Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My First Piece

Room light- see all the shiny hematite?
Diffuse light- the hematite is black against the red curves.

This Aussie Tiger Iron stone is the first stone that I ever really fell in love with. It is what got me hooked on collecting rocks and wire wrapping. I love the sexy curves and the stark contrast in it. To this day, I have not seen a Tiger Iron that I like more. This is one of those once in a lifetime treats. The cutter did a fabulous job!

I played around with wire sculpting for awhile and decided it wasn't for me. I wanted to wrap my beautiful stone with the least amount of wire covering it. So, I slowly began to teach myself more traditional wire wrapping.

I consider this my first traditional wrapped piece. I still wear it a lot. I look at this piece and I am still happy with it, but I can see how far I've come. The gold fill and the wrap have held up well over the years, too :) 

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Window to the Heart" or "Door to the Twighlight Zone"

I love this stone. It was a real challenge to wrap, however! The cut is off and the scene in the stone is off center. I like the look of the window/door being at an angle, though.

This is an agate. The lapidary artist who cut this, says he mined it in the Owyhee mountains in Idaho, USA. It is translucent except for the window/door, which I suspect is white quartz. The window/door has a different feel and is ever so slightly undercut. It is not translucent. I don't know if you can make it out in the picture, but in hand, the white "mist" just inside the window/door is real obvious

I tried to keep the wrap simple, but I wanted to do something a little special, too. I turned in the wires near the bail to follow the arch pattern in the stone. I hope I did this justice. Some stones are just so great that I have my doubts as to whether I did it proud or not. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011


What do you think these pictures have in common? That's right, they are the same stone. At least, that's what one seller on eBay would have you believe. Ok, so, yes, they ARE the same stone. Upon CLOSE examination, I did find the similarities. But, they are few and far between.

This is my pet peeve.

I buy on eBay a lot. I tend to stay away from vendors from this seller's country because I have been burned too many times, but stupid me, I took the risk. I would have been happy to pay what I did for the stone pictured on the rug. I am NOT happy to pay what I did for the stone pictured with diffuse and room light. I am happy enough with the stone at a lower price, which it is worth. I paid 23.00. That's just not cool, in my book.

This Petersite is nice enough to use, but not what it was advertised to be. Granted, pietersite is hard to photgraph and this stone IS a LITTLE nicer in person. But, this is not the first time, in over a dozen years on eBay, that I have been ripped off by someone in that country. Yeah, he's getting a negative. I wish more people would be more honest in their feedback. Maybe then, I wouldn't have taken the risk.

I have bought and I have sold on eBay. The overwhelming numbers of good sellers are being done a disservice by bad sellers such as this. I won't name names but you can tell by the background who this seller is. I used his photo and he can complain if he wants to, but it would do him more harm than good because then he would be admitting to ripping someone off.

I'm not blasting a whole country. I HAVE had good experiences with ONE seller from there. And, I admit, the quality has improved over the years. I remember when no one would buy from a seller from there. The shipping was outrageous and the feedback was terrible. They, in general terms, have improved a lot. Hats off to the honest sellers, really. But, shame on those who continue with bad selling practices.

I'm really quite mad about this. Sorry for the rant. I try to stay positive. I know not eveyone has shared this experience, but those that have know what it is like to anticipate getting that parcel only to be completely underwhelmed. (That was the nice way to put it.)

On the positive side, I have been happy with 99.9% of my eBay purchases, which have been considerable. Ya win some, ya lose some. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

I've been trying to perfect a piece that is making me crazy! Instead of a blog about that, I thought I would post a few pictures of some pieces that went right. I don't think I've ever shared any of these before. They are mostly recent ones. I need to catch up on doing some necklaces, too. Do you ever get the feeling there isn't enough time in a day?
Chrysocolla Malachite from the Ray Mine, AZ
American Turquoise with specks of Pyrite
Cripple Creek, CO Turquoise and Sleeping Beauty Turquoise beaded earrings
A very unphotogenic piece of Aussie Koroit Opal with some green and red fire
Blue Chinese Pietersite
BIG Zoisite bead with clearly delineated shades of green with Adventurine and Flourite
Small natural of Canadian Ammolite with black onyx faceted beads
Semi Gel Peru Rhodochrosite in another experiment with verdigris on wire sculpting 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's the Little Things That Count

Here's another tool tip for those of you who have just about all you need (for the moment). This isn't something you HAVE to have, but, boy it sure makes things easier if you have it.

