Final SOS Prep

It is a perfect spring day, and soon I will need to get dressed and haul the rest of my stuff to the Asylum, but everything is packed (I am sure of it) and ready to go. I took the big display pieces over last night, and also the pieces I made at Yestermorrow last summer, the only pieces that count as just art.

Wire trees embedded in a chunk of the branch that fell into our yard during the winter.

This morning I am taking all the jewelry and my boxes of beads and rolls of wire (so I have something to fidget with). Like now. Now would be good.


Brass wire can cut itself

This weekend was productive, and I learned several new things.

Like how to wrap wire around tiny books.

And that, if you wrap thin brass wire around more thin brass wire, and then use your pliers to smash the coils flat, and you use enough force, the coils will cut through the wire they are coiled around.

So I will be redoing that piece.

It was only 90% perfect anyway. And I can probably reuse parts of it.

See that bent bit on the right edge? That's not supposed to be nearly cut in two.

I started making some new displays for earrings and pendants. I still don’t have a good method for the necklaces, but in the process of making the new hanging displays, I ended up with a tiny wire bird, about the right size to be incorporated into wire necklaces, although this particular bird seems quite attached to the display. Oh no, I shall have to make another! Or, perhaps, an entire flock.

Two necklaces and some experiments in wire wrapping tiny books.

Yes, those little messy looking tangles of brass are for the books, and the blue thing is a book, so there’s some scale for you.

The skin on several of my fingers is covered all over with what look like very light cuts. I am pretty sure it is just from using my soft, uncalloused fingers to pull and bend thin brass and stainless steel (there was a lot of that in the display) over and over again. It’s pretty remarkable; my fingertips look like they were on the verge of losing a papercut war. Clearly I need to spend more time at this, and build up tougher skin.


Next: Somerville Open Studios and beyond

The Spring Fever Market was fun! A bit cold, but I can’t complain about having a table in between a chocolate maker and the great and wonderful seller of cider donuts.

We had quite a lot of people ask if we’d be back in May; the answer is still “Don’t know, no plans as of yet . . . ”

I, however, will definitely be at Artisan’s Asylum in just over a week for the Open Studios. We are number 99 on the map, and are conveniently located on Joy St., a short walk from the Joy Street Studios, which has several of its members showing work at their location. Parking on the street is free! And we’re on the trolley route!!

I have a particular necklace idea I want to finish by then, as well as what might be a really awesome display for pendants and earrings, made from a chunk of the massive tree branch that fell in our backyard during the first big snowstorm of the winter. It’s got some really fantastic patches of lichen on it.

I’m also working on making more earrings along the lines of these:

Three pairs of wire earrings, shaped like vines, with glass beads dangling at the end.

Three pairs of "Little Vines" earrings, awaiting ear wires. Brass or stainless steel, plus glass beads.

Earrings made with wire shaped into two spirals, with glass beads dangling from them.

Stainless steel and some of my favorite glass leaf beads.

Earrings with wire spirals and glass dangles

Sterling silver spirals and glass beads.

I’m finding that I can only make 3 or 4 pairs of the spirally kind in a session, because at that point I run out of patience for getting both earrings to have the same shape. I need to develop some really good jigs and clamps, I think.

Also coming up, I’m donating some work to Jumpstart’s Literacy Olympics, happening May 11, so I have that to work on. My original thought was to make some pieces similar to what I already have, but then I got to thinking about the subject of the event.

And then I went looking for book charms, and I found some really neat ones!

And then . . .

I found tiny books.


I was so excited by the impending arriving of the TINY BOOKS!!!! that as soon as I could lay hands on my wire, I mocked up a tiny book out of some cardboard and started to work out how to incorporate one into jewelry. Without damaging it. Or letting it get lost. But still being accessible for writing tiny notes in it (these are blank books).

It’s probably a good thing they won’t get here before the weekend (maybe. maybe not), because there is work I need to get done for the Open Studios.

Although . . . I am getting several tiny books. So I could probably do some work using them and have it available during Open Studios, too.


Post-Arisa post

So I had a table in the Arisia Art Show! And that was exciting. Also cold. Really really cold. Fortunately, I only had to be there to set it up and take it down again, but that was quite enough freezing every bit of exposed skin (hands, face) for one weekend.

I sold 3 pairs of earrings and 1 ear cuff, and that was also exciting. And not cold at all.

I think I may have worked out a reasonable table setup, assuming I don’t have many, many pendants and pairs of earrings and ear cuffs, because if I did, I’d have to work out some kind of more vertical setup.

Left end of the Arisia table

Middle of the Arisia table

Right end of the Arisia table

Elsewhere at the con (Fabric Dragon), I acquired several strands of lovely beads, including some small sodalite spheres that I think will work well for more of the “Cosmology” type earrings, and some gorgeous cylindrical fluorite beads (a gift, though from the same source).

I also bought a pair of fingerless gloves, made of bubble silk, which are pretty much the best thing ever.

