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!

No enameling – denied!

So I was all sorts of enthused about starting up with torch-fired enamel. It’s fantastically fun, and easy, and hey – fire! That’s always fun! Or, y’know, not – mostly, fire scares me. Wisely, I feel. But because it was pretty much stationary, I didn’t find it as daunting as the creme brulee torching of metal clay. Plus, it’s over in moments, instead of it taking (at least in the case of ArtClay Copper) a significant chunk of time.

Then I actually bought Barbara Lewis’s book, http://www.amazon.com/Torch-Fired-Enamel-Jewelry-Workshop-Painting/dp/1440308861, which mentions, among other things, that you want to work in a well-ventilated area. It recommends doing a search on how lampworkers ventilate their work areas.

My work area (which is to say, my apartment) is not particularly well ventilated. This is predominantly because I never open the windows. Ever. So unless a closed HVAC system counts as ventilation, this is not good. When I did the search on lampworking ventilation, and my brain exploded. There is simultaneously a huge quantity of information out there, and a complete lack of what I feel, in my case, is actually useful.

I have simple needs, I think: I need something non-permanent and inexpensive, that will allow me to hook it up, do my thing, unhook it, and put it away, while keeping myself safe and not setting my home on fire.

Some people recommended getting materials from hydroponics companies, but the information on how to actually set it up was a bit sketchy (I saw one with what looked like dryer vent tubing hooked up to a hydroponics fan, set up on cinder blocks, and stuck poking out a barn door. Since I’m lacking in barn doors, and wouldn’t leave one open, anyway, that’s a no-go. Plus, I don’t recall seeing how the part you actually sit near and use the torch by should be set up). Others were downright dangerous (make a fume hood with foamcore board covered with aluminum foil. FOAMCORE?! Can you think of ANYTHING more toxic and flammable?! It’s STYROFOAM and PAPER, for the love of…!?) Some had oven range hoods vented to the outside, which of all the available options, seems the most feasible; most of the comments regarding those systems stated that they didn’t accomplish nearly enough in the way of venting, and that they might cause a backdraft explosion in your freaking furnace because fresh air isn’t replacing what gets vented. Some seemed to have seriously complex ventilation systems, and others, just fan in a window.

I am very confused.

I don’t particularly want to fill my lungs with copper oxides and flaming silica and whatever all else is going to fly through the air, during torching (or firing in a kiln, for that matter). I’m not in a position to cut a hole in the wall and hook a duct up to it. On top of that, even if/when I do move to more permanent housing, I was planning to move to a townhome or condo; these sites implied that the HOAs in such places would be very unhappy to learn of torch or kiln use. Which, when you get right down to it, makes perfect sense. I wouldn’t be happy to know that my neighbors were using open flames in their apartments, either (even if they are really small ones. The flames, not the neighbors). This… is kind of a game-changer, I’ve gotta say.

So I will now be extending my search to stand-alone, single family housing. Preferably with… no yard. At all. Whatsoever.

I don’t particularly want to own an actual home (as opposed to a townhome). It opens a whole ‘nother can of worms, and it scares the bejeesus out of me. But I don’t want to be confined to wirework for the rest of my jewelry-making career, either.

The only other option I can think of is finding a studio space to rent, outside the home, where I can keep my torches and kilns and implements of destruction. Problem being, I can find no such place, and might not be able to afford it, even if I could. It looks like there ARE such places in existence; they’re just in urban areas, e.g. Newark.

So… yeah. Feeling kinda discouraged, just at the moment. All revved up, and, quite literally, no place to go.

More as it develops. IF it develops. *sigh*

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.

image

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.

image

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.

Two months in review

OK, for those of you who’ve been waiting patiently for an update on my activities, but for whatever reason, haven’t been following me on Facebook, I will explain about the last two months.

No, is too much; let me sum up.

1) Won and lost a condo. It’s a long, depressing tale, and I really don’t feel like going through it again; suffice to say that it was a really unpleasant process that only ended in disappointment. I have just re-signed my lease for another year (the landlord refused to let me go month-to-month). Incidentally, an identical unit in the same complex, but in far better shape than the one I was prepared to buy, went on the market last week… just as I was sending my lease in. I kind of want to shoot myself in the head, right now.

2) In the process of re-signing the lease, I actually read it. The lease said, though not in so many words, that a kiln (even a wee one, like the SpeedFire Electric Mini) was a no-no in the unit. I probably shouldn’t have the butane torch, either, but I’m going to go with “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt me.” So my plans to move into making more complex metal clay products (e.g. rings) may have to be put on hold, and fusing glass myself DEFINITELY has to go on hold. I am not happy about this, but such is life. I might be able to schlep metal clay stuff to Pennington where they will fire it for a fee; it’s something to seriously consider. I really do want to start making metal clay rings, and someday I’d REALLY LIKE TO MAKE THE PENDANT THAT’S BEEN STUCK IN MY HEAD FOR MONTHS. I think I might make another try at it in epoxy clay, but the last one was soooooo bad….

3) I have signed up for two classes over the next couple of months in order to improve my wirework skills. If I’m going to be confined to it as my main artistic outlet, I really need to learn how to do more. The DVDs that I ordered were interesting, and I did learn a little, but I need more, and I need in-person instruction.

