Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jiggety Jog.

 I'm sorry to leave Haliburton, I've made some great new friends, loved my wee apartment in the woods with deer and turkeys wandering by, and loved stuffing more jewellery knowledge into my brain each week.  However, I spent an enjoyable week traveling home.  Mostly great weather for sightseeing, we saw lots of snow geese in Quebec, the very swollen St. Lawrence River, a bit of old Quebec City (yum - pear juice), and the Musee de Beaux Arts: what an interesting building!, a huge exhibit of work by Marc Aurele Fortin (how tragic his final years were), and a VERY impressive collection of contemporary Inuit art.

Crossing the river at Quebec city, we drove east as far as Mont-Joli before turning south.  Very pretty along that last stretch, and we found some authentically squeaky cheese curds to sustain us.  Spent another night, unremarkable, in Dalhousie, and then drove on to Cape Chignecto in Nova Scotia to hopefully see the dramatic tides and sculpted cliffs.  Disappointing drive as far as Advocate Harbour, but the cliffs were worth the trip, and the tide did come in quickly.  Very beautiful from there on to Truro.

 Spent a couple of days visiting with family, took a couple of local jaunts.  One to Pomquet Beach where we saw two of the 40 remaining pairs of piping plovers in Nova Scotia.  Boy they camouflage well against the sand; incredibly hard to photograph!  I did get to hold a wee chickadee as he recovered after stunning himself flying into a pane of glass.  Wonder what kind of concussions little birds live with....

 Came home on one of the new ferries.  Mixed verdict on that: the boat was nice and new and clean, but they "didn't have enough staff on", so we all had to occupy only one of the lounges with tvs and recliners.  It would've been nice to retire to a quieter and less crowded place to get some sleep.  And I'm still ready and able to gripe at length about them abolishing the dorm-sleepers which were affordable and comfortable for a night crossing....  ANYhoo... took a couple more days coming across the island and now I'm home sweet home!

In jewellery news: I've been watching the price of silver climb about a dollar a day for a while now (its up around $48, from $30 in January of this year, and $15 in January of last year).  It leads me to think about incorporating more alternative materials into my designs.  Maybe I'll look into the coloured cement that some people are using, or bezels of brass and copper on more rustic stones.  I have made some earrings of bronze in anticipation of tomorrow's craft fair.  I find bronze has a bit of an exotic cachet in the minds of some people, and it sure has an appealing hue.  I've spent today preparing the packaging and photographing those pieces.  If you are in the St. John's area tomorrow, drop down to the YayDay! MayDay! fair above the new Rocket Bakery (where Auntie Crae's used to be).  Admission is free, cash sales only, 10am - 5pm.  I'll be working on a fine Byzantine chain at my booth if you'd like to see how that's done.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare.

No jewellery to show off this week.  We spent our time with Monica Harhay honing our marketing and portfolio skills.  Unexpectedly, it was an awesome week!  What a great and generous source of information she is!  She tailored her feedback very specifically to each of our needs, and we all learned a lot because of it.  We had a short afternoon session with Tammy Rea, who took us on a whirlwind tour of manipulating photos in Word, as well as introducing us to Weebly: a free and easy site to set up your own website.  Many of us had been dreading this week of classroom work, but I believe we were all pleasantly surprised at how engaging the course work was.

And then it was time to say goodbye!  We had an impromptu dance party in the glassblowing studio (they joined us for this last course), which was a great ending to a great 15 weeks in a great school.  And then we drifted off in several different directions, with email addresses and facebook connections exchanged with those that had made an impact, and memories to savour from everyone else. 

I had been waiting for the timing of the deer and I to coincide so I could see them, and not just their footprints, right up close to my house, and finally on my last day, they came up out of the woods!  And they weren't too shy either, as I got out of my car and walked up to my door, keeping a safe dozen or so feet from me, but not running away! I packed my car to the brim, (it was a little like playing Tetris and was actually quite fun on such a gorgeous evening) before picking up H from the bus. 

