Oct 152010
 

Aye-yi-yi.

Have you looked at the spot price of silver or gold lately?  If so, you’ll know why I’m making that sound…spot (the price by which most retailers and wholesalers base the price they sell their goods to you) is at an all time high for both metals.  And it just keeps climbing every day.

While I’ll still use silver (and when requested, gold) in my work, I lean more toward affordable alternatives – copper, aluminum, bronze and brass – still putting high quality workmanship in my pieces, but less costly materials.

Today I really want to bring your attention to brass – a nice option when someone wants a gold colored piece.  Brass will oxidize quickly to a dark gold color, but can be brought back to shiny if desired using jewelry cleaner, or any of the natural cleaners I’ve blogged about before.

Brass is a base metal, so some people may experience allergic reactions to surface or piercing contact.  If you are making earrings using brass wire or jump rings, you may want to consider using sterling silver or niobium ear wires instead of brass.

Sep 042010
 

I love to stamp!  Letter stamps are a fun way to add character to a piece – you can make up a silly saying, or using something that’s inspirational.

It’s the pits, however, when you start stamping and either a) can’t read the letter on the stamp because it’s small, or b) accidently misspell or jumble your letters around (ever stamped a letter sideways?  doesn’t work!).  Well, here’s a quick and easy way to mark your stamps so you’ll never have that happen again!

I took some white nail polish, put a dab on the front (side that faces me when I stamp) of the stamp handle, and when the nail polish was dry, used a Sharpie to write the corresponding letter on the stamp.  When I go to stamp a name, phrase or word, I line up my stamps in the order I’ll be using them with the label face up.  This way, I can check my spelling, AND I know my letters will be going the right direction!

When you are stamping letters, use a medium tap with a hammer.  A dead blow hammer works best (no bounce back), but especially with single line letters (like “I” or “L”), if you whack it too hard, you risk cutting thru your piece.

Have fun!

Aug 292010
 

I’m starting a new venture with the Starving Jewelry Artists…a “blog carnival” where we will all discuss a specific topic each month.  This month’s topic/question was “How does texture play into your work?”

Obviously, texture is a metal-worker’s best friend.  Combining stamping, hammering, patinas, and other texturizing techniques is a basic component of working with metals.  But I’ll address another reason for using texture in my work.

Cover Up.

Yep…using texture is sometimes an easy way to “hide” those little imperfections and OOPS! moments one has with a tool that mars the surface of pretty, shiny metal.

It’s sort of like putting on make up, however…a little goes a long way.  Putting on a thick coat of foundation or powder makes my face look like a mask, while a light swipe will do a great job at covering up that tiny scar on my forehead or scratch on my nose.

While I have a plethora of fancy texturing hammers, sometimes I prefer to just use a small ballpeen hammer to create tiny dents that look great shiny OR with a nice patina (see my articles on patina for more details on how to add color and depth to your metal work).  Either way, if I’ve made a boo-boo while working on a piece, like a scratch or dent, the texture added by hammering lightly will help to disguise the flaw.

When I started adding texture to my pieces, I made a common mistake of whacking the tar out of my pieces.  Not always necessary!  Especially with lighter gauge wire or sheet metal, a modest tap is all that’s really needed.  And hammering on a softer surface (like wood or rubber) will create a different result from hammering on a steel block.  Remember, you can always add more texture…harder to smooth it out if you’ve done too much!!

Experiment with different surfaces and hammers, and remember…texture can be your friend, especially when “covering up” those flaws!

 

Aug 132010
 

Every show is unique – I never know exactly how I’ll be set up until I get to the site!  Today, I am setting up in the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha for the Art in Bloom festival.  This show is unique in it’s garden setting…I’ll be outside in my 10×10 tent with an 8′ table (provided by the Gardens).

I try to stay organized in between shows, but it always helps to have a checklist to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.  Here’s a list of the things I make sure I have for every show:

Display materials

  • Tables
  • Table coverings
  • Earring, bracelet, ring and necklace displays
  • “Floof” (sometimes a vase with some dried flowers or other interesting items that will bring attention to my booth but not draw away from my jewelry!)
  • Business cards and holders
  • Risers
  • Shelves
  • Mirrors
  • Guest book
  • Signage, including credit card acceptance, return policy, artist statement, etc.,
  • Wheeled cart or 2-wheeler to haul boxes to and from my car

Point of Sale (POS) materials

  • Cash box and bank (1’s, 5’s, coins to make change)
  • Receipt book to write sales in
  • Calculator
  • Cash register (optional)
  • Pens
  • Charge slips (for knuckle buster type credit card sales)
  • Knuckle buster
  • Credit card swiper
  • Clipboard (for customers to use when signing a credit card slip or to write out their checks)
  • Bags for items sold (I use small recloseable plastic bags that I pre-stuff with a business card and anti-tarnish strip, and organza bags to put the jewelry and receipt in)
  • Notebook (write up custom orders, customer questions, items to replenish before your next show)

Cleaning materials

  • Window cleaner (for displays and mirrors)
  • Lint brush
  • Paper towels or lint-free cloths
  • Trash bags (you’d be surprised how often you are NOT near a trash container!)

