Friday, May 13, 2016

Freeform Wire-Wrapping

I think I know what has been holding me up on creating new jewelry pieces. I've got several beads/focal pieces already that need to be made into something spectacular, but I just couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to do with them. I had tried some things that didn't work so well and other things that, while beautiful, just weren't really what I wanted to produce.

I've tried my hand at a variety of techniques including wire crochet, Viking knit, kumihimo, and even some wire wrapping, but each one seemed lacking in some way.  A few weeks ago, I was wandering through Michael's with a 30% off coupon and spotted some books.  Two, in particular, caught my attention.  I picked up the first one and glanced through, deciding I didn't really want it. 

I then picked up the other one, Freeform Wire Art Jewelry.  The photo on the front was gorgeous.  The photos inside were quite detailed and beautiful.  The pieces were stunning!  I saw that the author, Gayle Bird, said she had designed the book to be a course, with one item building upon the techniques learned in the previous.  I decided to get it.  I didn't realize until I got to the register that my coupon wasn't good on books, but I had fallen in love with what I had seen and bought it anyway!

I have been learning and practicing.  I have been wearing some of the pieces I have created and people love them!  I let some family members choose some for Mother's Day and birthdays.  They all had a hard time deciding!  That's a good sign!  The photos I have are not great because I was in a hurry, but you can get an idea of what I'm doing.

I created this necklace from a practice piece per the instructions.  I have since added some crystals to it because it just seemed to need a little sparkle!

It even has a handmade clasp!

I started making earrings next.  A friend ended up with those long ones on the lower right.  They were way too long for me, but perfect for her!  The paisley ones at the top are my own design and I have an idea to incorporate some polymer clay onto those.

These about drove me crazy!  I kept running out of wire and would have to start over.  They aren't exactly symmetrical, but I figure they're close enough for me to wear!

Then, I moved on to rings.  I made this one for my daughter.  It was my first attempt and she loves it!  

So, I made one for myself!


I made another pair of earrings and fared much better this time.  I even added some crystal beads!

I tried my hand at some other rings and then made this one.  This was my first piece to incorporate polymer clay into the design.  This is one of my faux raku beads that I made quite some time ago and couldn't decide what I wanted to do with.  It was just waiting for me to learn how to turn it into a ring!

I moved on to pendants, and after making a few, I decided to use one of the faux raku roses that I still had to create a pendant.  It's one of my favorite pieces and I get lots of compliments on it!  I just made up some more roses to experiment with different designs.

This was one of the designs I created for Mother's Day/Birthdays.  My mother-in-law chose this one. It's a glass bead with double wire swirls and loops.

This is another one that I made with double wire.  The bead is Mother of Pearl in a turquoise color.  My mother chose this one.

This is the same glass bead as above, but this time I used a single wire to create the loops and swirls, intertwining them as I went. I love how it turned out!  My niece chose this one for her birthday.

This is a shell that I had and I was so excited about how it turned out!  My other niece chose this one for her birthday.  I have more shells, so I will make more!

This was one of the early pendants that I made. It has different sized fire polished Czech glass beads.  I used copper wire and put it on a long copper chain.  My sister-in-law chose it for her birthday/Mother's Day.
 I started learning to wrap cabochons. I was trying to create faux sea glass for this one, but I think it looks a little more like jade. I'll have to try again with a different brand of clay.  My sister-in-law's mother chose this one for Mother's Day.

I have a couple of other pieces that were also options, but weren't chosen.  They are both polymer clay pieces that I used for some of the earlier designs called for in the book.  I'm not entirely happy with them and may make some changes. although my niece debated long and hard over the blue one!  She already has another piece from that same batch of clay, so chose the seashell instead. 

While I plan to still use some of the other techniques I have tried, freeform wire wrapping looks destined to become my preferred way to finish most of my pieces.  I still haven't done all of the designs in the book and I have a number of ideas bouncing around in my head.  I've also been saving ideas on Pinterest and I've found some YouTube videos with designs I like.  I'm excited to get more designs made up!

And there you have it!  Many of these can be recreated, so if you see something you want, just let me know and I'll give you a price!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Finally working!

