Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'm So Excited!! (and nervous...)

...And the winner is.... Joyce! She had to email me because she is having problems posting comments, but she had the right answers and techno problems are beyond her control. Here is what she said: 
The stone in your pic is a Variscite from Utah, made with your Unisex Border Frame Pendant
Congratulations! Yay!

No matter how many pictures I take of this stone, none ever look quite as lovely and serene as it is in person.
UPDATE: We have 3 almost winners, so far. Susan, you are half right, you forgot the stone and Christine, you got the wrap right and the stone wrong :( I don't know what in the world happened to your comment. It disappeared!) Donna, post it here and you may be the winner. LOL!

I'll throw in a free copy of my next tute, whenever and whatever that will be. I'll do my best to remember, but you may feel absolutely fine reminding me when it comes out. I won't mind, at all. (My memory is fuzzier every year. LOL!)
Hello, my dear friends and readers. :) I have some news that I am pretty excited about. I'm really not sure the best way to go about saying it, because I have never done this before.

I have been wanting to do something fun and different on my blog, something that will be fun for the readers. I found an interesting site that offers to run contests on your blog. The idea is to award points for interacting on the blog. Every time you comment or click links or fill anything out, you get points. At the end of a set period, the reader with the most points, gets a prize. I can go with a prize of my own or one of theirs. I have decided to offer a very special piece of jewelry.

Let me tell you something about this piece and give you a pictorial hint:

Back in 2008, I bought a book on wire jewelry for eye candy- something to keep my creative juices in gear since I wasn't making any new jewelry. Not to get too personal, but I took care of my Dad in his last few years and had to give up my jewelry. His death knocked me for a loop and I couldn't create for several years. Finally, I started to come out of my shell and found JL ( again where I had registered and forgotten about it, back in 2008, after finding Eni's work in that book I mentioned.

In August 2010, I started contributing at JL and found to my amazement that people were interested in my work. It encouraged me more than you will know, because I was still reeling from my loss. I began to actually have fun and I was "meeting" other jewelry people! My desire to work wire came back.

I came out of my funk and began living and creating again. Meeting like minded people, has meant the world to me. We all share the same jewelry joys and woes. No matter what else is going on in our lives, we have that one special corner where nothing is allowed in unless we let it. What ever issues are making us nuts, we can still dish about cabs and beads. It helps keep us healthy, happy people.

There is one piece, in particular, that represents for me the joy in creating. It is a calm, beautiful stone in what turned out to be a very popular setting. I had thought that I was going to keep it for myself, but I really want it to go to someone else. But, it is so special to me that I don't want to sell it. I want for one of my readers to have it and to know what it represents in hopes that they, too, will find some meaning in it for themselves. When I see it, I am reminded of what making jewelery means to me. But, more importantly, what it has done for me. It reminds me of healing and of friendship. It reminds me of how unsure I was of myself and how I was encouraged by others to continue honing my skills and refining my style. It is one of the first pieces I did after my "comeback" that I felt really comfortable with sharing and so, now, I want to share it again with one lucky person.

Was that too much? It feels like it was. I didn't mean to get too personal, but I want everyone to know that this is not simply a beautiful piece of jewelry.

On the March 1st, (Thurs.), when you come to my blog, you will see the contest installed and I'll tell you more about it. It will run for 2 weeks. I will be responsible for mailing the winner the prize.

I have a few more things in store coming up, too. :) More on that in the coming weeks.

Ok, ready for the hint? Here's a small bit of the piece that will be the prize.

 If you are a member of JL you can find it there. If you aren't, it's free to register. I'll email a tutorial of your choice to the first person who names the stone and wrap in the comment section.  :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Peruvian Chrysocolla and Malachite

After having some well deserved (and needed) time off with the girls, I came home and thought about this stone. I had lots of ideas. This one has been around awhile and was mentioned in my blog series about stones.

My work area is my kitchen table, so my things are portable. I have a tool bin, a paper size, low cardboard box for paper and misc stuff and I have plastic dish that holds stones that I have been interested in working on. I go through the big bin every once in a while, pull out candidates to let them sit in my dish while my mind ruminates on designs for them. This one has been waiting awhile. I really had some grand ideas for this sweet stone. However, in the end, I decided that the very best thing I could do for this, was to keep it as clean and simple as possible. Some stones just need to shine. So, here is the finished product, as simple as I could make it with a simple fused bail.

