Friday 27 February 2015

8/52 - April Showers

Yes, I know, I'm late with this challenge piece! This could be a long blog post :)

So are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!!

Last weekend I was teaching a one-to-one Art Clay Level 1 Diploma certification workshop (well done Frann Healey on passing!!). The very first piece made is a fairly straight forward textured pendant with a stone set with syringe. The problem with teaching these workshops all the while is what to do with the pieces I make when I demo. Sometimes I don't fire them and reconstitute them, but on this occasion I made the centre piece of this pendant. During the workshop I also made a top piece with a bail on the back, and some raindrops which were attached with chain. The top piece had a little bit of gold added with the keum boo method after firing.

If you are following my challenge this year you'll know I have a list! Well fairly near the top of that list is making necklaces using beading wire and crimp beads. I've never done this!! I have read up on it often, and really struggle to get my head around those daft little crimp tubes being strong enough to hold a necklace together properly to make the piece saleable!! Whenever I have contemplated going that way, I always end up reverting back to wire or chain for necklaces. (Better the devil you know??!). I know the system must work!! There are many amazing artists out there stringing stuff together. My good friend Lynne Glazzard does it, and boy, if there is anyone who would be sure the system worked securely before using it then I know it would be Lynne. If in doubt on the strength of something she'll hit it with a hammer to check first!! ;) She probably added a one ton weight to the end of her first strung piece to check it!! lol

So there was my nice little pendant waiting for a strung necklace. I debated, looked at it, found a load of other things to do, generally procrastinated, and started another challenge piece!! I even photographed the pendant (above) on a ready made necklace and wondered if I could get away with it as my challenge piece!! It is a fairly simple pendant though, where was the challenge in that? 

During the week Frann and I were in email contact after her workshop. I had told her my plan for the piece she saw me make, and she kept asking how it was going!! Yikes, I felt I had to do it!! So today, with the next challenge piece already in the kiln firing, I decided it was time to stop being a wimp and to get on and make a necklace. 

And guess what... these things are soooo much easier if you just start them!! Why hadn't I done this before? It wasn't a difficult thing to do. And now I think I might do a lot more, because I really enjoyed it!!! Ha, ha, can see why I started this challenge for the year.

I pulled out a load of beads of suitable colours from my large (but mostly untouched!) bead stash. Of course, having never done this before there was a learning curve.

Firstly, I now know I need one of those plastic bead board things. Beads rolling all over the table is not good. I also know that it is not worth crawling around the floor for each seed bead dropped, the hoover can have them!! :D And I know I seriously need to sort out the bead stash!! Too much rummaging through plastic bags.

As I had no sensible way of laying the beads out I just went for it on a design. I did have sufficient forethought to put a matching bead into a dish for every bead I used though. This meant once I added the pendant in the centre the second side was much easier to make replicating the first one. I wouldn't claim it is the most wonderful necklace, but I learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The necklace is really quite sparkly, but I just couldn't manage to capture that in the photos.

I was especially pleased to include the four large flat freshwater pearls. They came from a bag of pearls I bought when we were on holiday in China in 2003!! I've never used any of them before! The mix included real pearls, Swarovski pearls, Swarovski crystals, seed beads and handmade lampwork beads by Laura Sparling.

On the plus side while I was messing around and not getting on with this I started my next challenge piece. It is already fired and now needs finishing, so yay, I'm back up to date again! Next challenge post will be Sunday/Monday time :)

I mentioned earlier that I made this pendant while teaching. I love teaching one-to-one workshops, and Frann did so well on her Level 1 Diploma. She even had time to made a more elaborate brooch based on my mask pendants. We adapted the making techniques to fit the Diploma criteria and I think she made a great job of it!! Here are all the pieces that she made. 

If you are interested in doing a workshop with me do get in touch!! :D


...have fun!

Joy x

Thursday 19 February 2015

7/52 - Inner Sanctum

One of the things on my challenge list for the year is to make more open-work pieces, so this week I made a hollow pendant with an open design on the front. I really enjoy this type of intricate work. It needs a gentle touch and a steady hand, plus a good dose of patience!! I didn't have any design worked out in advance for this pendant, so I just added things as I went along to see where it would all end up.

After firing I added some enamel - not a lot!! I think this must be one of the most minimal amounts I've added to a piece! (All this being restrained with colour is starting to go a bit far!! I'll have to make something joyfully bright and riotous soon!!.)

