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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Handmade Copper Jewelry from JCUIN guild

The temperature here has started to cool off at last.  It reminds us that fall is coming soon, with those beautiful warm oranges and browns.  So I went looking for a few copper pieces from the members of the ArtFire JCUIN guild and I found some very unique pieces.  With the price of silver rising at exponential levels recently, copper is becoming a more attractive medium to many.   These pieces are all handmade, and some are one of a kind.

Peruvian Opal Turquoise Gemstone Copper Boho Bib Statement Necklace

I love the exotic look of this Peruvian Opal Necklace above by Epicetera.  In addition to the Peruvian opal triangles, it has lots of copper and little turquoise accent beads.  And the price is a steal.  By the way, Epicetera, I love the banner in your ArtFire shop!

Copper Tubes Czech Picasso Glass Earrings Handmade OOAK Long Dangly

These unusual earrings above look like they have gemstones, but they're actually Czech Picasso glass beads.  They are called Swinger Earrings, and you can find them in Catherine's shop of Shadow Dog Designs.  I hope Catherine's East coast studio has ridden out the recent storm ok.

The above necklace is called Rain On My Window, and it features a rather large copper focal piece with a wonderful turquoise colored patina.  The turquoise beads appear to perfectly match the patina on the pendant.  This necklace is from the ladies at Faye Lyn Adornments, who are neither Faye nor Lyn.  I'm wondering about that patina, and whether or not they used the used kitty litter method (lol!).

Jasper Bead Necklace and Earrings

I like the necklace above because of it's simplicity and it's soft colors.  It is called Jasper Bead Necklace, and you can find it in the Strega Jewellry shop along with a matching pair of earrings.  The artist says jasper is protective, and you will feel warm, safe, and secure when you wear this necklace.  The nice warm colors certainly convey that.

Copper Domed Earrings, Verigated Patina, Hematite Beads, Celtic

Here are some Domed Copper Earrings with hematite beads by the artists at Gaelic Forge.  These earrings have  a gorgeous patina.   I think patinas must be one of their specialties.  

Copper Heart Earrings, Niobium wires

These Copper Heart Earrings, above, are made from copper clay, and can be found in my shop, Shanghai Tai.  Another thing that's interesting about these earrings is that even though the ear wires look copper, they are actually annodized niobium.  Niobium is a relative of titanium, and is actually extremely hypoallergenic.

This is just a small sample of all the handmade copper jewelry that is available by the members of the JCUIN (Jewelry Creators Unite in Numbers) guild on ArtFire.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Learning the hard way

Is anybody out there?

This is my first post here.  I'm moving my blog from my Artfire shop to Blogger so that people can actually subscribe to it.  (Imagine a blog that people could actually subscribe to!)

I would like to do a blog for my customers, but I realize that right now I am mostly followed by other jewelry designers, so I will try and have something for both of you.

The last few days I spent working on a piece to submit to Holly Gage's 2012 calender, the Art and Design of Metal Clay Jewelry.  I had what I thought was a brilliant idea.  The problem is I'm a procrastinator.  I spent too much time planning, and didn't leave myself enough extra time for all the unplanned problems that I always run into.  So, I didn't get it done in time to submit it, but since I didn't, I guess I have no problem showing what I'm working on.

Here was my inspiration, Crescent Moon Lake at Mingsha Shan (Singing Sands Mountain) in the Gobi desert outside Dunhuang:

Crescent Lake at Mingsha, Dunhuang, China

Anyway, I was looking at pictures of Mingsha online, some better than the one I took, and I could just see the bronze sand, the copper pagoda, and the silver crescent lake.  Wouldn't that make a great pendant?

So anyway, I drew it out a few times until I got the design the way I wanted it.  First I made the pagoda in copper.  I started with a mold and ended up modifying it.  I let it dry.  I had considered firing the copper pagoda first and then firing the bronze, but I found online an article by Judy Weers from the 2010 PMC conference about how to fire copper and bronze together.  

I wanted a layered look, so I cut out the foreground and the background out of bronze clay.  I carefully inserted the dry, unfired pagoda where I wanted it and cut out the lake by hand with a pointy tool:

I then let them dry.  Aren't the colors beautiful?

Meanwhile, I realized what I had overlooked, which turned out to be my downfall here.  The instructions for firing bronze and copper didn't necessarily apply, because the new package of bronze I had just opened was Fast Fire Bronze, which I had never used before.  Apparently you have to test the crap out of this stuff!  You have to fire it, then check it for blisters (which means it got too hot), and bend it to see if it got fired all the way through.  I had to end up doing three firings -- the first two weren't hot enough.  

Meanwhile I put an edge around it and made the bail.  Here it is, ready to go in the kiln.  You can see two sand dunes behind it and the sun setting.  I also made some little waves in the sand and the bail.

Now, I finally got this fired and it came out of the kiln looking good, but by now it was 10:30, and my deadline was midnight, and I still had to put silver in the lake.  After brushing it, I put it in my tumbler to clean it up and burnish it.  It was looking good, but I didn't have time to take a picture, because I had to get the silver in it.  The only weird thing was that the copper pretty much looked like the bronze.  You really couldn't tell the difference unless you looked closely.  I don't know why that is, unless the fast fire has more copper in it than the regular?  But even my test pieces looked more golden colored than this did.

Now, I am very ADHD, and I lose everything that can't ring when it's called.  I had seen an article in Art Jewelry Magazine about inlaying silver solder into copper or bronze.  Of course, I couldn't find the article.  I even looked online.  Turns out it's in the January 2010 issue.  I was sure it was more recent than that.  Meanwhile I misplaced my wire solder after having it in my hand (found it while writing this article).  So I decided to use paste solder because I didn't have time to mess around.  I'm not very good at soldering yet.  Apparently this is NOT a good use for paste solder.  I fluxed the inside of the lake well and stuck some dabs of paste solder in there.  I probably should have heated it from below, but apparently the real problem was the paste solder.  Instead of flowing, it tried to ball up into a ball.  I freaked out when it started rising up off the pendant like it was growing.    Anyway the only thing I succeeded in doing was balling up the solder and turning my pendant black.  By now it was about 11:30 pm and there was no way I was going to make my deadline.  Here it is after the disaster:

So right now it's in the pickle, trying to get the black off it.  If I ever get it done (which might be a long time from now if my soldering skills don't improve) I'll post the picture.