When I last posted, I had tried out my new studio using a temporary table.  It didn't work so well. Getting a chair up to the table was a challenge and I really needed some way to close it up and not have to worry about work in progress.  Well, I've got it!

After realizing that I needed to be able to close it without moving my work, I revised my plan and decided I would put a drop-down "table" in that fastened to the side wall instead of coming out through the door as I had originally planned. We had gone looking for a board and ended up buying one of those pre-fab shelves that you put on brackets, but our attempts to install it so that it could be moved out of the way weren't working.  We've had lots going on this summer, including getting our things out of storage, so it was hit or miss as we attempted to find time to work on it.

Mark finally came up with the idea of putting legs on the shelf to make a table that could be put up on end when I need to get to the end of the closet that isn't quite as accessible as the rest of it.  We went and got some legs and he put them on last night.  It's still a little wobbly, so we will have to fix that, but, with a temporary solution in place, it works!  And I love it! Yay!

I do still need to paint the legs.  And do some organizing!  That brown thing in the middle is the center support leg.  The table is just deep enough (12") for my marble tile that I work on and my clay conditioning, aka pasta, machine.  The built-in shelves are adjustable, so I have the second one from the bottom (first adjustable one) set at approximately the same height as my table.  That way, my clay and tools can all be within arm's reach!  It's fabulous!

And when I'm done for the day, it looks like this!  YES!!!

I subscribe to the Polymer Clay Workshop newsletter by Meg Newburg who does some wonderful cane work.  When the current issue came out with canes that look like paper quilling, I knew I had to try it.  I played with paper quilling many, many years ago.  It is an interesting technique and, in polymer clay, it is even more beautiful!  I put my pasta machine on the corner of Mark's desk which is right behind my chair at my computer and put my tile on my desk and went to work creating the blends to make some of these gorgeous items.  Now that I have my table set up, I've been busy this afternoon making canes and learning the right way to do it! I've barely gotten started, but here are couple of flowers in the works.  The purple/teal one is much better, but I like the magenta/purple one, too!

Watch for the finished pieces as well as more fun quilled items! Meg has suggestions for butterflies and mandalas in addition to the flowers.  These are so much fun, I'm wondering what else I might come up with!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Putting My New Studio to Use!

If you've read my recent blog post or are one of my Facebook friends, you know that we recently moved after more than a year of being in what can only be referred to as chaos!  I had at least three options for where to locate my studio in our new home.  After careful consideration of each one, I chose to put it in the closet in the office.  I began setting up my studio immediately after we moved in.

My work table was stored in a friend's garage and we had some challenges in coordinating our schedules to get it.  As soon as my table arrived, though, I got to work.  I had decided a few weeks ago that I would like to make a pansy.

The pansy on the left was my first attempt prior to the move.  As you can see, one of the petals broke off.  I finished the middle one just before we moved.  I made it smaller with slightly thicker petals.  As I was fiddling with it to prepare to make it into a pendant, I realized one of the petals on it was also broken although it didn't break completely off.  Third time's a charm, right?  Once my table was set up, I got busy and made a third one.  I did it a little differently and it seems to have worked!   I showed them to a friend who commented on how realistic they look!

Here's the finished pendant.  I wanted to use some gold mica powder in the middle, but I couldn't find it until after it was curing in the oven!  I decided to use some fine glitter instead and I rather like how it turned out.

This pendant was a gift, so I boxed it up and delivered it a few days ago.  The recipient was delighted!  Time to move on to other things...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Big Move

Goodness!  It's really been a year and a half since I wrote anything on this blog?  Well, let me catch you up on what has been happening.

I was really excited to be able to take over the room my mother vacated when she moved to my brother's house and begin setting up a real studio... someplace I could call my own and be able to go and work.  But, circumstances changed, and she moved back in with us.  That meant I was once again trying to work in space intended for other purposes, namely the dining room.  I just couldn't seem to get organized and, therefore, I wasn't very excited about working on anything.

We looked at the possibility of remodeling to create another bedroom that would become my studio, but not long after Mom moved back in with us, it dawned on me that my daughter would be going into high school next year and, even though we lived within the school district, we were in the wrong high school district (there are three) to support the goals we have for her.  We either had to get an intra-district  transfer or move.  After weighing our options, it seemed best to move.  I've questioned my sanity numerous times since making that decision!

