Experiments with titanium, Swapfest loot, and other progress

So I finally started playing with the titanium wire I ordered recently.

It is very lovely stuff – matte metallics colors (it is anodized), and a soft surface unlike any other metal (probably from the anodization).

It is also, as the website said, difficult to work with. I cannot put sharp bends in it; it will break. Right away. It work hardens FAST. And, like the website said, its temper is similar to spring steel, so I have to bend it well past where I want it to be in order for it to stay where I want it. It is also very light; holding one of the small coils, I had a hard time believing I was holding a metal (well, maybe aluminum).

An ear cuff, necklace concept in progress, and random bent shapes.

I don’t feel like I’ve got a good handle on how to use it yet; perhaps if I made the entire necklace from the same color? (The test piece is stainless steel for the support structure, and two different colors of titanium for the layered leaves.)

I do like how the colors of some of the wires work with the rainbow hues on my grey glass beads:

Shiny! The wire is a greyish blue; the bead has some similar colors in it.

In other exciting materials and supplies news, I made it to Swapfest, and got:

– 2 exceptionally lovely bearings

– 1 mystery object that might have come out of an old textile mill

– 2 hard drives with platters held in place with screws and not the mysterious unremovable mechanism some of my other junk drives have, not that I’m still bitter about that

– 1 box of random metal junk, which cost me $1, and was worth at least $2 in entertainment value

Everything from the box of random junk, laid out nicely. (plus hard drives and bearings from other sellers)

There are some small wrenches in that pile of stuff. And by “small” I mean “about the length of my finger THEY ARE ADORABLE.” Most of the weight of that box is made up by things that I think are bike parts. I don’t need them, but lugging them around was a reasonable payment for the small wrenches and other random small metal objects that I am going to clean and keep and eventually incorporate into . . . something.

There was also a piece of lead, in sheet form, in the box, which is now safely contained in a plastic bag. I don’t need a piece of lead sheet metal running around loose and contaminating the place.

The disk drives were also entertaining. One has unusually dark platters; the other had some fantastic machined pieces of metal separating its platters.

Yes, the platters really are dark brown.

Here's the metal piece separating two platters in the other drive.

Later, I discovered that if you hold a platter up so you can see your face in it, you can get some really odd effects if you move the platter around while looking at the reflection, because you will also see two blurry circles of the background at the same time. If you close one eye, you will only get one blurry circle, which leads to fun things like moving the platter so that the circle (the hole in the center of the platter) is where the reflection of your eye should be. It’s like being inside a Magritte, only instead of having an apple for a head, you have a potted plant for an eye.

It is very difficult to get good photographs of this.



I’ve also (finally) got two tiny book pendants put on cords and ready to photograph and eventually list on Etsy. I’m seriously considering opening up another online store on another site, but there are SO MANY other sites that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with trying to choose.

Oh and I decoupaged the mannequin! At least partially. I didn’t think it was necessary to decoupage the entire thing, since I won’t be photographing the whole mannequin, just the portions necessary to show up jewelry. So she looks like she’s wearing a very stylish sort of crop-top, since the decoupage, which has uneven edges, stops somewhere above her navel.

Body parts by mail and other fun

Since most of my necklaces do not lie nice and flat on either a table or a quick-and-easy necklace bust, I decided that the best way to photograph them – and form them, to a certain extent – would be to acquire a mannequin.

Here is my new assistant, who is close enough to my size that I can dress her up with my own clothes (. . . which is more disturbing to think about than I was expecting). I think she needs a layer of decoupage (her actual color is a much more unappealing brownish pink than the photo shows, not to mention the texture of the plastic). And a name.

Plastic female mannequin torso in a cardboard box

Now I know how much of my dismembered carcass would fit in a box. Most of it, is the answer. There's plenty of room in there for arms and legs. (Also note the lack of packing material provided.)

So I’m working on some projects for a literacy fundraiser, which means literary themes (hence TINY BOOKS!), and somehow my original ideas unexpectedly turned into an idea for a mess of beads and charms linked together in a way that I usually don’t work with because making links kinda makes me want to cry or throw everything out the window, but it was such a neat concept that I couldn’t resist. *sigh*



I decided that to make the links less tediously the same (it is contemplating the sameness that fills me with despair and loathing), I would add leaf and tendril elements to some or all of them.

