, a shopping list of shinies. As per usual, no $ to get them. Really – no $. Between the stupid %⅞ç{ing deck and the stupid %⅞ç{ing HOA payments, I’m tapped out, probably till August I can use a little $ here and there in the interim, but not enough to do much.
3 months. 3 months to forget everything I learned, & start over again. That worked out well, with enameling. *headdesk*
At least it gives me time to really work on the craft room (y’know, where all of this is supposed to end up going).
Patience is not a virtue I’ve got a whole lot of. *sigh*

Out of cheese error – redo from start.

Why must I have a million ideas, & no time, energy, or money to enact them?
Currently:
Can I solder titanium post/stainless steel flat pad earrings to PMC stud earrings with Cool Tools’s Low Temperature Solder Paste? (I have everything I need to attempt this, with the possible exception of an annealing pan with pumice)
Ooh, I’d need lots of Gilder’s Paste to make the earrings (that I don’t even know if I can make work) pretty colors! Ooh! And molds! Lots of molds for studs!
I wonder if it’d be OK if I put mica dust in my homemade personal care products (that I haven’t even started making, yet)?
I need to get started on the kumihimo braids for the solid perfume lockets (lockets on order; may arrive sometime this MONTH; have not yet attempted any kind of solid perfume making. Ever); I need more of that dark blue variegated satin (have lots of satin. Have lots of VARIEGATED satin. Just NOT THAT COLOR.)
Translation: I MUST BUY ALL THE THINGS!!!!

Off we go….

OK, so yes, I’ve gone and spent money I probably shouldn’t have. Approximately $96.

That said, I’ve spent significantly less money than I would’ve if I’d headed in the soldering direction (which I’m not really set up to do right now, anyway, and would’ve run me over $200 to start up even SORT OF properly), and THIS project gives nearly instant gratification (as last night’s efforts show). So I’m not sorry, not one little bit.

I’ve just purchased 5 sheets of 6” x 12” pieces of sheet metal, in interesting (but fairly inexpensive) varieties, some pre-textured (because currently, it’s cheaper to buy textured metal than to buy hammers to texture it. I have precisely one chasing hammer, which is flat on one side and ball pein on the other; I used the ball pein, yesterday. If I have any success with this stuff… and I think I will… the sale of the textured metal pieces will pay for the textured hammers) , some not, and a whole heck of a lot of alcohol inks, because someone on Etsy was selling, like, 6 packs of them for $30 (they retail at $10/pack. I know. I looked, yesterday).

I don’t have metal shears yet, so I’m going to be stuck making circles around the edges of the sheets for a while with the punch & die set purchased at Harbor Freight at the same time I got the dapping set. But there’s nothing wrong with circles. And I can always purchase copper shapes at Rio if I want to branch out in a different direction before I get to the shears. Files will be purchased from Harbor Freight at a very reasonable price. And then… we’re pretty golden! Or… y’know, coppery and brassy! With pretty colors and sparkly dangly things! I can re-open my shop, and have actual EARRING JACKETS to sell (y’know, those things I promised from day one, and in fact have only actually marketed two varieties of?)! There’s surprisingly few people out there doing alcohol ink jewelry (only 13 pages on Etsy, and most of it is resin or glass), so… yeah! Cool!

I am excited.

It’s been a while since I was truly excited about something (at least, since my original kiln went kerflooey, and I discovered that torch-firing enamel was going to be a bigger problem than expected). It’s a nice feeling. And I can do this NOW, and quickly, and it’s PRETTY, and I can embellish it with the gazillions of beads I’ve already got in stock.

Yay!

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Waiting for the hammer to fall

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Hey, look! I did something! Hammered, domed, inked (only on one side, though, so these’ll be mine). It’s my first alcohol ink attempt; I imagine I’ll get better at it. Hope so, anyway. Still – not bad, for a first try, right? The first coat of sealer is drying. There’ll be a second coat, then more drying. And eventually, earring hooks and sparkly things, through the holes I punched my very own self. 🙂 *squee!*

Let’s hit things with sticks! Yaaaay!

It’s been a good long while since I’ve been bitten by the MUST MAKE STUFF NOW bug. Even now, I feel the urge may leave me when I get home, for the simple reason that my apartment is too cluttered to find a clear spot to work on. But… such predicaments, we must forge ahead – I’ll clean something off. At least a corner of something, anyway. Because tonight… we DAP! Dapp? We take bits of metal and HIT THEM WITH HAMMERS!!! YAAAAAAY!!!

