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Monday, December 1, 2014

A Clasp To Hold It

One  of the great things about handmade jewelry is how an artist can give a unique twist to certain components of a piece.  Often that is a clasp.  There are many different kinds of clasps, and when it comes to handmade jewelry, you can find some interesting twists (both literally and figuratively.)

Clasps are sort of the "unsung heroes" of a piece of jewelry, because, after all, they do the work of holding the piece together!   I decided to go looking through the Artfire shops of the Jewelry Creators United in Numbers (JCUIN) guild and see if I could find some clasp inspiration.  

Wire Wrapped Malachite Bracelet, Artisan Station Chain Handmade Clasp
Spring loaded clasp, handmade by Boho Wire Wrapped
Rodochrosite and Sterling Silver 4 Stone Link Bracelet brchk2239
Toggle clasp by Lunar Skies

The idea came to me earlier today when I happened across this incredible clasp.  Sadly, Margaret of Boho Wire Wrapped is no longer with us, but this clasp shows just a bit of her amazing wire-wrapping skills.  Her family is keeping the shop open to sell what remains of her wonderful wire-wrapped treasures.

The toggle clasp is very common in handmade jewelry.  Most of them are purchased.  What makes this one special is that it looks slightly different and I'm pretty sure that Quentin of Lunar Skies made this one himself.  

Leather and Gemstone Bead Wrap Bracelet Lemon Jade Celtic Button Clasp
Button clasp, bracelet by Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs

While this clasp is not handmade, it is a nice adaptation, and a way to recycle an odd, lone button.  This bracelet, by Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs, is a great example of a button clasp.  These are especially popular in wrap around bracelets like this one.

Mother of Pearl Swirl Pendant on Kumihimo Braided Necklace
Sprial clasp by Meant 2B Cherished (M2BC)

Here is an example of one of the many spiral type clasps that wire wrappers love to do.  These clasps are simple, elegant, and unique because each one is made by hand.  This necklace is by M2BC (Meant 2B Cherished).  Finding this was a pleasant surprise, because it is a departure from her usual fused glass pendants (which are also pleasant to be sure!)

Argentium Silver Byzantine Bracelet
Hook and eye clasp by Wagoner Wire Works
Now we've all seen hook and eye clasps, they're fairly common.  Some are handmade and some are store bought, mass-produced.  This one, by Wagoner Wire Works, is handmade.  It is also unique in that the eye part has a sort twisted and hammered look to it.

Oak Leaf Toggle Designer Clasp .925 Sterling Silver Handmade in U.S.A.
Sterling leaf toggle clasp by Shanghai Tai

There are many variations on the basic toggle clasp, including geometric designs, flowers, leaves and animals.  Most are cast and store bought.  Here is a handmade toggle clasp from Shanghai Tai with an oak leaf motif.

Thank you to the members of the JCUIN guild on Artfire for providing the inspiration for this blog.  I know looking at clasps inspires me to be more creative with mine.  So I hope next time you are looking at a piece of jewelry, you will notice the unsung hero, the clasp.

Friday, October 31, 2014

In the Studio video

Just finished a new video.  I have been wanting to do something like this to take to shows so people can see a little bit of how I make things.  Of course, I just used some pictures that I had on hand.  Anyway, here it is:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jewelry Photos for Collections

It's true, I am not a professional photographer.  The impetus for this post is the fact that I do collections on Artfire.  They are a great way to promote your work, because the people featured in the collection will promote the collection on social media.  If your collection is good, you may be lucky enough to see it on the front page of Artfire, or in the Artfire daily email.  The same can be said for Etsy treasuries.  Sometimes I see an item that I would really love to include in my collection but I can't because it's out of focus, too dark, too cluttered, etc.

When I do a collection, it always has a theme.  Once I choose the theme, I go looking for items that fit that theme.  I want to be able to clearly see the item, in focus, and not anything else that might distract me from the item.   One of my big things is cropping, because those photos are soooo small, the item needs to take up the space.  So, even though I have done this before, I thought I'd see what I could do with a few photos and my Photoshop.  I use version CS2, which is a public domain version, so you can get it for free.  There are many other programs available also.  So I took a few items from the Jewelry Creators Unite in Numbers (JCUIN) guild.  I hope none of you mind that I edited your pictures, and if you would like a copy, let me know.  I am purposely showing small pictures here because that is what you see in a collection.

First is a pair of beaded earrings from Shirley's Nook and Cranny.  Here is the original photo, right.  I like the color combination of the earrings, but I think the picture is a little dark.  Also, maybe it's just me, but those dark corners drive me nuts!  I wanted to brighten it up a bit, but since I had so much going in the background, I decided just to drop the background out of it.  (That was a lot more work than I bargained for because of those little sparkly bits in there.)