We began to work on getting our house ready for sale.  Around the first of May last  year, we attended some open houses, not expecting to find anything, but one house, in particular, grabbed us.  We went home and began to work harder on the house.  Then, I fell while removing wallpaper!  As if that wasn't bad enough, the house sold before we could even think of making an offer.  By that time, though, the ball was rolling.

Our circumstances changed several times over the next few months.  Each time, it changed what we were looking for in a house.  Things finally settled down and we found a house in our preferred neighborhood that I was ready to make an offer on the day it came on the market!  But, our house still wasn't ready to list.  I had injured my already bad back in the fall and just couldn't do the work myself.  I hired a contractor.  A few weeks later, I fired him and hired someone different.  Meanwhile, the house we had been so sure was meant for us sold.  We finally listed our house and made an offer on another house, but they wouldn't take a contingency.  It sold.  

Another situation came up that seemed like it was meant to be.  It would be a private sale.  But things were a bit up in the air.  We got an offer on our house and things were still up in the air with the other one.  The further we went with it, the more we and the potential sellers felt something was off.  We needed to make a decision.  We had attended another open house that we liked very much.  It was still available, so we decided to go look again.  Long story, short... we finally moved in last Friday!

It's not perfect.  I am sharing the office with my husband, but it is quite large.  There is a built-in desk for my computer and a closet with shelves that makes a great studio!  The day we moved in, I brought my clay and put it in the closet.  Within a couple of days, I had some of my boxes unpacked.

The closet is quite large.

Yesterday, I got my folding table (it was stored in a friend's garage) that I could use as a temporary work surface.  Eventually, I plan to put in a drop down shelf/table.  That has already gone through at least one revision since I first planned it, but having the temporary work surface has really helped me in determining what I needed to tweak.

Stay tuned for more developments!  I've already put this studio to work!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Computer Woes!

Amazing how a sick computer can eat up your time! My computer just kept getting worse and worse until I finally tried installing a new hard drive and putting Linux on it. That sort of worked! "Sort of" being the operative words there.

Then, we thought it might be a memory problem, but it could also be the motherboard. I didn't see putting money into buying memory, only to discover that the problem was the motherboard all along, so I decided to retire it and get a new one.

I've had the new computer for a week now.  It came with Windows 8 installed.  Although it had been recommended to me to go with Windows 7, I didn't seem to have a choice.  I updated a couple of days ago to 8.1 after doing some research to decide if it would be worth it.  So far, it's okay, but there has been a learning curve.  At least, there are improvements over Windows 8.

This afternoon, I've been checking out the Facebook app.  It looks a lot like the one on my Android phone, the Samsung Note 2.  It's okay, too, but I don't know if I will use it exclusively.  These apps seem to be a bit limited in their functionality, especially when it comes to something like a business page.  We shall see how it goes!

Meanwhile, I have some new ideas and some new equipment to play with!  More fun things to come!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I've been working on more poinsettias... 
The finished pink poinsettias.

Red glitter poinsettias well as some other things and playing with a new technique. It's new to me, anyway!  It's called Faux Raku.  And what is raku? It is a form of pottery developed in Japan in the 1500's for use in the tea ceremony.  It has developed into an art form in the West and artists use different techniques to create it.  I was talking to my brother about it last night and he said he had watched raku being made.  He said they would throw things like leaves in with the pottery.  I was curious, so I Googled it.

Most raku has a crackled surface, although I'm not sure it all does.  I found one artist, William K. Turner, at Raku Art who has some absolutely gorgeous pieces! Many of his do not appear to be crackled, though some are.  In fact, I saw some with some areas that were crackled while other areas were not.  There is a local gallery that carries his work, so I may have to pay them a visit.

The process is basically the same for all raku pottery.  It is coated with a glaze and then heated very quickly in a kiln.  Once it reaches the maximum temperature, it is removed and placed in a "reduction chamber" which is where the leaves and other stuff come in.  Apparently, what you use in the reduction combined with the glaze you choose will determine the final effect and colors.  The way it is commonly done produces the crackled finish. 