Why?

No real reason.

I was preparing for an uncharacteristic attempt to go to bed early last night, and passed by my stainless steel table with casters, which was originally purchased to hold my wee little kiln. Kiln got shipped back for replacement, and table became, as expected, a catch-all for crap. On the up-side, it’s all jewelry-related crap. On the downside, it’s still just a pile of crap. I now have a new kiln, but it’s still boxed up, and likely to stay that way for the time being.

Sticking out from the pile of crap was a package of copper washers, purchased at Harbor Freight on April 4th.

http://www.harborfreight.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/image_15873.jpg

And even though I’ve passed them a gazillion times since then, this time, they caught my eye. And my brain said, “Wow. I’ve had those for over a month, and haven’t done a darned thing with them.”

Thereby followed a long, meandering train of thought:

Well, that’s because I couldn’t enamel them. I didn’t have a kiln, and torch firing them seemed impossible to do, at least in this location. So what else was there to do with them? I could’ve used the dapping tools I bought at the same time and domed them, I suppose, but then what?

Then came the, “Ooh, shiny,” lightning bolt to the head:

I BOUGHT ALCOHOL INKS.

Oooooooooooh.

Now, I didn’t have any intention of dapping or inking anything last night; it was already almost 9:30, and even the ADD part of my brain knew better than that. But I also knew full well that the dapping set was covered in lubricating oil; how much time could it take to get that off, really?

The answer: about an hour or so, via Kirkland Signature Household Surface Wipes, Orange Scrubbing (smooth side).

So, there I was, at 10pm last night, happily standing in my kitchen and rubbing away disgusting quantities of what appears to have been motor oil, and installing it in its little storage block.

*squee!*

Yeah, so I’m easily entertained. It’s a useful skill.

So now, I’m at the job that actually, y’know, pays me. And all I can think of is stopping at Michael’s on the way home to pick up a varnish to seal them, and then… POW!

I’m also currently a bit obsessed with soldering. Which is interesting, since technically I didn’t do very much.

Had a class, weekend before last. Was supposed to learn soldering. And I did, a little teeny bit; I soldered bezel wire. I fried the first one; the second one took the join. But I didn’t get to finish the piece (solder it to the rest of the piece), and I didn’t get to rivet anything, and since a) we used my torch in the class, and b) people were still at it when I had to go, I left my torch behind, there’s very little point in my being obsessed with soldering. That has not, however, prevented me from assembling carts at several different stores such as Rio Grande, Amazon.com and Harbor Freight, of tools to help me further my obsession with soldering. I already ordered the adjustable chuck and teensy drills for my Dremel on eBay… which I can’t use until I complete my Rio order, because that’s got the bur/saw lubricant in it. By careful picking and choosing, I’ve got that cart down to about $122. Harbor Freight is $44. Amazon is $36. So that’s about $200 I don’t really have, for something I don’t feel comfortable doing in the place I currently live.

I must exercise patience.

…I SUCK AT PATIENCE.

If I had my torch, I could at least rivet things (it starts with balling headpins). Actually, I suppose, if you want to get technical, I could use already balled or flattened headpins, and do it that way.

Picky, picky. Don’t interfere with my acquisitiveness.

Thing is, even when I have my very own home, there will be obstacles to me doing this sort of thing, not least of which being that I’ll be paying for it (which means I very DEFINITELY won’t have $200 to spend on this stuff).

*sigh*

I’ll figure it out. One way or another, I will do all sort of nifty things with fire and heat.

But that will not happen today.

Today… I beat things with hammers.

And I may then turn them mottled pretty colors.

I may even wrap them with wire and dangle sparkly things from them.

Yaaaaaaaay!

Adventures in enameling

This weekend has been an exploration. I’ve tried new things. And, OK, not one of them turned out the way I would’ve liked. But that’s cool. You learn by doing. If nothing else, it’s helped me dispel some of my fear of the kiln. I mean, yeah- it’s still scary. REALLY scary. And I made some unwise choices.

For instance, for future reference, if you’re going to fire on or over fiber paper, that really needs to go in before you turn the kiln on. Even if you’re not adding the piece you’re firing until the kiln hits 1450°, don’t wait until then to add the fiber paper, too. Flames will ensue. It will be scary. Let’s not do that again, OK? Thanks.

