Thursday, June 28, 2012

Learning the Hard Way

Copper Cuff With Silver

Some weeks are more productive than others. Every week brings something to learn. I love it all--the easy learning and the hard learning. This was a week filled with lessons learned the hard way--by making mistakes.

This was to be a productive week. I scheduled some good chunks of time at my workbench and fabrication was progressing nicely. At the end of Monday I had completed two copper cuffs with sterling designs soldered on them. The last step was oxidation and that went well, adding just the right amount of patina to the copper and creating a slightly distressed, urban look. These pieces offered easy lessons because I had tried them before.

Another piece I was working on went really well too. I am working on a collection of silver collars for the Fall and I designed one around my smallest tear drop black druzy with added titanium. The silver backing is diamond shaped with a thick wire seat and prongs to hold the druzy. This construction progressed easily. I chose a 12 gauge sterling wire for the collar. This was lighter weight than I usually use for collars but the weight was right for the druzy setting. I overlooked the fact that the wire was Argentium sterling. Now, I have read about Argentium but I have only used it in small amounts. What I overlooked was the fact that Argentium can't be pressed down with a solder pick during the soldering process. 

Basic Argentium Sterling Silver Collar With Sterling Focal Piece

The first attempt to solder the collar to the silver pendant was fairly successful but when I looked at it closely I saw that about 1/8" of collar separated from the silver backing just a little. So, I set it aside for the night and planned to attempt to solder that 1/8" the next day. The next morning I started last detail cleanup on several pieces and the collar was first on the list. I fluxed the 1/8", placed a piece of solder and lit my torch.  As the silver turned red, the solder began to flow and I pressed down on the separated wire with my pick. Much to my surprise, I heard a crack and a piece of the Argentium cracked and broke off--like a piece of glass. I was shocked and then I  remembered what I had read and I remembered it was Argentium. The honeymoon was over. I put it aside until today when I came back with regular 11 gauge sterling to make a collar. The soldering went smoothly and I learned an important lesson.

As for the Argentium, I repurposed it into a simple, all sterling collar which is what I purchased it for in the first place. Sometimes, I have to learn the hard way. Soldering with Argentium in fabrication processes may be delayed for now but I will try it again soon. Here is the simple collar I made with the Argentium Silver.

Argentium Sterling Silver Collar

Here is the collar I made with a heavy, prong set druzy. I replaced the Argentium Sterling with regular .925 sterling for the collar.

Sterling Silver, Heavy Prong Set Druzy Collar

I will never, ever touch Argentium sterling again when it is red hot! I learned my lesson--the hard way! Have you learned something the hard way recently?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012 Creative Start

My first big creative adventure of the New Year will be to attend a custom clasps workshop with Alison Antelman January 21 and 22,  in Berkeley. I was first entranced with Alison's work in December when I attended  Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios tour. I did seek out Alison's studio as one I wanted to see and I was not disappointed. I learned several helpful things by just talking with her and seeing the way she works. Maybe this is the greatest gift that we receive from other artists--inspiration and encouragement to be original.

Alison Antelman Soldering An Earring

I had not been interested in making clasps before I saw Alison's work and now, I can't wait to learn any little piece of the skills she can teach me. Her clasps are so gorgeous (all pieces in this post are hers) that I can see how a special one could become the focal point of a necklace or bracelet. I also know that working with this much preciseness will be a challenge for me. Bring it on.

Alison's Bracelet With Clasp

Bracelet Featured in December's Lapidary Journal
Photos by Eric Smith

 A clasp even close to this, in any remote way, will be the goal and I will keep you informed as to my progress. Or I am open for my goal to change and the result will be unique!

This is one of the things I want to do more of this year--stretch and grow artistically. Alison's class seems like a great opportunity to do this. Surely I will be able develop a little bit of additional skill by just being in the same studio for two days with this talented metal artist and other artists in the class.
More posts about Alison and her work will follow soon.