I use a lot of tape. I cut small tags. I cut even ends to match neatly when I fold over a mandrel or stone for measurement. I like to trim "flags" when they are too big and getting in my way. I had a small pair of "orange" Fiskars for that, but the tape always stuck to the blades and was in my way for the next cut. I had to stop what I was doing and take the tape off the scissors. They were annoying in lots of little ways and if you have been there, then you know what I am talking about.

One day, at the craftstore, I noticed that Fiskars had some 5" Titanium Non-Stick Straight Scissors. I'm frugal by nature and had to really think about buying these before I did. They were on sale, I had the money and I thought, "What the heck." So, I brought them home and haven't looked back since. It was a good buy and the scissors perform as advertised. Plus, they are Fiskars! Needless to say, these are "hands off" to everyone in the house but me. :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Green Copper- when it's a good thing

I spent the weekend out of town, so I didn't get too much done. I did, however, finish up some experiments with verdigris on copper.

Last week, it occurred to me that I had never done any sculpted wire in copper, so I did a few pieces (after remembering how to do it) and was thrilled with the look after using LOS. Even though I'm not too crazy about the style itself, the LOS gave it a whole new look and one I like a lot better than with the bright, shiny wire.

Post LOS
Not content to leave well enough alone and with a little nudge from Perri (Shaktipaj), I gave it a go with some verdigris. I had never done it before.

After treating the sculpted apatite piece with LOS, I rubbed it with steel wool, cleaned it, dipped it in salt water and suspended the piece over some sudsy ammonia in a closed container. I then placed it in a warm spot and very quickly began to see a green blue patina bloom on it.

Not knowing any better, I left the piece in too long, say about 4 hours, and found a thick crust of verdigris on it, almost the color of the apatite.

Some of the green blue patina flaked off where it was thickest. That was the easy part. It seems the verdigris is actually hard to rub off with steel wool. At least, it is on the pattern wire, which this piece was made off. The pattern gave the verdigris something to "bite" into, and was tough to get off.

The pictures show 2 stages of removal. The first wasn't very natural looking and, as Perri pointed out, the color of the wire now closely resembled the color from the stone which detracted from the contrast with the setting. As a result the wire and stone blended in together. So, back to the steel wool and even a Scotchbrite pad to get more of the green off.

First round of removal

Final result

Next time, I will keep notes!

Friday, May 20, 2011

One of My Favorite Suppliers

Have you heard the story about the man who bought a business from another and when he showed up with fat check in hand, the original owner handed him the keys and a very large binder. The new owner was smart enough to know a real value. He had just paid for decades of experience and contacts. He knows that the notebook will lead him to the best profit.

Instead of a free tutorial today, I am offering something else for free and potentially more valuable. My favorite gem supplier.

I am not affiliated with them in any way other than doing business with them for about 10 years. I don't gain a thing by telling you this and accept no responsibility for your own purchases. They are a small outfit. The site is antiquated with no frills. You can call them with no trouble and someone will help you. You can leave notes about your order on the order form and they will try to accommodate you. I have gotten very good quality gems from them. I have gotten a couple stinkers, too, but they are good about returns.

Here is the caveat:  The pictures, when there are any, are usually terrible. You really need to know your stuff to be able to get a good idea of quality from a bad picture. The bigger gems have better pictures, but the smaller ones are done on a scanner, I think. You HAVE to be an educated buyer. Not all the deals are great and not all the stones are great. But, the ones that I have gotten, especially the larger ones, have been fantastic. I have gotten some incredible deals!

