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!