What do you want to learn this year? What is your favorite way to learn? I would love to hear about it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

No Resolutions For Me

I often approach things differently from other people and New Year's Resolutions have just never made sense to me. I prefer to keep goals for the New Year small, bite size goals that build to a crescendo of satisfaction somewhere around the last three months of the year. A friend shared the following on facebook recently:
Woodie Guthrie's New Years Resolutions 1942
Woodie knew how to break things down into simple bites that could be accomplished!

Now, don't think I don't have dreams and visions for myself. I do. I find that living in the moment, taking advantage of opportunities, paying attention to important people in my life, eliminating the things I don't want to do or have in my life, noticing what gives me joy and doing more of it, usually gets me to a place better than anything I would have written down.

So, I work backwards. I like to look at all of the things I have accomplished and be proud. Then I look at what I should have done differently and I make a commitment to do them differently. The main step is to recognize anything special I would like to accomplish this year, write that down or make a mental note. As the new months begin, I measure everything I do with those three questions:

1. What am I accomplishing that I'm proud of?
2. What am I doing that should be done differently?
3. Where do I want to be in my life and how can I get there?

If this is too simple for you, here's another idea for New Year's Resolutions that is quick and a little different:

Here's something I did this year,  of which I am proud!
Here is a silver collar with a heavy, prong set druzy quartz and a tube set white sapphire. I am proud of it! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Something Sweet For Holiday Mornings

Yes, this is the busiest time of year for my Etsy shop and also for my family. Family birthdays begin in October and gather speed through November and December. It does seem like somewhere in the past there was some really poor planning!

Now that the holidays are upon us, it is quite pleasant to slow down for a few days, stop fabricating and shipping, and try some old family recipes.

One of the things I used to bake often is a pecan coffee roll with maple icing. Most of my old recipes ask for lots of butter and this is not an exception, so I don't bake it more than once a year. We all really enjoy it and this was our lucky year! Coffee roll time! You'll find the recipe at the bottom of this post. It's a simple way to instantly raise your cholesterol level, so you have been warned.

Place the Roll on a Cookie Pan and Cut Wedges With Scissors
Turn The Wedges On Their Sides And Top With Whole Pecans

Bake at 350-375 Until Golden Brown. Dribble Maple Flavored Glaze Icing On Them While Hot

Coffee Roll Recipe:
1 package of dry, fast rise yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3.5 cups flour
3 eggs
1 cube margarine or butter, melted

2/3 cup warm water
Butter, enough to spread
Cinnamon, enough to sprinkle
1/2 box dark brown sugar to sprinkle
1 package whole pecans
1 cup glaze icing flavored with maple (powdered sugar, a little milk, maple flavoring)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water, add the other ingredients and allow to raise in covered bowl.
Punch the dough down and roll out 1/2 inch thick. Spread with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Roll, place in ring on cookie sheet. Cut with scissors and place in a fan shape. I turn each piece so the layers show on top, then add whole pecans. Bake until golden brown (I think you bake it at 375 until brown) and frost while hot.

A big piece of this is delicious eaten warm, with a glass of milk to offset the sugar.
Remember, I am not responsible for increased weight or cholesterol levels. I will accept responsibility for contented sighs, however.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Soup Weather!

Even in California, it's finally cool enough to plan soup dinners. Today I want to share one of our family favorites--Tortilla Soup. The recipe we use is the tastiest tortilla soup I have ever, well. . . . tasted. It's not a family recipe but is one found by searching the internet. We found it on a website for Pastor Tom's Ministries. Please know that we have absolutely no affiliation with this religious sect, nor are we even sure what it is. We do, however, love this soup!
Our Best Tortilla Soup With Avocado and Sour Cream Garnish

Combine In Blender: Canned Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, Cilantro, and Sugar. Blend Until Smooth.
Pour Chicken Broth And Chipotle Peppers Into Large Pot.

Add Chicken and Tomato Mixture From Blender. 

 Bring to boil and simmer for twenty minutes. You can control the level of spice by adding or removing chipotle peppers. I suggest you take some out, taste the soup and adjust the amount of peppers. At the finish, remove all of the peppers unless you are really seeking revenge on those who will be eating the soup!