(You see I have no nail polish on? That's because we never got around to doing our nails, we just sat around and talked and had the greatest time doing it.) :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Crayola Jasper Experiment

It's easy to tell why this is called Crayola Jasper. The colors are fabulous! I tried finding some interesting facts about this material to share with you, but all I know is that it is mined by one man in northern Nevada and is very rare. I haven't seen many cabs of this and this may be the best one I've seen. For true pastel colors, you just can't beat this stuff! It's really hard as jaspers are and takes a beautiful, glassy polish.

I first posted about this stone here and, of course, it was about the color. I could have posted about the shape, too because it is one of my favorite cuts... which brings me to the point of this post.

The picture you see is just an experiment. There are a few issues with it, but I wanted to share, anyway. My goal is to redo this in silver when I get up the courage. I'm going to change a few little things but it'll remain the same for the most part.

Last weekend I was too sick to go with the family to the Smithsonian in DC, so this weekend I am having some girl time with nail polish, my one daughter and my SIL. It should be fun. I guess, it is the equivalent to taking off fishing. I won't have my tools- no jewelry, at all. When I get back, I should be nice and jewelry fresh. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Do You Like Books?

Believe it or not, I do have interests other than jewelry, not many, but I do.  :)  Today, a link was shared with me for this really incredible artist. A book artist. He uses surgical tools to carve elaborate sculptures from books. You have to see them, they are insane!

Jewelry? Well, I did open a new store today. I have visited Ruby Lane for years and years and just found out about a new store they have called Ruby Plaza. You have to be approved to join, but I worked all day and last night and got approved. YAY! They have pretty high standards, so I feel quite honored to be selling there. I only have a few items up so far, but you can check it out, if you want to.

Speaking of selling online, here's a picture- the only one I have- of the first piece of jewelry that I ever sold online back in 2001, I think. I had an old HP digital that took the absolute worst pictures, but somehow someone saw the beauty that lay beyond the photo and bought it. This is a Peruvian blue opal, topaz and sterling silver. We all start somewhere. :)

(Edited to fix title typo- DOH!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dragon Blood Jasper, Dragon's Blood Jasper Another New Stone?

I want to use a Dragon's Blood Jasper, or, as some might say, a Dragon Blood Jasper, as an example of one of the new stones coming from China, or, other Asian parts. I say "other Asian parts" because I have done a lot of Googling to find out more about this stone and all I can find are lists of Asian manufacturers and distributors. I have found one supplier that states that it is mined in Australia, but I have not found anymore instances of that fact. I can't find info on the treatment, if any.

I call this a new stone, but we know it isn't real new. It has been around in cabochon form as well as bead and pendant bead form for awhile now, but in lapidary terms, it is fairly new. For me, though, it is very new.

I just finished my first cab. I thought I would give you my impression of it. First of all, I'm a sucker for color and pattern, so I really liked this from the start. I also really like the cut, but that has nothing to do with the stone except that I suspect that it is easy to cut. The color is a very intense blue/green. It has a dyed look to it. Against this nicely saturated background are splashes of bright,  brick red- the dragon's blood. It seems very hard and takes a nice polish. It isn't pitted. It felt very hard when I was working it. It didn't make me feel like I needed to treat it carefully- it felt like a rock. :) Versus some stones, like calcite, that feel fragile.

I didn't get this stone from a high end dealer. I'm sure it was native cut. Have you heard that term before? It literally means, cut in the country where it is found. I am going to assume that is somewhere in China, judging by all the Asian distributors. If I find that it is indeed mined in Australia, I'll correct myself.

I'm no expert on rocks, by any means, and I'm not a lapidary. But, I'm pretty experienced. Sometimes, when I have a stone I haven't worked with before, I get the idea that putting it in the tumbler all night will tell me a lot. That's just what I did. I had suspected that this was dyed, but when I pulled it out after about 12 hours, it looked the way it did going in. The polish was still there and so was the color. So, if it is dyed, it is a stable dye. But, I think it isn't. That is my unscientific way of telling dyed from not dyed- or, rather, stable dye from temporary dye. Have you ever thrown dyed beads in a tumbler and have them come out pastel and frosted looking? That's what I call a temporary dye. Don't take my word as the gospel truth. Do your own tests, use your own intuition and tumble wisely. This stone was inexpensive enough that I was willing to risk disaster. You may not be willing to risk yours. 

I'm quite pleased with Dragon Blood Jasper. If it is a jasper, I can't say. Marketing has a way of misnaming stones to get them to sell. But, that's another blog post. I can't tell you if 20 years ago this went by a different name, but it is a very real possibility. Dragon blood seems plentiful and inexpensive, so it may have been around for awhile under a different name.