Personal items

  • Tissue
  • Chapstick or lip balm
  • Water
  • Small, easy to eat (and not messy) snacks
  • Eyeglasses
  • Baby wipes (nice if you are outside and it’s hot!)
  • Chair if not provided by the venue
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel

Jewelry supplies

  • Spare beading wire, crimps, ear wires, clasps, chain, jump rings, wire…anything you can use to make a quick change or repair.  I’ve gained many a sale simply by offering to change a style or ear wire or clasp for a customer, on the spot!
  • Tools you will need to perform those quick changes or for projects (see next bullet).  Don’t forget a crimper, pliers, cutters as essentials!
  • Projects to work on.  Rather than reading a magazine or book, I recommend jewelry makers work on easy projects during down time.  Not only does it show that your work is handmade and created by YOU, but many times, people are interested enough to cluster around your “demo”…a booth that’s full of people draws more people in!  Just be sure you are working on something that you can put down at a moment’s notice if a customer needs help or has a question.
  • Work surface and/or beading mat.

If you are outdoors, you’ll also need a tent or canopy (check with the venue to see what is acceptable), weights and/or stakes.  Add in sun screen, bug spray and a fan if needed!

And FINALLY….don’t forget your jewelry!  I’ve known a couple of people who did a fabulous job of setting up their booth, then realized their product was back home by the back door!

Aug 092010
 

Gotta share these…

Last month, I had a booth set up at the local county fair.  We’ve been in the commercial exhibit building for 5 or 6 years, and it’s a good opportunity to see folks that I don’t get to see every day!

Jeremy tends the “shop” during the day, and asked me to bring my stash of rubber rings from Fire Mountain Gems and some aluminum rings.  When I got to the fair on Friday, he showed me what he’d made.

Roundmaille…something I have only experimented with so far!  And the twerp just “made it up” from an idea in his head.

I need to work with him a little on his closures, but he did a fantastic job on the weave…and check out the eye for color!  I told him we’d put a price tag on his two bracelets and he could have the profit when they sell, but I’m tempted to snag that blue/purple/teal one for myself.

I’m pretty proud of his accomplishments.  I may have to hire him!!

Jul 282010
 

I’ve written about Generation Gems before…I LOVE their engraved beads for brag bracelets, and the customer service I get from Toni and the crew is absolutely the best.

Last Wednesday, I got a Convo on Etsy (Convos are Etsy’s version of a private message) from a gal who wanted to order a brag bracelet for her mom’s birthday…and it was a rush order.  She needed it by July 30 – and usually I require 3 weeks lead time to order, receive, create, and mail one off!

I called Generation Gems, talked to Toni, and we figured out a plan of action.  While I was on the phone with her, she mentioned that they had some new engraved beads and new fonts for engraving.  The following day, I ordered three hematite beads for my customer…and I received my order on Monday!  I had an out of town guest Monday evening, so I didn’t get a chance to open the box and work on the bracelet, but I got up early this morning to work on it, so that it could be mailed out today.

Opened my package, and had a great surprise!  Not only were my beads in the box (carefully packaged, like always!) but Toni had also included a sample of the new “Reflections” bead!

The Reflections Bead looks like a nut you’d buy in a hardware store, but with a smooth center instead of threaded…and made from sterling silver.  And engraved with names and birth dates on the four sides!  The hole is large enough for a Pandora-style bracelet, Viking Knit or other bangle type bracelet.  The square shape is unique – it’s very industrial-looking.

At $50 per bead (retail), the beads are a little pricey, but what an original gift!  I can definitely see Generations Gems’ Reflection Bead as something to be handed down…for generations! 😉

And that brag bracelet?  Done and on it’s way to Tennessee. I hope the recipient loves her new work of art!

Jul 242010
 

Heh.  Make rings.  Finger rings, that is…not jump rings for once!

Rose Ring by Lynn Kvigne

Rose Ring by Lynn Kvigne

These cute little “rose” rings are made using 2 6″ sections of 20g craft wire.  I found that putting my ring mandrel in a vise helped with production, as I’m not always fighting to keep it stable.  My next show is our local county fair, and these go over pretty well with the fair crowd…so I made up 21 of them last night in about an hour.