While the soup is simmering, shred some cheese. Peel the avocados and cut into chunks. Crumble some tortilla chips and open the sour cream! You will want to layer these in serving bowls--add chips, top with cheese, garnish with avocado, spoon soup over this and add a dollop of sour cream.

One More Time. The Best Tortilla Soup Ever. It's The Peppers!
  • 16 ounce can tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons snipped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken breast cut up
  • 2 or 3 chipotle peppers and a little adobo sauce

  • shredded cheese
  • avocados cut up
  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream

Guaranteed to warm you up!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Buyer Beware

I have wanted to write this educational post for a few weeks. Lately, friends have been offering me jewelry pieces that are thought to be sterling.  Even the piece below, which was identified as a knock-off, was still thought to be sterling. It is not. But, you say, it is stamped .925--it must be sterling! The truth is, .925 can be stamped on anything and some countries exert no control or penalties for misuse of quality standards.  One writer stated that their experience in buying beads from one of these countries included being told that beads stamped with .925 were cheaper than those without the stamp proving the demand for fakes is large.

Tiffany Knock Off Sold On Internet

"Silver" Chain Before and After Use of Torch
A link from the fake chain in the top picture was melted with an acetylene torch and it immediately turned a bright brassy color as it melted quickly. The problem with imports is explained in detail in the article linked here:

It seems important to understand the misuse of the quality mark since precious metals now sell at record highs. It gives you one more bit of information with which you can educate your friends and customers. I hope this is helpful to you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Becoming An American

September 27, 2011 was a special day and I want to tell you about it.  It probably isn't connected to metalsmithing but it did affect me and in that way, it was connected.

Today my Swedish son-in-law became an American citizen. He did not just arrive in this country but has been here for 34 years, raised a family, and worked in international sales.  Until just a few years ago, Sweden would not allow dual citizenship and Anders traveled extensively in Europe on his Swedish passport. He began the journey to US citizenship as soon as possible when dual citizenship was an option. Each exit from the US and entry into the US that he had made in the past 34 years required accurate documentation. This documentation process was a daunting undertaking but he kept at it and finally, this year everything was in order.

A Fraction of the 1,232 Candidates For US Citizenship
We arrived at the Paramount Theater where 1,232 about-to-be new United States citizens waited in line to be seated. This was an intricately organized gathering and was critical to the efficiency of everything that followed. The candidates for citizenship were guided into predetermined sections and seated together by country of origin to facilitate the certificate distribution. In the picture above, Anders is in the upper left hand corner, three in from the door, standing between a red jacket and a blue shirt. His big smile makes him easy to identify.
The Wall of the Paramount Theater
Some of you know by now that I like to take pictures of beautiful designs.  So, it makes sense that I would take a picture of this gorgeous ceiling at the Paramount and the wall in the picture above. The colors are true and the designs are mesmerizing. We were not bored while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

The Wall and Ceiling of the Paramount Theater
The interior of the Paramount Theater creates a grand atmosphere for this ceremony and communicates the importance of this moment. The government officials spoke warmly and respectfully to the new citizens. The man who introduced the procedures spoke fluently in the languages of seven countries as he welcomed the candidates. (Swedish was not one of them.) He also had a dry sense of humor with which he peppered his comments. At the end, 1,232 candidates from 104 countries received their certificates of citizenship in a timely, orderly fashion. Over half of them ordered passports in the lobby. All of this finished in a little over an hour renewing my faith, ever so slightly, in government efficiency.

I almost stayed home and worked on some bracelets today but I'm so glad I didn't! I was reminded of my days managing Vocational English As A Second Language Programs in business. The people I interacted with in those classes believed in the promise of America. Many had left everything to come to a better place and participate in the American Dream. Their love for the United States should remind us to stand up for the country we believe in and to vote, vote, vote. These new citizens bring fresh enthusiasm and dedication with them. Let's welcome them.

Thank you, Anders and 1,231 others. We need you here.

New American--One of the Best