My intention, when I visited Reyen Design Studios, was to buy a skirt, because I wanted to last year and didn’t quite feel up to spending the money then.

But they had these fingerless gloves made of this weird puckered silk, and I tried them on, and thought about how miserably cold my wrists and hands are at work all. the. time, either because there is cold air blowing on me all. the. time, or because my wrist is resting on the surface of the desk, and even a layer of shirt – or two! – is not enough to shield me from absorbing the coldness of the desk and making my arm hurt.

I ended up with one of the long pairs, in shades of deep and bright green. I figured they would give me ample wrist and hand coverage, and covering the rest of my forearms couldn’t be a bad thing, right? Also, they are the right shades of green to go with my silly green ball gown, which is completely sleeveless.

It took a few days post-con to remember to take them to work, but I am now convinced I need a couple more pairs, in other colors. Not that the green doesn’t work reasonably well with most of my wardrobe, but, well. Black would go with everything, and if I could get some in some shades of brown/beige/gold/brick red or something, I would be all set.

Anyway, they are awesome. Very comfortable, shield the tops of my hands from the evil cold breeze, and my wrists, and provide another barrier between my arm and the cold desk surface.

I did also buy a skirt. Not in the shades of green or blue or greyish purple that I expected (and there was a really lovely purpley grey skirt, all the shades of the evening), but one with a primarily orange layer and a primarily red layer. It looks like a fire.

All in all, it was a good con, except for the frigid temperatures in some of the public spaces, and I will likely do more art shows.


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.


Progress towards Arisia

So I have a table in the Arisia art show, and not enough work to fill it. I’ve made some progress towards that in recent weeks; the previous post showed a couple of necklaces in the Spring Rites series, which will be in the show.

Anyway, this week, my office was closed for the holidays, so I’ve made some more things! Pendants, even. And another (slightly different) version of my original Spring Rites necklace.

The tiara is entirely new this week.

Wire-wrapped pendants. The pinkish-grey oval is imperial jasper. No clue about the other stones!

The wire on the pendants is all stainless steel, but I am feeling like I am finally ready to see how the sterling silver I have on hand goes.

I’m also not wild about the jasper pendant. It’s a nice enough stone that it really doesn’t need any special treatment or accent. Also I hate that with the addition of the leaf on the bottom, it’s just a long piece.  Maybe I should bend the leaf up so it wraps around the bottom; I don’t know.

I think one of my biggest problems going forward is going to be naming things. I have a HUGE list of names for Spring Rites items, and selecting from that is going to be its own painful process. Coming up with names for random pendants, though, beyond “Stone Pendant 24,” argh.

And yes, it has crossed my mind to just go find a random name generator and use that! Random drow elf names, random Martian names, whatever.


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 tiara is just an upside-down necklace

So a couple of weeks ago, during Building the Asylum, I walked in on the end of a conversation between a couple of people – I caught the words “diva” and “need a tiara!” and had to ask one of the participants who it was who needed a tiara, her or him.

At that point, I was merely amused.

She said she needed one.

Then part of my brain had a flash of inspiration, and so I asked, “Really? Because I could make you one,” and decided to interpret her response (uncontrolled laughter) as approval and encouragement, while simultaneously trying to work out how to actually make it. It seemed like it shouldn’t be that much different than wire necklaces, right?

Eventually I did get some actual words, to the effect that sparkly pink was Right Out, but stainless steel and black were good ideas (we have Internets in the space; I pointed her to some photos on the blog).

So I did some sketches at StrowlerCon, and took a couple of hours a week later to put it all together. I am always surprised by how long it takes to wind wire around other wire; the main structure took about an hour, but all the fiddly bits to finish it up took almost as much time!

Tiara sketch with beads laid over it

A final sketch - on paper towels, because I forgot to bring trace paper - with some beads laid on top of it to see how those might look.

Completed tiara, formed by bending stainless steel wire and wiring glass and lava beads to it.

The completed tiara. The large bead is lava; the small ones are glass.

I used 20 ga stainless steel for the main structure, and 22 ga stainless for the windings around the structure, and to attach the big bead. The 22 ga was too heavy to attach the small beads, so I ended up using some 24? 26? ga tinned copper to attach those. Note to self: Order some smaller gauge stainless!

Closeup image of parts of the tiara, focusing on the small gauge wire and beads.

I really like how the thin wire, repeated enough, becomes an additional decorative element, background to the beads and general overall form. It keeps surprising me when that happens.

Jamie wearing her tiara


Conclusion: really not that much different from the necklaces, though forming the base into the right shape was a lot trickier.


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.


Mitsuro jewelry

I learned about mitsuro earlier today, browsing the jewelry section of the website of the man scheduled to teach a workshop on contact juggling at StrowlerCon. (CONTACT JUGGLING OMG. ahem)

It’s a technique that uses wax to form a piece, but instead of carving the wax, you warm and stretch and pull it and.


Wow, does he make some amazing work using that technique.  I love the organic look, and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite, because I could hardly stop staring at any of them long enough to click “next.”