I also added 24k gold inside the pendant using the keum boo technique. It was a bit tricky to get inside a VERY hot piece of silver with a burnisher to get the gold to fuse, and it was made more difficult by me deciding to place my raised Joy logo tags inside the pendant on that side!! Now if I had only thought ahead a bit maybe I could of made my life a bit easier...ho hum... :D

Finally I patinated it and polished it up to accentuate the texture. 

 The back of the pendant has the same texture.

I wanted to add a beaded chain to finish the piece off,  so yesterday I popped down to Stone Corner in the Old Town of Hastings to see what I could find that would complement it. I'm very fortunate to have this lovely shop in my home town. I took the pendant with me so I could see what went well with it. I decided on a mix garnet and carnelian beads. As I had already chosen the name for the piece - Inner Sanctum - I was also pleased with the properties associated with these two gemstones. (I'll leave you to look them up if you are interested ;) )

What should of been a fairly simple job to make the chain took me longer than expected. The holes in the garnets were a bit too narrow for the wire I wanted to use, so in the end I reamed each bead out to increase the hole size. Laborious but worth it!! 

Here's a photo of the beading in progress.  ;)

Taking photos to show the gold inside proved to be a bit of a headache, I hope you can see the idea of it. My photography is one area I want to really nail during this year. I think I'm getting there with it now :)

Having been out to buy the beads for this piece, of course I came back with several other things that I didn't need, but couldn't resist!! So you can expect to see some of these making an appearance during the year!

One of them even has a surprise rainbow in it!! :D Making something to show that off will be a REAL challenge!!

Have fun!

Joy x

Wednesday 11 February 2015

6/52 Chain Sampler

I had fun making this! It's a conglomeration of various different links I've been working on. I've made it into a sampler as I will be to teaching this as a one day workshop :) Some links are made with just silver wire, some just silver clay and some are a combination of the two. Some are based on links I've used in challenge pieces already this year (can you see there was a cunning plan there???). Here is a photo of some of those chains. I really love the 'coral' beads here (well really it is the more environmentally friendly dyed sea bamboo).

I think I'll be adding to the Sampler Chain as I go along. I already have ideas for more varieties of chain links!

Making chains has really taken me back to revisit my past though. Many moons ago, before I ever encountered metal clay, I used to make enamelled jewellery and handmade chains as a hobby. Chain making can be a repetitive task and does require patience, but I always found it really therapeutic. Soldering lots of silver rings, forming the links, assembling the whole chain - I loved the whole process. The thrill of holding a finished handmade chain is still there!! ;)

I went searching back and found these photos from about 12 years ago of some of the silver chains I used to make.

The challenge now for me is to incorporate metal clay more and more into my chain making, and I'm liking the mix of traditional and modern techniques!

Have fun!

Joy x

Wednesday 4 February 2015

5/52 - Esotericness

This week's challenge piece is a rock crystal wand set into a fine silver mount. It has three 2mm lab rubies around the top of the mount and a 3mm lab ruby cabochon in the front.

I bought this crystal wand about 3 years ago and there are some really attractive inclusions in it. As ever I had great plans for it and started to make a mount for it using Art Clay Silver. I soon realised my idea would not work so gave up, and there it sat.

So, of course, the wand went onto my challenge list for this year!! In my mind I decided I was going to use snakes of silver, but would make a plain base first to add them onto. As you can see that all changed once I started creating!! This piece was very much designed on the hoof! :)

In this photo you can see the inclusions quite well. 

I find it all rather fascinating. To my eyes the inclusions appear as a flat pattern, but as you turn it they always look more or less the same. 

Part of the challenge of this was that whilst the wand looks like quite an even cut in the photos it is in fact quite skew-whiff so I had to take care to get the decoration on the mount in the right places. The mount is not a symmetrical shape at all!

I fired the mount and set the wand into it after it was polished and patinated. 

All the while I was making this I felt it had a regal look to it. I really love the medieval period and I think a bit of the essence of that has gotten into this piece. When I posted this onto Facebook a couple of people mentioned the Knights of the Round Table as well :) I'm delighted it has that kind of look to it.

One thing I did learn was that photographing rock crystal is not easy!! I think I took about 80 shots to find the ones that worked. Thank goodness for digital cameras!! :)

The back of the mount has my little Joy logo on it. 

Finally I made a beaten silver ring to hang it from...

...and after taking all the photos and sorting out the ones to use I realised I had forgotten to patinate the ring!!! So there it is, the ring and chain still need a patina to make them look a bit more antique and match the rest of the piece!! 

I will do that before it goes to a new home!!!

Now to think about my next challenge piece. Normally I am already thinking one week ahead, but this week I have not decided, so I'm off to consult that list again!

Have fun!

Joy x

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