So, enough of my meandering... here's a couple pictures. I ran out of LOS. The first picture is bare copper, the second is with the boiled egg patina technique.

Green Red Dragon Dragon's Blood Wire Wrapped Wirewrapped Pendant
Clicking this image will open the image in my shop in a new tab.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Of Calcite, Rhyolite and LOS

I rarely buy pendant beads. When I do, I wrap them like a cab. Yesterday, I challenged myself to do a pendant bead stone without wrapping it. I used Argentium silver on this beautiful, pastel calcite bead. I didn't want any metal competing with the delicate color. I made the biggest silver beads that I've made yet. (I can't believe how much silver actually went into them!! No wonder head pins are so expensive.) I'm very happy with how this came out.

Beautiful Delicate Orange Calcite Argentium Sterling Silver Pendant
Clicking this image will open this in my store in a new tab.

To reward myself for actually NOT wrapping a bead stone, I did a quick wrap. LOL! I've been wanting to finish this Sonoran Dendritic Rhyolite ever since I got it. This is a relatively new stone. I got this when I first saw them hitting the market. They are from Mexico and very highly figured. This big stone has a fine network of maroon and pink dendrites. It's really cool looking. This was always meant to be paired with copper and a woven bail. The woven bail really goes well with the feathery dendrites.

Feathery Maroon Pink Dendrites Sonora Dendritic Rhyolite Jasper Pendant
Clicking this image will open this in my store in a new tab.


Here's something you might find interesting:  I bought a 4 oz. jar of XL LOS gel in Oct or Nov 2010. If you have used it before, then you know you have to stir it real well. Well, I did, or I thought I did. But, toward the bottom of the jar, a nasty sludge was left that didn't really patina the metal anymore. I don't think it was, technically, liver of sulfur anymore. That Sonoran Dendrite was in a very hot, very heavy solution for 1/2 an hour and it barely got red. I'm glad it lasted as long as it did, both in terms of product life and in terms of my heavy use, but the new jar I ordered will be stirred even better.


Blog News:  If you look around you'll notice a few changes and additions. I guess you could say this is under construction. I've tried a few new things and quickly took them down, but a few I'll keep. It's all in preparation of some things to come. ... but they are a surprise :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mystery Jasper

 First, blog business: You may notice that I have a new sign up on the right for a newsletter. You may want to sign up to be notified, first, about upcoming specials, sales, promotions, contests, tutorials, ebooks and the like. Your email is safe with me, so don't worry about that. I won't be sending out many of these and I won't be using emails from the store or the blog. This is purely opt-in. The only glitch I've found is that you will probably have to check your spam folder and mark mail from me and TinyLetter as NOT spam.

I have a few surprises in the works since I missed my 100th post anniversary :) on to the mystery jasper...

When I won the lot of fake Sonoran Sunrise, I also won a lot of eight stones for a dollar. Yes, you read that right, eight stones for a dollar. All big, most nice. The cuts and finishes aren't that great, but most are salvageable. Here's the picture from the ad. Wouldn't you risk a dollar on that? I did and for a buck, I'm more than happy.

 I've already used four of them.Two are in my last blog entry. One is pictured below....

Mushroom Jasper Red Rustic Organic Artisan Handcrafted Pendant
Clicking this image will open the image in my store in a new tab.

and the latest is pictured here.

Wonderful Graphic Design in Salmon Olive Black Jasper Handmade Pendant
Clicking this image will open the image in my store in a new tab.

There are a few issues with this one, too, but I worked around it. It's a big, thick stone and I knew I wanted to use a lot of metal in the sides. Which was good because it helped to camouflage the off cut.

The stone is too beautiful not to use, but what the heck is it??? I know it is some kind of jasper, but beyond that- I don't know. I'm stumped. Any of you know what it is?? It's pretty, but beyond that, I just don't know.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hodge Podge Blog

Today, I just feel like writing. I have no real goal, but to purge myself of some recent wire-capades. 

After my last tute on fusing hearts, I had a ton of perfectly good hearts to use. The thing is, I don't really care for hearts, all that much. I posted on JL about it and decided that I just needed to give it a go and see if I could realize an idea that I had. No problem, right? Wrong. I liken the experience to chewing glass. No, I've never chewed glass, but I haven't done that heart project, either, and know that I wouldn't like either very much.

