The Art of Photography

Taking photos seems to be a challenge for most of us that haven’t been schooled in the art of photography.  Getting the right balance of  light and controlling reflections has always been one of my biggest challenges when photographing my jewelry.  I can always count on sunshine most days of the year  living in the southwest and up until a few months ago I did all of my photography outdoors.  I thought about it and decided that I really didn’t want to have to fair the cold weather this year to take photographs so I purchased a photo tent a few months ago.

 My Photo Tent

It has been quite a challenge to learn how to get the light just right with photographing indoors.  It was like learning how to photograph from scratch all over again.  I had to learn how to control the  light source all over again and get the photograph staged just right.

I guess I have to count my lucky start for digital photography; otherwise I would have wasted countless rolls of photo film.  Just one of the advantages of modern photography, I guess.

Practice, Practice, Practice…..

Here is a look at some of my latest photos, certainly much better than when I first started using the photo tent.

 Red Agate and Malachite Bracelet

Green Aventurine and Amethyst Bracelet

Carnelian and Fire Agate Bracelet

Red Creek Jasper and Copper Link Bracelet

Have you had any similar experiences with your photography?  Please share you stories.

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Sterling Silver Bracelet Projects

So on to the final projects.

It was about about 2:oo in the afternoon when we started these last projects.  I was just about worn out from all that hammering from the petal necklace but there was still more to do and I was having such a great time.  🙂  It really made me realize the stamina you would need to be a bench jeweler for 8 or more hours a day.  It gave me a new found appreciation for this artform.

The two final projects were sterling silver bracelets. 

Twist Bracelet

Twist Bracelet Project

The first bracelet was a twist bracelet.

We starting this bracelet with a piece of 10 gage square sterling silver wire.  First we measured the distance on each end of the wire where the twist was going to start.  I set my marks at 1 1/4″ from each end of the wire.  The next step was to place one end of the wire in a vice.  The mark on one end of the wire was place at the edge of the vice.  On the other end, you place the wire in a set of vice grips and twist the wire. 

I thought that would be really easy but I had never used a pair of vice grips before.  I had no idea how to lock down or add tension on a pair of vice grips.  I felt kind of silly asking how to use a piar of vice grips but no question is a dumb question, right?

I twisted the wire 3 full revolutions to get the tight twist on the wire. 

The bracelet was then hammered on each end to get the flat portion of the cuff.  

Now came the most difficult part, acutally shaping the piece of wire into the bracelet.  Using a stepped bracelet mandrel and a rawhide mallet we formed the bracelet around the mandrel.  This took quite a bit of time and a lot of hammering.

The final step was to polish the bracelet with the polishing wheel.

Center-Twist Bracelet

Center-Twist Bracelet Project

The next bracelet was a center-twist bracelet.  This one actually looked really hard to make, but I thought it was one of the easlier pieces to make. 

I started the bracelet with a piece of round 10 gage sterling silver wire.  The wire was flattend on the steel bench block and then I marked 1″ from each end of the bracelet and the center of the piece of wire. 

The wire was flattened on each end up to the 1″ mark and then with ring bending pliers  the wire was clamped at the center point of the wire.  The wire was then bent into a long u-shape.

After the u-shape was formed the wire was hammer flat 1″ from the center of the wire on each side.

The wire was then bent back out straigt leaving the cetner twist in the bracelet. 

The next step was to form the bracelet on the bracelet mandrel with the rawhide mallet.  Using the bracelet mandrel and mallet were a little bit easire this time but it was still difficult. 

The final step was to polish the bracelet.  I think this piece turned out the best from all the pieces I made during the workshop.  This was definitely a great workshop! I left me wanting more.

What I learned from this project:

  • Using a bracelet mandrel and rawhide mallet
  • How to polish with a flex tool and polishing wheel.
  • How to use vice grips.

I know that I am totally hooked on metal now…… 🙂 🙂

Sterling Silver Tapered Petal Necklace Project

 
Tapered Petal Choker
Tapered Petal Choker Project

The next project from my class was a Tapered Petal Choker necklace.  This piece was quite a bit more challenging than the earrings, especially for my current metalsmith capabilities. 