The blog pictures are from my most recent purchase. The rubies, probably from Madagascar, but excellent nonetheless, are 6mm 1.25ct each. I surmised from the crappy picture that they were well worth the 33.00 risk. I expected something nice, but not something THIS nice. They are very clean and well cut. The color is a very nice red without much pink. Why would I pay for fake rubies when I can get these at that price? The amethyst briolettes are 36.cts 23x11mm with super gemmy color.

Check them out Sign up for their newsletter to get heads up on new gems. Buy frequently and get a discount. I get a pretty good discount now.

Keep up with the weekly specials but check out the rest of the site, too, especially the wholesale section which you don't need to qualify for. And, remember, be an educated consumer. Oh, and stay away from the stone beads and cabs. Just sayin... .

"Why in the world is she telling us this?" you may ask. Well, I'll tell you, I have more gems than I know what to do with and I just don't use them all that much anymore.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Work Area

This is it. My kitchen table.

I have a "shoebox" size plastic container to hang my pliers off of and to store my smaller less often used things in. I know this doesn't look like much. But, everything is in reach and is easily moved when we have company. This is my very cheap, lo tech arrangement.

You can see my ream of paper. I go through a lot. You can also see my little dish for odds and ends and stones that I am interested in setting at the moment.

My husband and I share our very large table for "hobby time". He builds spaceship models across from me. It's just he and I for the moment, although grand kids come for long visits. We still have dinner at the table because our things are easily moved around.

I used to have my work area in my own room, but I got lonely in there. I missed having someone to talk to and shoot ideas at. This arrangement works much better for me.

I have 2 six foot bookcases behind me that hold most of my supplies. You can't see that though because it is embarrassingly unorganized and messy. :) I won't even mention all the stuff that's in the photography room. We do spread out, don't we?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Tip for Tilting

Have you ever had the wires on the back of your piece make your piece lean to one side? Not pretty. Well, I have, but I have a fix for it.

I just had that problem and thought I would document it and share it with you.

You can make out the leaning in the first three pictures.
It is leaning to the left.
This side is much higher than the other side, pictured below.

In picture four, you see the bail wires cross over the lower wire, creating more height on that side.

Bail wire ends are higher than the single wire end.

However, I just wrapped a piece of scrap wire on the other side to balance it out. That wasn't quite enough height, so I put a crimp cover over the wire. (My crimp cover was already LOS'ed.) That should even it out and it did. It also looks neat.

A neatly wrapped 20g wire.

Crimp cover over the wire.

Not leaning anymore, not that you can tell from the picture too easily.

Being a fickle woman, I took this apart after I took the pictures because I didn't like it. Below is the finished piece. I like the store bought bail with it better.
I hope you find this tip useful. I use it quite often because leaning pendants are just not cool. :)

In response to a question by Auf Draht, I am posting another picture with the back of the finished piece pictured below. The back is neater, but that's not why I changed it. (I pride myself on having neat backs, though and thought that the leaning one looked a little messy.) This is a Brecciated Mookaite Jasper from Australia. Brecciated meaning that when the rock was forming, it broke apart and then reformed with the broken parts fused together. (Simple version) :)


For Auf Draht, the back of the new piece. Very tight and secure.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Peanut Obsidian

You know when you see a stone you just have to have? What do you do? I do a walk away test. Other wise, I would more broke than I am. I go away and if I still want it a day or 2 later, then it is MINE.

This stone only got a few hours test because I was afraid someone else would get it. LOL! I also spent waaaay more on it than I normally spend on a rock. I treated myself. 

This, my most recent obsession, is a Peanut Obsidian. Obsidian is a large group of natural glasses, including moldavite. This one comes from Mexico and is terribly hard to come by. It is big at 37 x 23 and 31 cts.

I tried doing some research on it and couldn't find much. I did find some sellers of the rough who say it is very difficult to cut. And, I found this edu site page about obsidians, in general, that mentions it.  I found that the orbs are actually radiating feldspar. One source says that it is labradorite, which is a feldspar. The orbs are chatoyant, though not much, so maybe that is correct. Anyway, hope you enjoy it, too.  :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Pile #2

See that pile of wire? Double it and that's what I went through on my way to finishing a recent piece. Thank goodness for copper.