Of course this means I couldn’t just decide that the first way I found to do it – which is a perfectly reasonable way! – was good enough and stick with it, oh no, suddenly I have MANY MORE IDEAS for how to make bead links more interesting while incorporating leafy things. So instead of working on the damn project, I am sketching ideas onto the paper and then compelled to test them out for real.

Because if I don’t, they will bother me until I do.

Some sketches and prototypes for ways of linking beads together while making the wire do interesting things. The link in the middle is what I am currently using; the link on the bottom I like a lot but haven't used - yet. The one on the top seemed like a good idea when I sketch it, but I dislike it now. The beads and charms on the left are part of the necklace that is troubling me; the pile on the right consists of potential components.

I’ve probably said it before, but the mechanical aspects of making jewelry with wire is at least half the fun. So I may be complaining about feeling forced to experiment when I have something that needs finishing, but it’s like complaining about having to choose between hot fudge and caramel. (Naturally, one puts both on, arranged so that they can be enjoyed separately OR together.)

Speaking of exciting mechanical challenges:

Two TINY BOOKS wrapped in wire, to be used as pendants.

Two TINY BOOKS! Carefully wrapped in wire such that they can be worn as pendants! AND TAKEN OUT OF THEIR TINY CAGES!!

My excitement about these things is inversely proportional to their size.

And also, the ideas for enclosing them! TOO MANY. Or, perhaps, just enough; some of them are clearly awful even on paper. Whatever, there isn’t enough time to give them all a proper tryout.

I have another project in mind that is more of a research project than a physical making-stuff project: there are approximately TOO MANY TOO COUNT different online marketplaces focused on selling handmade stuff, and they all offer slightly different costs and benefits, and I have yet to find any single source that puts them all together so that you can, at a quick glance, compare them.

This is on my to-do list now.

A craft fair!! (Spring Fever Market at the Armory)

Arts at the Armory, located a convenient mile away, has hosted a really awesome winter farmers market this year. Sadly, the winter farmers market is over, but happily, they decided to bridge the winter/summer gap with 4 Spring Fever Markets. (Here is the Armory’s shiny Facebook page for it.)

Which includes crafts. Not just lettuce!

Wonderful though the lettuce is. (And the onions and kale – well, Edgar approves of kale – and THE CIDER DONUTS omg.)

So I signed up for one. As a craft vendor, not a farmer, because the garden this year, it is well I think it may be lying fallow this year. Yes.

I will be there with Sara of Khyamara, Sunday, April 17, from 10 am until 2 pm.

Very exciting. By which I mean terrifying. Though I think we’re safe from an attack by lettuce.

Also! The Feather Forge now has a Facebook page . . . which I can’t figure out how to link to yet. I think it doesn’t have enough fans or friends or whatevers for that to be easy and or possible. Nevermind. Got it.

At any rate, I have made a lot of interesting new things – pendants and earrings, mostly – and soon (after the craft fair, probably) I will upload more pictures. I’m excited about having worked out some designs that I really like, since I’d been struggling for a long time with those particular items. Here’s for doodling during meetings, and that’s all I have to say about that!

In “Finding supplies can be frustrating” news, I can’t find the little green oval glass beads I use in the Spring Rites ear cuffs, and I am very sad about that. I spent HOURS searching online bead stores after discovering my favorite local source doesn’t stock them any more. I also bought their last bag of some really lovely green glass leaves, but I’ve found online sources for them. Sadness. I will have to find a suitable replacement for the little ovals.

I will be updating the Etsy store soon, too, and probably raising some prices (I read several more articles about how to price things and decided that some things should be changed).

And last but not least, I will be at Artisan’s Asylum during Somerville Open Studios (April 30-May 1, 12-6), along with several others!

Process and progress

Back in September, I was playing around with a bunch of sea-themed beads. I had this really amazing large mermaid charm/pendant, but I couldn’t quite see her as just a pendant. Or even as just a pendant with a lot of interesting supporting beads and wire around.