Here is the edited version at left.  After I got the background out, I made it square.  (More on why later.)  Now I know about the rule of thirds in photography, and it is a good rule.  However, when you have a little thumbnail of an image, I think you want to make maximum use of your space.  So I rotated the image to take up more of the canvas.  I also brightened it up and put in a slightly graduated background.  (A plain white background would have been fine too.)

This next one I really didn't do much to.  It is a bracelet from Plethora of Jewelry.  I like the organic look of the stones.  I also like the composition, and the fact that it wasn't shot from straight over the bracelet.  The lower angle makes gives more dimension, or depth to the image.  The problem, as I see it, is the very harsh shadows caused by bright backlighting. The back of the beads are lit up nicely, but the fronts are in such shadow that you really can't see them well.  
I couldn't really fix this one as well as I would have liked.   What I did was use the highlights/shadows tool to brighten the shadows and darken the highlights.  This gives it less contrast (it doesn't "pop" off the page how I like it to.)  But you can see the beads better.  I also used the spot healing brush tool to get rid of a few little lint or cat hairs that you can see in the original.  Fabric always runs the risk of getting linty, but some are much worse than others.  You don't notice it when you take the picture, but when you blow it up on your computer screen, there it is larger than life!!

Here is a stunning pendant by Artistic Creations by Rose.  The original photo is at left.  In a thumbnail, it's hard to see the pendant because of all the other things in the picture.  The subject is only taking up about 1/9th of the image even though the photograph itself looks great.  The border might keep it out of a collection on things that are round, multicolored, etc.

Basically all I did was crop this one, so you can more easily see the beautiful pendant.  I may have upped the contrast a bit, because I just can't resist doing that.  Now the pendant is the center of attention.  I would love to put this photo in a [round, spiral, twist, fiery] collection, wouldn't you?


 Now more on squares.  Here is a pendant necklace by Joyce's Custom Gems.  As you can see, it is a vertical picture because she is trying to show the whole necklace.  People do want to see the whole thing.  If you show a vertical image, however, you don't want it to be your very first picture.  The first image is automatically cropped into a square thumbnail, which is the first thing your customers see.  In this case, it actually crops out part of her pendant, but leaves the entire chain.

Here is her image cropped into a square (and brightened up), so that when you are on her main page you can see the entire pendant.  You can also still see the little fish accent as well.  Then if a person wants to see more, they can click on the second (original) photo to see the entire chain.

Lastly, here is a bracelet from Tearis's Art Gallery.  This one also results in the very bottom of the key getting cropped out of the thumbnail, but I didn't want to drop the background of of this one too.  The main problem is that it's so dark.  Also the fact that the image goes off of the background causes some distracting edges.

If I really wanted to put a lot of effort into this, I would drop out the background, drop the image into a square canvas and rotate it like I did the first pair of earrings.  But in this case I wanted to show you what a difference it makes when we just brighten it up.   I used the shadows/highlights option and then the brightness/contrast.  Then I couldn't resist using the clone tool to copy and paste little sections of background over those distracting edges.

I hope that you guys don't mind that I messed with your photos, and I hope you like what I did.  Of course, it's better (and a lot easier) to do these things with the camera than trying to edit it later.  Sometimes it's easier just to re-shoot it.  And one thing that must be done with the camera is to get your pictures in focus.  Some of these pictures are very low-resolution (small files) so that is another reason for keeping the pictures small here.  Beginning in October 2014, it's my understanding we will all have the zoom feature on Artfire, so that's another reason to shoot some higher resolution photos.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Volunteering at the Gallery

The other day I spent the afternoon volunteering at the gallery, so I took some glass cabs and wire along with me.  With all the pendants sitting there, I just had to take a picture, so I thought I'd share what I got accomplished:

These are all either copper, Argentium sterling, or gold filled.  Now I just have to photograph and list them.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Boho Chic Jewelry

Years ago, when I first heard of "boho chic", I didn't really know what it meant.  But after seeing the word used a few times, I got the idea.  At some point I went and looked it up to see if it actually meant what I thought it did.  According to Wikipedia, boho chic is a style that draws on "various Bohemian and Hippie influences."  It defines Bohemianism as "the practice of an unconventional lifestyle."  

A busload of hippies.
Get a haircut you damn, dirty, hippie!