What I envisioned was a necklace with a row of hearts hanging at an angle and graduating in size around to the side of the neck. In the front, the 2 largest hearts would be joined at the tips by a centered heart, hung from the two lobes to each of the other 2 hearts. Simple. Really, it is a simple idea and probably done a hundred times over. But, it just wasn't happenin'.

After trying to force myself for 2 1/2 days to make the multi hearted piece. I gave up. I just can't force myself. I envy people who can, because- I. just. can't. do. it. I beat myself up for another half day because of it. I should be able to. Damn it.

It took a while longer to get over the frustration. I mean, it's just something that bothers me. I want to be able to do things that don't appeal to me. But, my muse just puts on the brakes and I am left holding my pliers going- "What the hell?"

Alright- enough about the hearts. I just had to get it off my chest. It was part of my muse cleansing. I'm appeasing her.

In a final attempt to purge the "project that will not be named" from my mind, I decided to do a new wrap. Ok, well, that wasn't happening, either. I was in a near panic feeling the "block" coming on. Ok, I admit it. I was in a panic. My muse absolutely refused to cooperate. Oh, sorrow.

I got a new parcel of stones in the mail and was really intrigued by a few. I said to hell with a new wrap. I was perfectly happy to do a nice, simple, respectable wrap and call it a day. The jasper is a soothing color combination gray and pink. I felt the frustration slip away.

Pink & Gray Jasper Handcrafted Wirewrapped Wire Wrapped Pendant
Clicking this image will open this in a new tab in my store.

Before I was even finished with the pink jasper, I had a new idea to try on another jasper from the parcel. I was and AM so very, very happy and relieved! My block seemed to be temporary. Now, I just feel like a big baby for being so worried about it. But, by golly, when you feel all your creativity drain from you- it is scary. It is for me, anyway.

Seeing how I've been fusing so much lately, I figured I would combine my first love of wrapping with fusing. I just finished this Stone Canyon Jasper. I wish the picture showed how well the heated copper goes with the stone. The colors were perfect! But, I know it doesn't last so, I cleaned it up and it is in the tumbler right now. I'm posting the "dirty" picture to be followed by the finished piece later. Having never done this before, I am concerned about the softness of it, but I think after tumbling and polishing the metal with a Dremel and Zam polish it should be fine.

I'll post the finished piece later...

If you have made it this far, thanks for following along with my neurotic whining. I feel much better, now. :)
The metal came out great! I smoothed the bead at the bottom and gave it a polish. Problem is between everything I did to this poor stone it lost some kind of treatment it had and is now more gray. The good part is I paid less than a dollar for it, so I can't complain. I have no clue what ruined it and I have no clue what treatment it was. I'm thinking it was a very simple home treatment and obviously not stable. I think it was just water that made it lose its whiteness, if one can believe that. This is a new one on me. You learn something new everyday. Including the value of a dollar.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

***** 100th POST ***** Playing Detective

I went to start this entry and realized it was my hundredth post! I certainly never envisioned sticking to it this long. But, here we are ... Thank you everyone for following along. I didn't plan anything special because, well, because I didn't realize this was number 100, but I do have an interesting post that I think you might find useful.

I was perusing eBay lately and ran across an auction that I thought was a sweet deal. It was a straight out auction, no buy it now or make offer. It was at 20.00 when I saw it, with lots of bids. The picture left a bit to be desired, but sometimes that can play to your advantage. I have worked with plenty of Sonoran Sunrise, so I knew the colors were right. However, the pattern was cream of the crop. For Sonoran Sunrise, a natural stone comprised primarily of chrysocolla and cuprite, this seemed like really outstanding stuff. I took the risk and won 6 big, choice cabs for 30.00. I was pretty stoked.

My parcel arrived quickly. The cabs were gorgeous!! Breathtakingly awesome! Could I have been THAT lucky?? I would expect to pay at least 30-50 a piece for each big cab.

I immediately set my sights on one of them to wrap . I looked it over, while considering the job ahead of me, and noticed that the cutter left some of the dopping wax (used to hold the stone while working it) on the back of the cab. Ok, sloppy. I can live with that. No biggie. I took a blade and scraped it off. I wondered, though,  why someone would be so sloppy with material so choice.

Brown dopping wax left on one of the stones.

Looking more closely, I noticed that between the blade passes, a nib about 2mm high was left. Hmmmm. Not good. How to get rid of that nib? I got an ordinary emory board out, thinking there was a remote possibility of being able to sand it off. I began to sand the high spot and it came off like butter. Really, my nails are harder to file!!! Ok, this definitely sent up alarms.

This is where the nib was. See the blade marks?