You can make these pretty quickly once you have the hang of twisting the wire.  Here are the basic steps:

1. Cut 2 pieces of 20g wire (craft wire, copper, silver) 6″ long each.

2. Using a ring mandrel (or a dowel a little larger than your ring size if you don’t have a mandrel), wind both pieces, side by side around the mandrel.  Wind the wire at the size mark that is 1/2 size larger than your ring size.

3. Twist the four ends around each other in a knot.  Twist again, making a double spiral.

4. Remove the ring from the mandrel.

5. Wind the ends (two on either side) around the ring band twice.  Clip the ends.

6. The raw ends will be a little sharp!  You’ll want to either gently file them or put your ring in a tumbler with stainless steel shot for about 30-45 minutes.

Wear it with pride!

Feb 212010
 

I’m intrigued by the Steampunk movement – described as “Victorian meets Jules Verne”, Steampunk combines romantic elements with mechanics for an instantly recognizable design style.

Jean Campbell’s Steampunk Style Jewelry is the first book I’ve found that focuses on Steampunk jewelry…and it does a great job of doing so!   From the 20 projects, to Sidebars, to a Gallery of Designs, this nicely written, beautifully photographed book is well worth purchasing.

Steampunk projects are full of “found objects” – items you pick up in a flea market or garage sale – but Campbell includes a nice listing of supplies for projects at the end of the book.  You’ll probably end up finding Steampunk Style Jewelry offers more inspiration than “follow to the letter” instructions, but the instructions for each project ARE clear and easy to follow.  You find the goods – Jean and the other artists credited with projects will walk you through how to create cool-looking jewelry!

In addition to the great projects, I found the Sidebars to be extremely interesting.  Campbell has written great mini-articles about other facets of Steampunk, from Modding (modifying modern items) to music, films, and costumes.  Yes, the Steampunk movement is not just about jewelry…there are entire conventions that focus around the lifestyle!

Bottom line, if you find Steampunk interesting, pick up the book and be prepared for entertaining reading as well as giving you some great ideas.  At $24.99 US ($31.99 CAN), it’s chock-full of inspriation and information and a great value!

Dec 292009
 

Just found out that the Rings N Things “Your Designs ROCK” contest is accepting entries beginning January 1, 2010!  Early entries get a great perk – if your entry is received before February 3, you’ll be entered in a goodie giveaway!  Additionally, first time contestants are entered into a special drawing as well.

Wondering what to make?  Some info straight from the source:

  • 2010 categories are glass & crystal, gemstones & pearls, mostly metal, metal clay, and found objects/miscellaneous.
  • You don’t have to be a Rings & Things customer to enter. You do need to include a majority of parts in your design that are available from us.

Details are available on the Rings N Things web site. Contest deadline is February 28, 2010…so get working on the designs that rock your world!!!

(pssst….R&T has a great “5-day” sale going on through January 3!!  Check it out for fantastic bargains that you can use to create your contest entry!)

Dec 272009
 

Now that all the presents are unwrapped, the cookies are eaten, and the guests have all departed, it’s time again to challenge yourself with the annual Fire Mountain Gems jewelry making contest!

Those of us who love metal are in for a treat – this year, FMG has separated out the ArtClay, Metal Beads, Wirework and Chain categories into their very own contest.

Grand Prize is $1000 gift certificate…and there are also prizes for the first three placements in each category (see below)!  Your winning piece could even be featured in a future FMG catalog!

Contest categories:

Necklace: Let your ingenuity and creativity shine. The sky’s the limit on the number of strands, length or techniques used. As long as you can wear it as a necklace, it qualifies.

Bracelet: Showcase your best work with an innovative bracelet design and take this classic accessory to a new level.

Earrings: The right pair of earrings complete any look—from long, short, hoop, cluster, chandelier and every style in between. Create one-of-a-kind earrings that make a statement.

Home Décor and Doll: Bring jewelry-making into the home with throws, pillows, beaded chandeliers or centerpieces. Give porcelain, clay or soft dolls radiance as you dress them in beaded elegance or create from scratch with Kato Polyclay™.

Wedding and Holiday: Go beyond the traditional to create over-the-top wedding jewelry. Celebrate your holiday spirit through jewelry—any holiday is included (Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc.).

Fashion Accessories (including rings, brooches, hairpieces and accessories): There’s no such thing as too much embellishment. Incorporate beading into clothing and accessories with beaded embroidery, crochet, adhesives, knitting and more.

Looks like fun, but hurry!  Contest entry deadline is January 12,  just around the corner!