It started out as a pretty simple idea. The first round went easy enough. I took a couple pictures of it and thought, "I can do better than this." So, I carefully took it apart. That was in the evening. After many, many feet of wire, I still was unable to get the measurement just right. I took a deep breath and put it aside till the morning. I cleaned up and threw away crumpled wire pile #1.

Round 1

In the morning, I started fresh and optimistically. I was only a few mm off each time. "I can do this," I thought. So, I eagerly started again. Again my scrap pile grew. I got one side right and the other side wrong. I got THAT side right and then the opposite was wrong. I cussed, I admit it. I was even tempted to throw it, but it wasn't the stone's fault, after all.

I finally finished some prong clusters, as I am now calling them, that were close, very close. "Hmmm," I uttered out loud, "I wonder if this will work." So, with one wire ready to go, I started cutting and preparing the rest. Everything went smoothly. It went very smoothly, deceptively smooth. Could it be that these hours of frustration were over? HA! The wire Goddess had smiled on me. The Muse was pleased.

I finished it up and held it at arm's length to critically examine it. The clusters were still off. The spacing still wrong. BUT, I like it. It could be better, but I like it.

I dropped it in some warm liver of sulfur to watch the magic and plucked it out when the wire was as black as my frustration had been. After some steel wool and a polish cloth, I again held it back and this time examined it with satisfaction. The innocent, blue Apatite seemed to smile back at me in the snug, warm copper embrace of those hard won clusters as if to say, "This will do, Tela, this will do."


Friday, May 13, 2011

You'll Put Someone's Eye Out, Kid!

Have you recently cut a wire, heard a yell and then quietly recited a quick prayer that no one lost an eye? If so, then you need this tip!

There are fancy pliers that claim to take the worry out of your cut ends flying, but really you only need a finger. Any free finger will do.

As you are holding your wire and getting ready to cut, take a moment to reach around with any free finger from your plier hand and place your finger tip on the end of the wire. This will keep everyone safe and your rug free of burrs.

If the end is very tiny, trap it with your finger inside the little hollow side of the cutters where they close. (Assuming you are cutting with the flush side to the work.) Put your finger over the back side of the plier head to catch the wire. Then, just shake the pliers over your scrap pile, which should be larger now that the pieces aren't flying all over the house. :)

New Pattern Wire Review

(This article was originally published 5-12-11 before Blogger went down and it was lost. Another picture was added, too.)
I was really excited to log into Rio Grande last week to find that they were selling new patterned wire. They offer 4 patterns in copper and brass. I'm going to talk about the kind I ended up getting; Whim Z "Dot". The pattern itself is a line of dots that is pressed into the wire in a spiral pattern down the wire. 

First, the pictures on the web, used a larger gauge wire to depict the pattern. I got 20g, which I use the most of, and the pattern is not as pronounced as it seems on the website. I figured that before hand, so it wasn't too disappointing.

I thought that it might be rough, but it isn't. It isn't scratchy and I doubt the wire itself will snag anything. 

This copper wire is sold only as soft with soft being a somewhat relative term. This wire is not as soft as most soft copper wire. Not such a bad thing.

I got right down to business and cut off some pieces to throw together a quickie wrap for testing. First thing I do with any wire is run it through a polishing cloth (Sunshine cloth) to straighten, harden and polish it. This wire, however, is not smooth. It began to shred fine fluff from my cloth. Ok, that I didn't like because some of the fluff stayed embedded in the wire. Note to self:  Run gently and fewer times through the cloth.

I made a bundle and began to wrap with some 1/2 round when I noticed that you can overwork the wire and flatten out the pattern. This shouldn't be a problem, if kept in mind. I got my bundle done with a minimum of distortion.

I finished up the piece, which is made with all round wire, and noted that the wire didn't roll quite as much because it is not as smooth. That's a plus. :)

After finishing the piece, I tumbled it several hours and found that the tumbler had no damaging effects on the wire. (I use jewelers steel shot and plastic pellets for cushioning.)