4) I sold something! To a co-worker, so it kinda doesn’t count, but still. *happy dance*

5) A friend of mine who makes her living as a photographer has offered to take the photographic aspect of this process off my hands, on the barter system. We’ll have to work out the logistics, but to be honest, I couldn’t be happier; I’ve learned that I bloody hate taking pictures of the jewelry! I’m just not good at it; I don’t get the right angles, I end up getting the back of the light box in the picture, the image ends up blurry, the colors don’t end up even close to true… if I wanted to be a photographer, I’d have invested in that, not in making jewelry! So I’m really happy she’s going to take that on.

 

OK, so I think that brings us up to date! I’ll try to be more consistent in updating, going forward. Heck, I’ll try to be more consistent in making jewelry, which will give me more reason to update. 😉

Lights… camera….

I finally got around to buying a real tripod this weekend (as opposed to the tabletop one, which was NOT working for me), so it’s time for me to get off my bum and start photographing stuff. I’ll probably shoot the rings I’ve got finished over the next couple of days, and if they come out at all well, I’ll be posting them to Etsy within the next week. My Facebook followers have already seen the rough draft of those, as it were – I took pictures early on and posted them. But hopefully I can do a little better, now, what with the tripod, and the acrylic ring stands. Here’s hoping, anyway.

And then, it’s just me and the wire, my friends. I’m going to have to actually make earring jackets.

This is something with which I’ve had seriously limited success.

Another thing I need to do is order some fine silver wire in order to make fine silver headpins. I just don’t think the niobium ones are going to work out; they’re too short and too stubborn, and they don’t wrap the way I want them to wrap. This is supposed to be something I WANT to do, not something I DREAD doing; the only way that’s going to happen is if I find a nickel-free headpin that actually behaves itself and wraps all purty and stuff. I think fine silver wire will do that for me. Plus, it’ll give me a chance to get more comfy with the butane torch.

*insert evil, Beavis-like giggle here*

I know I haven’t accomplished much, so far. It’s discouraging, I’m not going to lie; things keep getting in the way. Not least of which being my own inherently lazy tendencies. But I DO want to do this. I WILL do this. I’ve come too far (and spent too much $) to give up now. I’m going to live the (small-scale) dream. I’m going to make jewelry, and people are going to pay for it. Hopefully those DVDs will teach me all sorts of interesting ways to embellish and make the stuff I make look even cooler, and people will pay more for them than they would for the stuff I make now, which is OK (but could definitely be better).

I know, big dream, right? LOL! But hey – you have to start somewhere. I’m starting with – sell something. Anything. Just selling once via Etsy – to someone who didn’t already know me going in, ’cause that’s cheating – will significantly increase my confidence about this whole venture, so… here’s hoping that will happen in the not too terribly distant future. But for that to happen, I need to take more pictures, so I can sell more jewelry, so I can MAKE more jewelry, so I can take more pictures, etc. etc.

Hey, it’s a grind, but it’s better than making copies, eh?

 

The importance of learning new techniques… or the importance of coasters.

I just ordered 6 DVDs on wire-wrapping techniques from http://createapendant.com/.

For whatever reason, though I’ve been doing wirework for a decade or more, what I know as far as technique hasn’t progressed too much from the first class I ever went to, where I was taught to follow patterns on a WigJig. Now, I’ve since learned to make a couple of different ring patterns (got one out of a magazine; extrapolated the other from a ring I’d bought), and that’s about it. I’ve always WANTED to learn how to wire wrap a cabochon, donut or large bead, and I’ve bought a couple of printed tutorials on the topic, but in the process, I proved something that was true of me as a child, and has apparently remained true into adulthood:

I stink at learning things from a written tutorial.

You can show me how to do something once, in person or on video, and I will be able to do it very well, almost immediately (it’s one of the reasons I’m good with computers; I don’t know HOW they work, I’ve just seen other people fix them. Also, if you’ve seen one Microsoft program, you’ve seen ’em all). But if you make me read step by step instructions, I will invariably mess whatever it is I’m doing up, get frustrated, and stop trying to do it.

So! When the opportunity came along to purchase step-by-step VIDEO tutorials, by someone who does some seriously gorgeous wirework… yeah, I went for it.

Even though I’m supposed to be saving money.

Yes, I’m feeling really guilty about it. And there’s a nagging doubt in my mind that says I’ve just purchased the world’s most expensive drinks coasters; why would this guy create tutorials teaching the competition to do what he makes money doing? That would be foolish, surely?

But… well, I’ll keep you posted.

If you see me suddenly making jewelry with all sorts of nifty wire swirls and coils and such, you know it was a successful purchase.

If not, I’ll have a safe place to put cold drinks.

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. 🙂

The deed is done!

I have listings!
Listings! Plural!
…Well, OK. 2. Which is more than one, but not by a whole lot.
And they’re only rose studs.
But it’s a start! And, as Broadway has taught me, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
If someone actually BUYS something, that would be fantastically nifty. If not… that’s cool, too. The goal, after all, is to sell the earring jackets; the studs are just there so people have something to hang the jackets from, for one-stop shopping.
It’s a beginning, and I’m happy with that. 🙂