I sent an email to a legitimate lapidary artist, who asked not to be identified, and asked him what he thought. I know Sonoran is soft, but not THAT soft! He agreed. I also told him that the seller called it "stabilized". Sonoran is not known to be stabilized. He checked out another auction by the Sonoran seller, who had listed some more, and noted that the cabs are of a quality he had never even seen after examining 100s of pounds of rough. He said he was going to ask someone else their opinion and get back to me.

In the meantime, I ran a few experiments that I had up my sleeve. I got a Q-Tip with finger nail polish remover (acetone) and ran it over the back of the stone to see if any of the color would come off. No color came off. But, a gray sludge did and so did the shine.

The shine came right off the right one.
Can you see the fine scratches/brushstrokes in the stabilizing material? I've seen this in cheap turquoise, too. 
 Alright, I could understand that whatever was used to stabilize the stone could have come off with the acetone. So, I tried the hot pin test. If it is plastic, or a composite WITH plastic, the hot pin will sink in and smell of plastic. Well, it passed, but only barely. No plastic smell with the pin or with the sanding. But, the pin did leave a mark. It didn't sink in, but it did penetrate. It wouldn't do this with stone.

See the pin marks?
I'm pretty convinced that it isn't plastic. I examined the stones some more and noticed  a few things that I had overlooked, but taken together really add up to someone not being very concerned about the quality of their work with potentially very expensive material.

Polishing rouge/sludge left on the stone.
More black polishing sludge.

I emailed the seller and asked him if the beautiful "stones" were actually some kind of composite. I mentioned my hesitation to sell them to my customers as the real deal. I got an email from him and the lapidary friend at the same time. Both the lapidary friend and myself had pretty much concluded that my stones were not Sonoran Sunrise, but some man made material. To me, they seem like some kind of pressed, chalky, material. The color is through and through and seems to be stable, but if I left a stone in acetone overnight, I really believe it would just dissolve.

The seller claimed that upon further examination, he believed the stones to be manmade and offered me a refund. He has 100% feedback. I don't know that he was deliberately defrauding myself and others. He took the rest of the suspect auctions down. I won't name him, giving him the benefit of the doubt (reluctantly) but now that you have seen these stones-- do yourself a favor and avoid them. The raw material is probably coming from China, en masse, as we speak. (Just as their cheap, inferior version of Mojave Turquoise is.)

I rarely need to do this kind of detective work. I'm pretty good about buying stones. I find no shame in being ripped off. The shame would be in passing these off again as the real thing. The steps I went through will almost always prove a stone to be something other than stone. If you get that uneasy feeling about a stone, follow your instincts and do some detective work. And, for Pete's sake, if you get a fake stone, eat the cost and chalk it up to learning. Don't pass it off as real again. People who are selling these stones are counting on YOU to do just that. If we want to put these guys out of business, we need to stop reselling their stones.  There are lots of honest lapidary dealers that need and appreciate your business.

Update- the seller has already refunded my full purchase :) Glad I emailed him. He stood behind his guarantee.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Finished My Tute! ****Fused Copper Hearts****

I like challenging myself. First, I challenged myself to fuse copper. Then I challenged myself to try to write a tutorial about it. This has easily been my most difficult to write. And, talk about photographing it...!!! BUT, I persevered and now have a great tute to offer everyone that I know will prove to be very useful. I haven't even exploited all the uses of fusing. I'm still playing with it. I began with hearts and hummingbirds and quickly went to 2 and 3 wire fuses for bails. One pair of fused rabbit ears became a form for making a woven bail, which is separate from the piece. This isn't taught in the tute, but the basics are there for people to explore. I am really excited to see what other artists do with this new technique. 

What I am teaching is three different ways to fuse copper. Yes, it can be done and without flux. Once you learn the rules you can do new and different things.

 Here are the simple hearts that I used in the tute.
All the variations in the heart forms are taught. I also include what to look for, what to look OUT for and how to deal with a bad fuse. I go into some basics of the torch and of the fire. I have wonderful pictures that worked me to death AND- for the first time- I include video. 3 videos. They are the perfect accompaniment to the pdf. They are NOT stand alone instructional videos, but real time demonstrations of the procedure from 3 angles. There is no audio, but there is great video. (I used my glassblowing lens on the video camera so there is no flare blocking your view!) You get 4 downloads with your purchase. I want everyone who is interested in fusing and who understands its potential to be successful learning it.  

I'm as excited about this tute as I was about learning to fuse. I don't think that anyone risking the money to buy it will be disappointed. Check out the tute in the store for more details.