I thought the centerpiece of an elaborate necklace would be nice, so I did a crude sketch and laid out some beads in a way that seemed reasonable:

A large metal mermaid charm with some beads arranged on a sketch of a necklace design.

This is more or less how I design necklaces: sketch out what I think the structure will be, put beads down on it, then photograph.

I didn’t quite feel like making it then. Or maybe I was really busy. Or both. But periodically I remembered (like when I was pawing through beads, and be reminded there was this piece lurking, completely unfinished), and I’d want to get back to it.

Well, what with Arisia coming up, I have suddenly felt spurred to action!

Tragically, I took no more in-process photos, but here is the completed piece:

Completed collar. Necklace. Whatever.

The structure is, as usual, stainless steel, in three different gauges. The swoopy, wave-like wires are sterling silver. HOLY COW, is silver wire easy to bend! After spending quite some time forcing the stainless steel (and it is a soft temper steel!) to do what I wanted, the sterling felt like putty. Wow. So nice.

Components are: big metal mermaid charm/pendant, lots of different glass beads, and a couple of pieces of dyed shell. The circle that the mermaid is facing is dyed shell, and there’s a chunky green rectangular bead on the other side that is also shell.

I put one of the pale green beads behind her head to make her face stand out a little more.

This was the most painful piece I’ve done. I am used to my finger pads feeling tender after bending a lot of stainless steel, and I occasionally wind up with minor stab and scratch wounds from unfiled wire ends. But working on it last night, I managed an impressive puncture wound as well as an embarrassing incident with the flush cut pliers. (Embarrassing because seriously, it isn’t that hard to keep the soft bits away from the sharp parts of tools!)

In other news, I made a bunch of earrings, and a couple more pendants. I am liking this productivity!

THe usual sorts of things: brass wire, sterling silver wire, stainless steel; glass and stone beads.

Still to do for Arisia: title all of these things. And the other things. And submit all that plus size info and pricing. And work out table layout; I think I am NOT going to use slabs of rock this time, because it is heavy to carry around! And I do not have enough slabs for every necklace anyway.

I do have a chunk of a tree branch. Maybe I can hang things off that.

Jewelry Happy Hours!

I’m running a couple of jewelry work sessions at the Asylum this month.

They are classes in that I and 2 or 3 other jewelry makers will be around to show people how to make shiny things, and also to work on our own projects. We don’t have lesson plans; we’ll cover whatever it is people are interested in.

We had our first night last week, and it was fun and productive! Cider was drunk! Necklaces were knotted and bent! Not both at once, mind.

I also learned that the hunting and camping supply store near me is a good place to buy feathers.

Khrysti and Sara (who run Khyamara together) both worked on knotwork projects; Sara also made a lot of progress on a wire-wrapped ring.

I finally – FINALLY – went through my sketches from StrowlerCon and prototyped a couple of designs:

A simpler "tooth" design and a geometric shape, accented with a glass bead.

The leaf shapes come from my original Spring Rites necklace and ear cuffs design.

Leaf and tendril detail of Spring Rites necklace.

The Spring Rites pieces are probably going to be listed on Etsy (if not those exact two, then I’ll be making more much like them). I also came up with a loooooooong list of ideas for that series, so I am excited to get more variations on that theme out of my head and into the wire.

Jewelry Happy Hour is meeting two more times this month, and I believe that our 4th instructor will be joining us both of those times, along with a jewelry maker who does some metalsmithing work (Purpleshiny), and at least one person who wants some lessons.

I am really looking forward to it! It was great to see different kinds of work in process, and to understand the amount of time some seemingly very simple projects take (Khrysti made a very nice, very simple bracelet that took something like an hour).

A collection of shiny things

First, shiny words!

One of my favorite authors, Catherynne Valente, has a new book out: The Habitation of the Blessed, the first of three books about the mythical Prester John and the amazing land he had supposedly discovered, who the medieval world got all excited and crazed about. Embedded in her post about the book release is a really awesome video explaining who Prester John was – using action fictions and LOLcats. (Plus links to the online chapters and info about how you can enter in a drawing to win some phenomenally gorgeous art.)