Now, no one needs to define the word hippie for me.  I was a child during the 60's, and I know (and love) the hippy look.  But for those of you who don't know, it was a lifestyle back in the 60's.  To say it was a subculture may be an understatement.  I think it was an entire generation.  Think pot, LSD, psychedelic music, psychedelic clothes, flower power, love beads, peace signs and fringe.  I think probably what started it was the reaction of young adults to the Vietnam War, but it spread to other countries as well.  It reached it's peak in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the late sixties.

Janis Joplin

Of course, rebelling against the war doesn't entirely explain the fashion style.  Part of the fashion was definitely rebellion.  Men grew their hair long and didn't shave.  The natural look was certainly in, which was pretty much the total opposite of the early 60s.  Another influence was when the Beatles went to India to visit the Maharishi.  Add psychedelic drugs to the mix and stir it all together and you have hippie fashion.  Now, I'm just speculating at all of this, so if anyone wants to correct me, feel free.  (I'm too lazy to do the research!  Oh, did I say lazy?  I mean busy!)

The Beatles and the Maharishi - notice the beads!

Brown Cotton Macrame Bracelet with Rhinestone in Silver
Bracelet by Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs
The hippie jewelry was not expensive.  I'm sure quite a bit of it was homemade.  Macrame was in for plant holders and jewelry too.  

This macrame bracelet looks very much like something a hippie might have.  Although the large rhinestone might be a little on the fancy side.  A hippie might be more likely to have one or more 
cheap colorful beads.
Om Raku Pendant Necklace Handmade Jasper Gemstone Swarovski Jewelry
Necklace by Shadow Dog Designs

I still remember the necklace I used to wear all the time.  I had a yellow shirt and the pendant was orange.  It was round.  It may very likely have been a peace sign.  I'm sure I still have it packed away in a box somewhere.  Even though this one isn't a peace sign, the om would fit right in too (reminiscent of the maharishi!)

Triple chain charm anklet
Ankle Bracelet by Joyce's Custom Gems
We've all heard how hippies didn't like to bathe.  Actually I'm pretty sure that, even though they may not have had a bathtub, they did like to go skinny dipping!  They didn't necessarily like to wear shoes, or even any clothes at all.  That's why I couldn't resist including this bare foot with the ankle bracelet here.

Boho Beaded "Jesus Saves" Inspirational Wrap Bracelet
Bracelet by Allen Designs by Michelle
This bracelet looked hippie to me because of all the different beads that have been incorporated with one focal piece.  Like, yeah, I've got a bunch of beads, so let's throw them all together! (No offense, it looks great!) Although a true hippie would have a peace sign for the focal piece.

Filigree Earrings Boho Chic Gold Pearl Iris Crystals Niobium Ear Wires
Earrings by Shanghai Tai

Long and flowing is definitely a hippie mantra, especially when it came to hair.  "Let it all hang out!"  Dangling and eclectic, these earrings would fit in at the commune.  Even though these pearls are very organic looking rather than expensive, a real hippie probably would have some kind of bead other than a pearl.  These have a bit of a gypsy vibe, which was definitely "in".

Silver Lined Teal Tube Beaded Chevron Patterned Dangle Beaded Earrings
Earrings by Specialtivity
Ok, now for the pièce 
de résistance, in my opinion:


As I was looking through fringed, seed beed earrings for a pair to include it was almost like I went back in time for a second.  I remember the pair I had.  They were kind of grey, and I think all one color.  This pair looks a little nicer than mine.  Mine were really cheap, and I'm sure they were made in Japan.

What happened to the hippies?  The war ended and I guess they all grew up.  I like to think there's a little hippie still left inside all of us.    I don't know about you, but this has certainly inspired me to go dig out some hippie clothes and see if I can find my old jewelry!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Peculiarities of Pearls

If you know me, you know that I love pearls and make a lot of pearl jewelry.  So I am going to share with you a few of the many,  many different kinds of pearls that are out there. 

Real Pearl wire on a sterling silver Heart

Sterling silver ring by Zoomgraphik

But first, a little about the two basic kinds of pearls:  saltwater and freshwater.  Pearls are formed when an irritation gets inside a mollusk (an oyster or a clam).  If the pearl comes from a mollusk that lives in saltwater, the pearl is a saltwater pearl, also known as a sea pearl.  Freshwater pearls come from mollusks that live in freshwater. 

Near Round Freshwater Pearls - Bracelet by Diane's Dangles

Salt water pearls tend to be larger and rounder than freshwater pearls.  Sometimes they also may be round with a little point on top.  Tahitian, South Sea, and Australian pearls are all types of saltwater pearls.  They will naturally come in white, dark silvery grey/peacock grey, pale pinks or even gold.  