After the piece is removed from the kiln, it is held in the air for several seconds to immediately begin the cooling process.  It is then put into the reduction chamber--quite often a garbage can--which is filled with the reduction material.  This can consist of such things as sawdust, straw, or leaves.  The red hot piece is put into the chamber full of the reduction material where it causes this material to burst into flame.  More reduction material is then poured on top and finally, the lid is put on to create an airtight seal which stops the oxidation process that creates the colors and also puts out the flames. When the piece comes out, usually after a very short time, it is covered with soot, but then is cleaned off to reveal the the finish.  

This is one of the places where William's technique differs. He lines his reduction chambers with newspaper and sets the piece upright.  He leaves it in longer and then puts it back in the kiln on a low heat to set the colors.  He says he never puts his in water.  Apparently, his process is a bit of a cross between the Western way of doing things and the Japanese way.  In Japan, they often set the glowing hot piece out in the open air to cool, but also do use reduction chambers.  Any way it is done, the result is quite random. There is no predicting exactly what you will get!

What does this have to do with Christmas and polymer clay?  Polymer clay can be made to look like just about anything and raku is no exception!  I had watched the tutorial on Faux Raku from Cindy Lietz, The Polymer Clay Tutor, and wasn't overly excited, although I did add it to my list of things to work on since it doesn't need sanding.  I didn't have the necessary supplies to do it, though, so I just didn't think much about it until...

I saw a picture on Cindy's Facebook page a few days ago of some gorgeous bracelets made using this technique. Suddenly, I was intrigued.  By this time, I had the necessary supplies, albeit in limited color choices!  I began to experiment and created some beads of my own:

Faux Raku beads in red and blue with gold

Faux Raku beads in blue and green with gold

Faux Raku beads in red, blue, and green with gold
I got a few more colors and had a brainstorm!  I have seen many colors of poinsettias and had already decided to try different techniques to come up with some of the various colors, like the mottled red and white ones that are called "Jingle Bells."  I haven't done that yet, by the way!  While the traditional red, white, and pink ones are the most popular, there are also blue ones, and purple ones, and a myriad of other colors!  Some are even a couple of colors combined. Check Google to see what I mean.

So, I decided to use purple and blue to see what I could come up with and I started getting really excited.  It was already looking fantastic! Yellow centers just didn't look right, so it was back to Google to look up more images.  The blue ones all seemed to have green centers, so I played with that a bit and decided it did look better.  I only did one, but when I got it all put together, I gave it a dusting of my new mica powder, then put it in my little toaster oven to cure.  As with the real raku, you never know just what you are going to get, but I do get to see what it will look like before it goes into the oven!  This piece will be available for sale as a pendant in my Etsy shop within the next few days.

Blue, purple and green poinsettia using the Faux Raku technique

By the way, I have seen various meanings for raku such as joy, happiness, comfort, and ease.  My favorite, though, came from a blog about ceramics and pottery. The definition there is "happiness in the accident!"  Joy and happiness in the randomness of the process!  No wonder I love this technique so much!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Coming Attractions!

What seems like eons ago, I hand-crafted poinsettias, one petal at a time, and then painted them.  It was tedious work and took a lot of time.  A couple of days ago, I figured out how to do them a much easier way.  Of course, I am using colored clay not and not painting them.  I didn't actually figure this out on my own.  I've been intending to get the tutorial from Cindy Lietz, the Polymer Clay Tutor, but after looking at some that were posted on her Facebook page and looking at the intro to the tutorial and list of supplies, I figured out how she did them. Now, that doesn't mean that I won't eventually get the tutorial because I'm quite sure she has some tips and tricks up her sleeve!  She usually does.  Besides, I want ALL of her tutorials!

Here's a sneak peak at my first attempt at making them this way.  This is before curing.  
This was when I had just figured out what to do. I made the pieces and just laid them together. I didn't have the right thing to adhere them, so had to go pick that up before finishing.

The larger flower is the same one as above. I made two smaller ones to create a pendant and earring set.  The completed flowers were brushed with gold Pearl-Ex powder.  This particular set will not be for sale due to the brittleness of the pink clay.  However, I will be making another set like this.

I don't know how I'm going to fit in making more in the next few days, but I'm going to give it a shot and hope to have some in a variety of colors in my shop within the next week.  I also plan on having some Christmas trees done (I just had an idea to make those even better!) and maybe a few other little surprises!