I was real anxious to put this in the liver of sulfur. I imagined a very dramatic effect. After doing it, though, I found that the effect was very subtle. I have to say, it is not as bold as I thought it would be, but I do like it. The only trouble was with trying to polish it with a cloth. I ended up throwing it in the tumbler for most of the polishing and then lightly going over it with the polish cloth. This doesn't polish to a bright shine, though and has more of a matte finish with a spiraling moire pattern.

I think this will be a good wire for larger pieces where the pattern and moire effect is more pronounced. I also think that it would be nice used for wire sculpting. If this wire is used for jig work earrings etc., I think it would be striking, as well.

If you are looking for a very shiny, smooth wire, this isn't it.

The following pictures offer 3 views of this new wire. None of them really show the moire pattern very well. It is hard to purposefully photograph moire. The first 2 are the test piece. It is a very small cab of dendritic opal. This one I used LOS on.

The second is a very large, experimental wrap that I left raw because I think the copper will naturally age to perfectly blend with the Bruneau Jasper. (Cool stone, huh? See the steam coming off the cooling flows with the mountains in the background?)

(edit:  I added another picture with the pattern wire.)

I hope this brief review was helpful to you. I'm glad I like it, overall, because I have a pound of it. :)

(You can click all of my pictures for a larger view.)

Australian Rhodonite 30x40mm polished pattern wire

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Patches" Pietersite

Here is a piece that I did a few months ago. I don't think I ever put this one on JL. It is made with a really nice piece of Pietersite. I have several others that have the wonderful, indigo blue color but they don't have as much chatoyancy. (see the next photos) I am always on the lookout for good Pietersite. Finding good Pietersite is getting increasingly difficult and more and more expensive.

Chatoyancy is what you commonly see in tiger eye. In fact, Pietersite is a kind of tiger eye, a type of quartz. It is found in China and in Africa. I think the Chinese Pietersite is preferred, though. It can be found with red, blue and gold fibers, which create the chatoyant effect. Blue tiger eye is most often heated gold tiger eye.

Africa is famous for what we commonly see as tiger eye.

In South America, there is a rare kind of tiger eye that is green and it's called Crocosite. (I believe. I am writing from memory.)

In Minnesota, USA, a very silky variety is found that is called Binghamite and also found as the similar, Silkstone. In California, USA is another silky form.

From Australia hail the most gorgeous Tiger Eye and Tiger Iron with it's red and black bands. From one area of Australia, near one mountain, Brockman, comes the most sought after Tiger Iron and Tiger Eye. And, this is where the true Marra Mamba tiger eye comes from. Sadly, it is mined out. These cabs are truly the flashiest, showiest best and are priced accordingly.

I could go on about this large group of rocks, but instead, I'll provide you with 2 links. (I'll try to stay away from Wiki links, anyone can Wiki or Google.) One is one of my favorite sites for traditional smithed jewelry and eye candy and the other is to a wonderful lapidary artist who knows his stuff.

Chinese blue Pietersite in silver
Another Chinese blue Pietersite, but in copper.
Natural Green Tiger Eye from South America.
African blue and gold Tiger Eye
Bright Australian scenic Tiger Eye in 14kgf
Chinese gold Pietersite in copper

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Bent Objects" by Terry Border

A Pair of Lovers

Now for Something Totally Different

While doing some wire people this past weekend, I was reminded of an email my son sent me. He sent some pictures by a wickedly clever and funny wire artist named, Terry Border. He doesn't do jewelry, though. He designs humorous and ironic cartoons with ordinary wire and household objects. You might have noticed the new widget on my page, it is a link to Terry's "Bent Objects" blog. (Oops, looks my widget is broken, time to remove :( ) Enjoy the following examples of his work and click on over to his blog to view tons more. I emailed Terry for permission to use these photos and he was very happy to share with a fan. (Thank you, Terry!) Oh, and no Photoshop involved!

Little Polish Girl

Modest Pear
Paper Training Our Little Dog, Frank
(I couldn't find the title to this.)