But even doing something that scary/stupid, I didn’t burn the apartment down, and I didn’t injure myself. Heck, the smoke alarm didn’t even go off. Not entirely sure that’s a good thing, but… well, there you go.

I did, rather inevitably, drop the piece I was enameling as I pulling the screen from the kiln. Fortunately, it didn’t go far; it fell (freshly-enameled-side down, of course) onto the ceramic tiles the kiln sits on. I had horrific images in my head of it hitting either a part of me, or hitting the linoleum kitchen floor. Either would’ve been pretty catastrophic. But that didn’t happen. Yay!

Let’s start with yesterday.

I fused glass, from start to finish, without assistance or supervision, yesterday.
It didn’t come out right.

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Pardon the photograph quality; all photos in this post were taken with the phone.
I clearly didn’t get to full fuse; the pieces are quite bumpy. Also, it’s entirely possible, even likely, that I didn’t do things quite right. The black bases & clear tops are the same size; should the tops be a tiny bit larger? Should I have used more stringers, or dichroic chips,  to fill up the empty spaces? Don’t know yet. Still, I’m glad I did it. It was one of those things I’d been beating myself up for weeks for not having tried. Now I have… and I look forward to improving.

…But I’m way more hooked on enameling, right now.

I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by it. I did it at camp when I was a kid, so it’s not like I’m completely new to it. And it also means I have at least some sense of its limitations; I certainly don’t still have any of the pieces I made back then. Neither does my mother. At least the pottery ashtray was useful; the burgundy enamel fish-shaped brooch with the gem lumps that shattered later, not so much. I’ve seen some of the enamel projects people sell on Etsy. Some are quite lovely, but no one’s going to be able to quit the day job with what they make doing that. And yet… fascinated. Can’t wait to try again, & frustrated that there aren’t more opportunities during the week for a project of such magnitude. Strange.

Today’s enameling was no success.

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Waiting for the Amacote/Scalex to dry

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Sifting counter-enamel

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Fired counter-enamel after dropping on tile while cooling, then fired facing down on trivet

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Front of pendant: jungle green with three threads

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Finished front - Cajun blackened?

For one thing, I completely failed to keep the bail hole clear, so even if I hadn’t bollocksed it up, it would’ve been fairly useless.

For another… ew.

But I think I know what I did.
Well, sort of.
Some of it, anyway.

For those of you tuning in for the first time, let me ‘splain- I have a SpeedFire Electric Mini Kiln. It’s the basest of base models. It’s unwieldy; opening it entails lifting the entire kiln off of its base (a kiln shelf with legs). To do something like fusing or enameling, where you need to, at the very least, PEEK at your piece, you’re supposed to sort of tilt it open on one side. When you do that, two things happen.
1. A bunch of heat escapes the kiln, knocking your interior temperature down significantly.
2. It’s not exactly stable. Rock it up too far, it could easily shift, & bad things could happen to your piece, your arm, your body, your floor, & your security deposit.

When enameling, you have to do more than peek; at a certain point, you’re supposed to slide a metal spatula under the shelf or trivet & slide the whole thing out of the kiln while it and the kiln are still 1450°.

This would, of course, be the point at which the piece dropped onto the ceramic tiles.

Here’s the deal- I’m glad I have a kiln at all. I’m glad I have it to learn with and gain experience with. Because it’ll make adjusting to a REAL kiln, e.g. a Paragon SC2 or E9, with a hinged, front-closing door, an absolute breeze.
The SFEM fits in my apartment. It works. If I was more enamored of metal clay, it’d be ideal, but I’m not very good with metal clay. I think if I had the SFEM 1800 & could work with CopprClay, that might be different. Maybe now that I’m enameling copper, I’ll regain an interest in working with ArtClay Copper, which can be torch-fired; I have the tools to work with that, even though torch-firing limits the size of the projects you can do.  But PMC makes me uncomfortable. I don’t feel I have the artistry or creativity to do it justice, & it’s just too expensive to be messing around with. I find it off-putting.
But yeah. For now, I’m stuck with the SFEM 1600. I’m not entirely certain if this a product line issue or I’m just special, but mine doesn’t seem to get hot as quickly as it’s supposed to, nor does it get as hot as it should. It’s supposed to hit its max temperature of 1560 in about an hour; at an hour, I’m fighting for every degree over 1400. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it go much over 1500. I did learn that, when hooked up to its little dial temperature controller, if you let it ramp up above 1450, then dial it back to a 9, it’ll stay between 1455 and 1458. So that was good to learn, since 1450 is the magic number for enameling. I also learned that the firing time should, in theory, be about 3 minutes. Didn’t know that. The counter-enameled side took a long time to fire (I kept peeking, which probably didn’t help), so I promised myself I wouldn’t look at the green side for a full 10 minutes; I imagine this was a contributing factor in its blackening. I also let the piece sit in the kiln for a bit after I’d shut it off & it was cooling, as I was wary of another failed attempt to retrieve a burning piece of metal from the kiln. This, too, may have contributed to the blackening.

