Friday, January 14, 2011

Making Crazy Lace Lemonade

Holy cow, I got some comments! And a couple followers! Thank you, people, for being so supportive. As you can probably sense, I'm in a period when support is nice to have, so thank you again for reaching out to a total stranger. But I guess that's what this is about, huh? I'm so slow to catch on. Also grateful, so thank you again.

Since I overwhelmed you with my back problem last post, let's start with the fun stuff this time -- jewelry. I will admit that I don't work at my jewelry table every day or even most days. Especially at this time of year, I tend to give the hobby a rest. I'm burned out from the pressure of the holidays (when I am often asked to make custom pieces, gak), I'm low on ideas (I'm more creative under pressure), and, not the least of reasons, my jewelry table is just such a mess that I'm not drawn to it. How much of a mess? This much:

Ghastly, no? I've never been good about cleaning up as I go when I'm making jewelry, and my work space is very limited. When you combine the two, you get this. Which is why any beading project I'm working on is typically on a tray in my lap. I'm terrifically envious of the beautiful, bright, well-organized rooms and studios I see on other blogs, but I fear that even if I had space like that I'd soon do this to it. It's just how I work. (But not how I live; the rest of the house is much better.) Something I need to clarify about this photo: that iced tea spoon front and center is not for food. No sane soul would eat at this table. Rather, it's what I use to set bezels. Somewhere I have a proper bezel setter, but I've mislaid (ie, buried) it, and this spoon is working pretty well.

Since I don't make beads (I wish, I wish!), and don't even usually purchase beads or components that would be considered "focals" -- my work tends to group pearls and stones instead of leading up to one payoff point (something I've never even thought about but am realizing as I start writing about my pieces and notice that "focal" just never comes up) -- I figured I would fabricate the focal required for the Bead Soup Blog Party exchange. I went through my cabs and selected a largish, shield-shaped laguna agate in soft, mauvey shades and with beautiful striations. Here it is right before I soldered the bezel to the backplate.

My thinking was that I could put three round connectors on the frame, one at each of the points at the top on this picture and one at the bottom, and then my partner in the exchange could treat it as a pendant and run beads, chain, or whatever to the top points and dangle something from the bottom, or she (is it okay to assume that most Bead Soup participants are women?) could go wild and make this the focal point of an asymmetrical piece with two strands coming in and one going out and something creative happening elsewhere to balance, etc etc. I was trying to offer variety and not just, you know, a flat thing with a hole (not that there's anything wrong with holey flat things).

The back of this cab was almost prettier than the front, so I cut a large opening in the backplate to show the stone, which meant that side could conceivable become the "right side," so the connectors needed to be interesting. I wound lengths of thinnish beaded wire twice around a screwdriver shaft (ie, my mandrel) and then soldered the ends closed, making what looked like two interlocking rings. Now the tricky part -- attaching the connectors. (And I know there is a better word than "connectors," but "bail" doesn't seem right. Sorry if I'm misusing the term.) I got the first one on with no problems, but the second one was moving around, and when I focused on adjusting it, I forgot about the torch and held it too close for too long and melted a big hole in the frame, as you see here:

I mean, I really melted it. Not even close to salvageable. So not only was the past two hours' work shot (I'm a slow producer), but a pretty big piece of silver (nearly $30 an oz) was now destined for the scrap heap. Boo bleeding hoo. I was really disappointed and very close to calling it a night. (I got a Kindle for Christmas and, boy, does it lure me.)

But then I noticed the piece of silver I had cut out of the backplate sitting on my table. (If you can believe that I could see anything on that table.) It wasn't real big, but it was an interesting shape, and maybe I had something that could work on it. Granted this was not at all how I wanted to do this project, making do with a substitute focal after botching the "real" piece, but I was intrigued by the challenge and knew I could always keep the piece if it was not up to attendance at a Bead Soup Party.

So I looked through my cabs again and found a bag of small crazy lace agates. (Here I should say that I also found bags of medium, large, and extra large crazy lace agates because I'm just wild for that stone.) Most were rectangular but one was a little wonky, and it fit interestingly on the silver piece. Hmmm. So I made another bezel, soldered it on, made new connectors (this time out of heavier beaded wire) and attached them, and added a little flower thingy I had made earlier in the evening and decided not to use on the laguna piece. I then made a junction using the same beaded wire as a triple-ring backplate and soldered another little flower  onto that. Because I had textured the frame of the crazy lace agate cab with coarse sandpaper, I did the same to one of the hand-formed clasps I make in batches and keep around, and added that to the component pile. I oxidized everything, set the cab, polished the pieces with fine steel wool, and applied a couple coats of Renaissance wax. What do you think?

I don't know what the Bead Soup Blog Party rules are about posting images of what you'll be exchanging before you know who your partner is, so I hope I'm not violating any protocols by jumping the gun a bit. The real reason I'm putting this picture here now is so I'm forced to trade these pieces, because I really like them. I've never made anything like these before and have a number of ideas about how I'd use them for a bracelet or a necklace or maybe even a bracelet that converts into a necklace! My only hope of turning these over to someone else is to publicly deny ownership right now and say I'm just holding them for a friend -- a friend I have yet to meet.

Now my back. The surgeon called yesterday. Yes, as my sore behind suspected, the herniation is still present and still large. He wants me to have a CT first (for which my deductible is $750, which I cannot help but think of in terms of the silver sheet, wire, and beads it would buy), but then we'll talk about surgery, which will probably happen in the second half of February, since my brother is getting married in Puerto Rico on Valentine's Day. I only wish it could be sooner.

(It seems I'm incapable of short, to-the-point posts. I'll work on that.)

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