  Freshwater pearls tend to be smaller, on average, than the sea pearls.  They also often have kind of a squashed shape, more rice/oval shaped, or almost round but a little squashed on the bottom.  Freshwater pearls are much more affordable than saltwater pearls, so you see them much more frequently in handmade jewelry.

This shows the typical "squashed" look common in FW Pearls

A natural pearl is a pearl that is found naturally in the wild.  A cultured pearl means that the mollusk was induced by man to produce the pearl by inserting a nucleus, usually made from a small piece of shell.  Natural pearls are very rare, so almost all pearls available are cultured pearls.  The most prized shape is perfectly round, even though most pearls are not perfectly round. 

Pearl Hoop Earrings, Hoop Earrings,  Dusty Mint Green, Hemlock

Pearl Hoop Earrings by Maggie's  Jewelry

A pearl that is not round is called baroque.  In recent years, producers of freshwater pearls have taken to using various different shapes of nuclei resulting in some unusually shaped pearls, including diamonds, coins and crosses.  

"Mystère" - Ivory Freshwater Pearl and 14k Gold-Filled Earrings
Center drilled coin pearls, earrings by Adora by Simona

In addition, freshwater pearls are often dyed or irradiated to give them various colors.  They naturally come in a white to a pale peach color.

Twisted Pearl Handmade Necklace Torsade Green Peacock Seafoam Celadon

Freshwater pearl necklace by Shadow Dog Designs

Many pearls are drilled all the way through, and then strung temporarily on strands that are very closely matched.  Some pearls are what's called half-drilled, drilled only half way through so they can be mounted on a post.  

Half drilled freshwater drops by Shanghai Tai

The highest quality (and most expensive) pearls are perfectly round, perfectly white, have no visible flaws or grooves, and a very high luster.  However, pearls with flaws can also make wonderful jewelry, because they look very organic.  
Freshwater Pearl and Green Glass Earrings with Leaf Charms

Baroque Pearls, earrings by Pretty Gonzo

If you would like to learn more about pearls, you might enjoy this video I found which really goes into a lot of detail:   Japanese Cultured Akoya Pearls Part 1.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My First Metal Clay Video

Yesterday I spent a few hours at a studio of a friend of mine, Sue of Purr-fectly Unique Jewelry, shooting my first jewelry lesson video.  Sue and her son have just started a jewelry lesson website, and asked me to do a tutorial on metal clay.

For the first one, I decided to do a very easy beginner project:  a simple stamped pendant in silver metal clay.  This doesn't require any experience.  (It does, however, require a kiln.)

Here is Christopher setting up the lights.

Here I am getting ready to do the introduction (under the hot lights!):

Photo by C Karczewski, CK Entertainment

When the video is finished, there will be a trailer, which I will share here on my blog.  In the meantime, you can check out the site at

Friday, July 4, 2014

Black Max Patina

Right now I am busy making jewelry for an upcoming show.  (My last show went great, so I'm a little low on inventory!)  Yesterday I was working with some silver metal clay that I had just fired, so thought I'd take a couple of behind the scenes pictures.

A patina is a coloring that we put on the metal, usually to show detail.  In this case, I had some earring components that had Chinese characters stamped in them, and I want to make sure the characters are visible.  Silver is so reflective, that unless I do something, they will be hard to see.

Below is what they look like when I start.  Here they are all shiny, because I have run them through the tumbler.  The Black Max is in the jar.  It looks like really dark pee!  But it will turn black on the silver.

I could just dip them in the Black Max, but then that's more black to gunk up the steel shot in my tumbler.  So I decided just to paint the detail with the patina, and that way, hopefully, it would polish up quicker and be less dirty on my shot.

Here are the pieces after I painted them:

Next I put them in my tumbler with the steel shot and burnishing compound and tumble them for awhile.  The surface gets clean but the shot doesn't get into the recesses, so those don't get clean.  That's the plan anyway.

Here they are in my tumbler:

After tumbling for awhile, the letters/characters are black, and the rest is shiny silver.  I didn't take a picture of them because I was too anxious to make the earrings.

Here is a picture of the finished product:

Hope you enjoyed that quick look at Black Max patina.  Do you ever use patina?  What kind of patina do you like to use?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taste the Rainbow!

Chakra Rainbow Chainmaille Bracelet  Framed with Light
Rainbow Chainmaille Bracelet

Lately I have been noticing a recurring theme popping up in some of the jewelry in the Jewelry Creators Unite In Numbers (JCUIN) guild:  rainbow colors!  With all the storms and tornadoes lately, we could probably all use some rainbows. So here are a few rainbows:

Here is a chainmaille bracelet by Meant 2B Cherished.  I also like the look of the silver on the edge -- just like a silver lining!