Anyway. Yes. Learning experience. The whole weekend was a learning experience.

Which is good, because I didn’t accomplish a darned thing other than learning how much I need to learn about glass fusing & enameling. *sigh* Ah, well. There will be other days to dig out from the mound of crap on the dining room table, surely.

Jacket fail

Sometimes, the wire just doesn’t want to do what I want it to do.

The beads? They’re usually pretty compliant. They sit there on the wire, and sparkle, and look pretty. Their job isn’t that hard. But the wire… the wire is, on occasion, stubborn. It argues. It fights. It just generally makes my life difficult.

Last night was one of those times.

After a significant chunk of time spent photographing several rose studs and posting them to Etsy (I didn’t post them all; I took pity on my poor Twitter and Facebook followers and decided to wait a few days before bombarding them with yet more postings of variations on a theme), I was prepared to sit down and make earring jackets to go with them. Because darn it, I promised you a mix and match experience, and a mix and match experience you were going to get!

Or… not.

I tried. Honest.

I worked on three different pairs of earrings, and instead, ended up not finishing a single pair.

What it came down to is, niobium is a bit of a P.I.T.A. to work with.

When I made the copper clay earrings, my nickel-free headpins were too soft and kept breaking when I tried to wrap them; this time, I was working with niobium headpins that were too hard and too short, and did not want to bend more than twice in a wrap. But! Such predicaments, I must forge ahead.

Sadly, I did not forge ahead, today. Today was, unexpectedly, spent doing not very much. To my surprise, I wasted a more than a little bit of time fiddling around with reviews of B-movies by angry 30-something men on YouTube.

Don’t ask why; I don’t really have a good reason. I was reading Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron, and the author made a reference to a character, and I Wikipedia’d it, and… well, yeah. Thus, a day better put to good use making jewelry… or at least giving myself a much-needed pedi… was instead spent watching reviews of such film gems as Elves, Maniac, Extra Terrestrial Visitors (a.k.a. Pod People) and The Minority, which were then followed by clips from the Broadway productions of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Shrek, and Young Frankenstein. Yeah, I know, there’s not much in the way of continuity there, either. The B’way stuff can be blamed on my playlist, which popped out with something from The Drowsy Chaperone; I decided I really wanted to know what Sutton Foster actually LOOKED like, since I spend so much time LISTENING to her.

So. That was my day. Well, I tell a lie – I took a shower. And there was some grocery shopping in there. And I cleared off the desk that my unused desktop lives on, so that’s fantastically useful. But hey – it does mean I now have the ability to have color-changing LED’s flash in a variety of different ways in my bedroom (they’re mounted under the glass of said desk), so… that’s something. I’m not sure what, exactly, but… something.

*sigh*

Tomorrow’s another day. It’s a day that, in theory, I will spend mostly with the ‘rents, but I will attempt to squeeze in at least A pair of earring jackets. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be atrocious, so maybe travel will have to be curtailed, regardless, resulting in (at least in theory) more jewelry-making time.

Oh! And I received another pair of commissions from a friend of mine (the one who commissioned the purple rose jewelry that got this whole train a-running). I think she may be OK with the blue rose oval piece I made last month for one of them, which would be nice, but the other would be a from-scratch, similar piece that’s been puttering around in my head. Much more goth-y, with a red rose and red leaves in black clay. Should be fun. 🙂

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, folks. I have work to do. Both in the form of jewelry, and proofreading a paper on the Boxer Rebellion. Fun, fun. 🙂