The first 5 chapters are online FOR FREE, and I read them, and then I found myself later in the day thinking, “Yeah, I need to go finish reading that – CURSES I don’t have the book yet! Argh.”

My introduction to her work was Palimpsest, which I can’t be effusive enough about. Her writing – all of her writing – is typically more descriptive and lush and lyrical and evocative of myth and mystery than most writers’, and Palimpsest some of the very lushest. I was torn, when I started it, between spreading the reading out over a week so I could enjoy it for more days, and spending my entire weekend engrossed in it because Oh my god. (I didn’t get much else done that weekend; I recently reread it, spread out over a week or two, and it was just as good.)

(I also recently finished This Is My Letter to the World, an anthology of short stories written for her Omikuji Project. I highly recommend it, especially if you like retellings of old myths, but if you are the kind to get teared up over what you are reading, I don’t recommend reading it on the T, unless you like risking crying in public.)

Boston area folks – she is doing a reading at Pandemonium on Dec. 11, 3pm, as part of her book tour.

Next, shiny birds!

I was poking around deviantART, pondering setting up an account, and this caught my eye:

Bird broach made out of circuit boards.

Bird broach made out of circuit boards. OMG THOSE FEET.

Thebluekraken has a lot of other jewelry made from circuit boards, much of it cut into leaf shapes. A lot of circuit board art leaves me cold, but I really, really like the juxtaposition of technology with shapes from nature.

Next, shiny free software! Named after birds.

Aviary is a suite of browser-based tools for creating and editing images. So if you don’t have Photoshop ($$$), or the GIMP (free, open source), you may want to check this out. They also have a tool for creating vector drawings, which is what Illustrator ($$$) and Inkscape (free, open source) can do. Plus other things I have barely looked at. (I have the full Adobe suite, so I have spent little time testing out alternatives.) Since it is browser based, you can access it whenever you have access to a browser, rather than only when you are using the machine you have the other programs installed on.

Last, something that should have its own post, but I am feeling lazy.

Look! Over there! In the sidebar! Yes, I finally got some items listed on Etsy.

I started with some favorites, and I have a BIG PILE of other things (well, okay, maybe half a dozen. or 10?) to get listed, but it’s a start.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged and pushed me over the last year or so to do this. Once I got through writing policies, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.

StrowlerCon post-con report

This is supposed to be a project journal, where I write about what I am making and keep track of process and stuff like that, not a more diary-like blog, but dammit, it’s MINE and I make the rules, so I’m going to write something long and not really project focused.

Hey, wow, I’m also really tired, so it might not make sense, and if it weren’t for the automagic spelling error pointer-outer, this would be filled with typos.

So, the con.

There was a con! And it was small. But it was really, really awesome. If nothing else, I think it wins “best dressed con goers” award for the fantastically high percentage of people who were dressed in interesting/funky/weird/fantastic clothing. Oh my god the eye candy.

Even at Arisia, where hall costumes and funny clothes are kind of normal, I feel a bit odd dressing up or putting on a costume. Not here! Here I felt totally normal! . . . wearing feather ears all weekend.

I stepped out of the elevator at one point and there were two girls, perhaps 10 and 12, waiting to get on. They both did a pretty amazing double-take when I stepped out. I managed to not double over laughing, but I probably smirked a bit. Sorry, kids.

I missed most of the music acts, because I volunteered to do volunteer work, and that ended up being watching the doors of the performance space on Saturday and Sunday. So I did get to hear most things, though filtered through the doors.

Friday night, I caught far too little of the Gypsy Nomads, who totally rocked, but I made a point of being there for Cat Valente and SJ Tucker’s “Monsters Ball.” They alternated readings by Cat from her written work, with songs by SJ inspired by Cat’s writing. Really awesome. Only disappointment is that the music inspired by Palimpsest isn’t out on an album yet.