Chakra Necklace, Rainbow Necklace, Mixed Gemstone Necklace, Semi-precious stone, Rainbow Gemstone, Sterling Silver
Rainbow Chakra Necklace

This dangly rainbow chakra necklace can be found at Maggies Jewelry.  It is made with real gemstones and sterling silver.

Floating Mushroom Rainbows Dreamcatcher custom made by dreamcatcherman
Floating Mushroom Rainbows Dreamcatcher

Stimulate your imagination with the Floating Mushroom Rainbows Dreamcatcher, cutsom made by Dream Catcher Man.  Don't you just love that title?  Dreamcatchers are to catch the bad dreams, but I'm guessing this one lets the mushrooms and rainbows through!

Chakra Rainbow Earrings Handmade Swarovski Silver Spirals Yoga Jewelry
Chakra Rainbow Earrings

You can find these colorful Chakra Rainbow Earrings at Shadow Dog Designs.  The seven colors of Swarovski Crystal represent the seven major chakras, attached to sterling silver ear wires.

Wooden Rainbow Puzzle

Kids of all ages will have fun with this wooden rainbow puzzle by Artistic Creatons by Rose.  (Hint:  When you take the inside out, it's a tunnel!)
Rainbow Bracelet, Fused Glass Links, Handmade, Choose Length
Rainbow Fused Glass Bracelet

This rainbow bracelet by Shanghai Tai (me) is made of bright colored glass cabs.  Each piece of fused glass is individually handmade, and has the colors of the rainbow flag.

Here's wishing you lots of rainbows!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Here Come the Lilacs!

It's spring, and soon the lilacs will be blooming.  So I decided to make my JCUIN (Jewelry Creators Unite In Numbers) collection this month in that same color.  Once I started looking for items to include, I had to add orchid as well.  There were so many items I wanted to include, that I had to share a few more of them here.

Purple Lilac Flower Beads Coin Jewelry Making Supplies Handmade
Handmade Lilac Beads by Blue Morning Expressions

These polymer clay lilac beads are soooo cute!  Purple lilacs with green leaves, grass, and white picket fences.  They are handmade by Julie of Blue Morning Expressions, and she has many more unique, original beads where these came from.

Amethyst Heart Hoop Earrings, Sterling Filled Earrings, Valentines Jewelry, Gemstone Jewelry, Febuary Birthstone Heart Earrings, For Her
Amethyst Heart Hoop Earrings by Maggie's Jewelry
I am intrigued by these amethyst heart hoop earrings.  I think they are really cool, and I would like to see what they look like on.  It looks like Maggie of Maggie's Jewelry shaped the silver filled wire into the heart shapes and then wire-wrapped all the little faceted amethyst beads on.  A very romantic design indeed!

Shades of Purple and Cream Hand Woven Cuff Bracelet
Woven Cuff Bracelet by Irish Expressions
Being a huge fan of these bracelets by Elizabeth of Irish Expressions,  I just had to include this one.  This purple and cream hand woven cuff bracelet is made of thousands of tiny seed beads.  It is finished off with a multi-strand sterling silver clasp.

New Born  Purple Headband With Flowers
Newborn Headband by Wyvern Designs
It's not jewelry, but this newborn headband with flowers was just too darn cute not to share.  It is handmade by Wyvern Designs, and features fabric flowers in shades of lilac, purple and yellow with faux pearls.  

Spiral Aurora Borealis Handmade Earrings Czech Rainbow Beaded Jewelry

Spiral Aurora Borealis Earrings by Shadow Dog Design

I couldn't resist these lilac colored aurora borealis spirals in these Spiraling Rainbows earrings.  They are handmade by Catherine of Shadow Dog Design.  They seem very mystical and, since they have an AB coating, the colors change with the light.  However, they apparently photograph as lilac, that was perfect for my theme this month!

Purple Black Earrings Vintage Lucite Hoops Sterling Ear Wires Handmade
Lucite Hoop Earrings by Shanghai Tai

Last are these unusual lilac and black dangling hoop earrings by me, available at my studio, Shanghai Tai.  They feature large, vintage lucite hoops attached to sterling french wires by large sterling twist jump rings.  They are a new twist on a retro look. 

I hope you enjoyed this little spring preview.  You may also want to visit my Lilac and Orchid collection.  Hopefully we will have the real lilacs soon!