The components for the necklace are 5 pieces of 10 gage round sterling silver wire (1-40mm piece, 2-35mm pieces, and 2-30mm pieces), 16 gage round sterling silver wire about 19″ long,  and 4 10mm glass beads.

The first step was to take the 5 pieces of 10 gage wire and make the tapered petals of the choker.  The instructor made it look so easy in his demonstration but it certainly was not as easy as it looked. 

I started with the center petal. The goal was to flatten half the lenth of the wire using a sweeping hammer motion.  This was a little trickly at first but I eventually got the hang of it.  After the first half was flattened, the petal was turned 90 degrees and the other half was flattend.  One the pice was flattened on both ends.  The piece was filed.  The instructor gave us the choice to file to a blunt straight edge or a round rounded edge.  I decided to to the rounded edge. I thought it would give it a more finished look.  After it was filed, a hole was drilled at on end to slip over the choker wire.   I finished the other four petals in the same way. 

The final step was to place the beads and tapered petal on the 16 gage wire and add a simple eye and hook on the end of the wire.

The smallest petals have the cleanest look, my rythym and technique seemed to improve as I completed the each petal.  Take a look at the blow up of the centerpiece and you can see what I am talking about.

Tapered Petal Choker Center Piece

Tapered Petal Choker Center Piece

What I learned from this project:

  • I really underestimated drilling the hole.  On the first petal I just thought I could “eyeball” the location of the hole, bad idea!  With the other petals, I used the centerpunch to mark my drill hole.  It went much better on the other petals.
  • The technique to flattend and flare metal wire (I hade tried it few times on my own but just couldn’t get it to work).
  • Use a centerpunch to mark your drilling hole.
  • How to drilling with a flex tool.

This was a really fun project, but a lot of hard work.  I have a lot of practicing to get this skill set down but I am really excited about all this.

The final projects were two sterling silver bracelets……

A Look At My Studio

I thought I would share glimpse of my work shop this week.  I thought about cleaning it up first but decided against it.  I cleaned it up about two weeks ago, so it isn’t in too bad of shape yet.  It really isn’t much just a small corner in the garage that my husband was gracious enough to surrender.  I don’t think he ever thought he would have to give up any of his precious space in the garage.   The space I have works for now.

On the left side of the workbench I have my tool chest.  That is the invisible boundary between my space and his space.  The “Less Nessman tape” so to speak. Oh, look now I am dating myself.  My tool chest has a lot of my tools.  files, burnisher,  brushes, screw drivers, pipe benders, and punches.  A lot of the tools were handed down from my grandfather.  He did metalsmithing as a hobby.  I sure wish I would have been more interested in jewelry making when he was alive.

The center of the bench is where I keep my beading board, this is where I do most of my layout work and assembly of my pieces.   Everything is within hands reach from my board.  Beads on the left and finding on the right. 

On the right side I have a narrow bench where I do some of my metal forming and hammering.  On the end of this bend is my baby anvil.  I just love this anvil. It is great for working with small wire and pieces of silver or copper. 

Well, there’s a quick look of my studio.

Why Buy Hand-Crafted Jewelry?

Today I have been pondering what brings a buyer to a local artisan.  When you decided to look for a new piece of jewelry, whether it is a gift for someone special or just a special treat for yourself, there are so many questions and choices out there.  Where do you go? What should you buy? How much do you spend?  Do you go do a chain jewelry retailer? Or a local department store?  How about the local discout store?   Or do you go to a jewlery artisan? 

Gemstone Necklace - Picture Jasper, Red Picture Agate, and Sterling Silver

What are the advantages of buying from a jewelry artisan?

  • You support individual artists and the art community. 
  • Hand-crafted jewlery provides added value though qulaity craftsmanship and individuality.
  • You will get a unique piece that is beautiful and creative.  The piece was created with some inner inspiration from the artisan.
  • The piece will be customizable and have a style all it’s own that meets your stahdards.  Most artisans will customize a piece to your own individual needs.
  • The piece will be quality made with love and care with individuality, instead of a being create at a huge compnay where you will not have any connection to the creator. 
  • Jewelry artisans absolutely love what they do and your piece will be created with that in mind.
  • The piece will be much more affordable and you will be able to form a connection and get personalized service from the artist.

What are your personal experiences with buying artisan jewelry?   Please share the good, the bad, and the ugly…..

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