I set up my jewelry Friday night. Turns out I was only one of 2 people who signed up as  “Maker” – everyone else signed up as vendors. So I gave some thought to it, and ended up writing up prices for the pieces. People kept asking! And it was only Friday! No, the Mechanic’s Collar is not for sale. Unless you want to pay off my student loans and free me from the necessity of a 40 hour-a-week desk job so I can do more art. Then we should talk.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to come up with some designs that are more accessible than the ear cuffs, but not as expensive/time intensive as the necklaces. Sunday night, while sitting at the door, I did MANY PAGES of sketches, trying to come up with some ideas. And now I am really anxious to get some time to try them out, but, hey, desk job.

Saturday was the busiest day – there were a lot of people there just for Saturday, plus all the whole-weekend people.

I went to the contact juggling workshop! It was wonderful! I dropped the ball a lot, but I got better about not dropping it. I even, eventually, found a spot on my arm, near my inner elbow, where the damn thing can balance (everyone else there found a spot in seconds; I had to lift my arm a lot higher than I thought was necessary for the muscles to move right). I think that I could actually become good at it, and the instructor said so as well. (He is not nearly as spooky as his picture might lead you to believe.)

He came by my table later on and said some very kind and encouraging things about my work, and how to do some better marketing (omg, I have to do marketing. For myself.). I really appreciated it a lot – thank you!

Sunday was pretty slow. I developed cabin fever and a fear that I was about to start climbing the walls, I don’t care how tired I was. If I’d been at home, I’d have gone on a mad cleaning binge. Or raked ALL THE LEAVES. And this was after spending a couple hours playing with wire and making some new ear cuffs. Yes, I got bored even with that. I think it was all the sitting.

One of the nice things about it being slow was having time to chat with the other people in the room about what they do, hearing about their techniques, and more about the business end of things. It was like our own little mini-con!

So, I am terrifically tired because it has been many days since I went to bed at a reasonable hour and got enough sleep, but it was a really good weekend. I think it was a really good way to get a gentle introduction to having a vendor table (even if technically I was there as a “maker,” people coming by were treating it pretty much as a dealers’ room), because the crowds were, um, not really heavy enough to be a crowd, and the people were really friendly.

I don’t know if I necessarily want to do a table at a high-traffic event, but I have some idea what to expect, without associated bad memories.

Anyway. I was glad to have the time to get to learn more about what other people are doing, and meet some people who are (mostly) local to me and making/selling awesome things:

Purpleshiny, a local jewelry artist. I really love her beetle-wing earrings. Perhaps because they sort of look like feathers. And they are so shiny!

Behind the Mask, a local mask maker I first met at Arisia earlier this year, who works primarily in paper mache, and makes masks ranging from incredible ornate pieces for theatre and simpler (and affordable) masks for mortals.

Goth Fae, who had clothing and accessories that I looked at a lot, and have a mental note to look up in a few months when the shirt I wanted might be around in my size.

Dark Siren Designs, sorta local (New Hampshire, I think), jewelry and accessories. A lot of really pretty things made from lace that have had shiny bits attached to them. Some of the chokers looked like metal filigree, except more comfortable.

The Uncommon Facade, another local mask maker (leather work) – who makes masks that can be worn with glasses!

The Red Fork Empire, the other Maker, and sorta local (RI). Fortunately not in a room-conquering mood. Though I was well armed with pliers . . .

Lennon Studio, paintings and block prints – I remember the dragonfly and raven prints the best; another local. Okay, you know what? I think everyone was local, except Goth Fae, who are based out of New Orleans. She’s also a dancer, but unfortunately I only caught one of her acts.

Parrish Relics – exquisite jewelry, and a really wonderful table setup.

Auntie Arwen’s Spices, tempting spice mixes and fudge; not local, though they were also running a table for Silver Owl Creations (jewelry, including some really gorgeous hammered copper wire pieces), who is.

Also, Artisan’s Asylum had a table there, which was next to mine (not a coincidence). For most of the weekend, the person actually at that table had a Makerbot there that got a lot of attention. That thing has the deceptive LYING NAME of “Cupcake CNC” – it DOES NOT MAKE CUPCAKES. CNC or otherwise. It might able to frost them, however.

I was sad to miss HONK!, which was also this weekend, but I am glad I went. It was a pretty nice pace, I liked the people, and next year, I might be well enough prepared to actually do a workshop.

And now I could really use a nap.

Swapfest loot

I haven’t been to Swapfest since last year, and realized recently that I needed to remedy that. This is what I came home with (also a pair of pliers, but they are less exciting and photogenic):

Bearings and EMF shielding strips

On the left, a bag of EMF shielding; on the right, some really lovely bearings.

The shielding is stuff I have experimented with before, but I only have a small quantity left, so I now I feel free to do more experimentation, and have plenty for good results, too! It has an adhesive strip on the back, which is not particularly useful for me, I think.

I did not buy out the bearing seller’s entire supply, but I was tempted. They’re so pretty!


Some of the bearings have tiny springs in between the balls; other have more rigid spacers.

Bazaar Bizarre aftermath

So I worked at a craft fair (the Bazaar Bizarre, in its first-ever summer occurrence) for the first time ever, and it was only slightly less terrifying than I imagine it would have been if I’d actually been selling my own work.

I was there at the Artisan’s Asylum table; we were there to pass out flyers and show people how to make simple crafts. A couple of people were making neat hair decorations, tiny hats, and bags out of ties. We had bookbinding, and someone showing off Sumobots. Our coffee making demo had to cancel on account of it being too windy. And we had two people doing jewelry demos (the other person was showing knotwork).

Jewelry display, plus duct tape head with feather mask, plus flyers, beads, wire, etc.

I brought a lot of glass beads, figuring I could show people how to make simple dangly earrings. I even sat down and practiced by myself, so I would know how to talk someone through the process while demonstrating it.

No one was interested in learning how to make them.

People were interested in making ear cuffs, which I had on my big display board.

And of course I didn’t have any of the really simple ear cuffs there. Fortunately, I did have my brass wire, because at the last minute I decided to bring it so I could amuse myself if nothing else was going on.

I know now how just how poorly I know what I am doing, because I found myself flailing a lot trying to explain how to hold the wire and the tools – and honestly, I don’t know that -I- always follow the same process, so there was a lot of ad hockery (ad hackery?). I figure that explaining that teaching this was all new to me might be reassuring to people who were confused by the process a bit. Well, I got some laughs at least. And my victi- er students did end up with wearable ear cuffs.

Also, I got some really nice feedback about some of the wire work I had on display (the stainless steel necklace, which I finished off and now – of course now! – want to make some edits to. Guess I’ll have to make another. OH NOES.), like encouragement to make more and sell it.

I did loads of research earlier this year into Etsy and good places to buy supplies (bulk wire, especially), but time going elsewhere, and massive terror at the prospect of taking this semi-seriously, have conspired to keep me from actually setting up a shop and making items to sell. But I think at this point (and then there was a coworker this morning, who I showed some photos to), I have no choice.

If for no other reason than to subsidize my bead buying habit.

Long overdue post full of ear cuffs

I seem to have a bit of breathing space, so I am catching up. ZOMG TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY.


Have some ear cuff photos!

Wire earcuff

Love the simple shape. Need to redo this to fit right.

Brass feather/leaf ear cuff

It all started so simply.

Wearing the leaf/feather ear cuff
And it fit!
Ear cuff with green bead

Then there was a variation. With a bead.

Several feather/leaf ear cuffs, all slightly different

And then there were more. (These are just some of the non-rejects.)

Ear cuffs in a row. Silver with feather; brass with beads (and without).

Ear cuffs in a row. Silver with feather; brass with beads (and without

A pair of brass feather/leaf ear cuffs

A favorite pair.

Ear cuff with thinner wire wrapped around it, making a vining look.

Adding some thin wire wrapped around the main frame added some additional viney leafy bits.

Ear cuffs with multiple, layered leaf shapes

A friend suggested wrapping some excess wire back up the shape, and creating layered leaves. Needs a little refining (I dislike the indentation along the edge), but I really like the layered look.

With bonus not-ear cuff wire work:

Wire necklace made from "weaving" wire together.

This was inspired by the wire mesh I made for the sink, as well as Elise Matheson's fabulous necklace-crowns.

WordPress hates when I try to put links in captions, apparently, so let’s try that again: here is Elise’s blog (go find “new shinies” and “shiny sale” posts for jewelry goodness); here are photos of a necklace-crown.