And now we journey home on a mostly direct path, but fitting in some interesting sights and food, (always have to think about the food,) but that's for next week's post.  Cheerio, readers, and jewellers-well-met alike. Hope you're all having a good week transitioning back to "real" life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Last of the Baubles

Casting!  I think I thought before this week that casting and mold making were sort of the same, but no.  We did not learn mold making.  We learned the lost wax casting process, and cast our jewellery, but there is no mold that remains to be reused as I had thought.  I do love lost wax though!  I will do more!  We worked with both hard wax and soft wax to create two separate projects.  In the time that was left we were to do cuttlefish bone casting, delft clay casting, and ingot casting.  Unfortunately we ran out of time to do it all.  I had hoped to delft casting as it is the one of the three that I had never done before, but watching a few others attempt it, and having some videos our instructor gave us, I may try it myself later. 

So, the majority of the week was taken up with our lost wax pieces.  In hard wax we each made a ring.  The tricky thing was committing mentally to removing so much material from the wax model, because of course it gets more fragile the finer and thinner it becomes.  But if it remains too thick then the amount of silver needed to cast it is ridiculous.  Working in soft wax made me wish I'd stuck with Fimo modeling as a kid.  Such a different skill than carving to create a shape.  I didn't get time to polish my soft wax casting, I guess I'll work on that when I get home.  I designed it to be interchangeable as a brooch and a pendant.  Spruing (above right) took an insane amount of time, when you thought you were done you really weren't.  And there's a bit of math involved in working out the amount of silver required to cast the pieces.  The casting machine is shown at the very top.  It was a two person operation in order to cast, although with experience I'm sure it could be streamlined so that the process was manageable by one person.  (Ashley was my casting partner, so the lobster ring, poppy ring, and banana penguin (yes banana penguin) in the images above, are hers)

I cast my "wedding band" from the first week in the cuttlefish bone to see if the texture would be pronounced on the casting.  It did show up somewhat, but what was more intriguing was the way the sprue turned out.  I decided to keep it like that for the time being.  It's like an eyeball, (I choose not to think evil).

Mid week we finally made the effort as a class to go out for a meal, expecting a deserted restaurant in a small town we were lucky we'd made a reservation!  Yummy Chinese food. 

Saturday was our Show and Sale.  Great fun!  Mostly glassblowers and jewellers, there were a couple of booths by the visual and creative arts students.  Again we were impressed with the turnout in a small town, mostly everyone had some sales.  And it was affirming for those who'd never sold their work before.  We even had a live jazz band which was an unexpected bonus.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Play Time

What a fun week!  This course was Surface Decoration III, and we made many many samples.  The five techniques we focused on were multi-wire lamination, roller printing, etching, multi-metal lamination, and inlay.  Some were quick to do: roller printing and multi-wire lamination.  Others were time consuming but easy: etching.  And the most labor was spent on inlay and multi-metal lamination.  Lovely results all around.  The ring above was the jewellery project I designed and made for this week.  The surface of the lentil bead is taken from my heat treated multi-metal lamination sample (seen below).  The metals I incorporated into this sample are brass, nickel silver, copper, sterling silver, and bronze.  A very exciting technique, but as I've said, time consuming, and certainly dependent on having a rolling mill.

The samples below are an exploration of the textures I achieved with different fabrics when I did roller printing.  Many fabrics that looked exciting were in fact disappointing when rolled through the mill.  The result was often just a plain weave impression, rather than the interesting surface texture present on the fabric.

I've done etching on silver a little bit, but this week we used ferric chloride to etch on brass, nickel silver, bronze and copper.  We also enthusiastically explored photoetching.  This is something that gives some really dramatic textural results and I can definitely see myself using it more in the future.  Below are the samples I made.  Some will evolve into earrings.

Michaela is an excellent teacher, the depth of her knowledge is immense, (did I say this in my last post already?!), and I wish we could have had her for one of our weeks where the emphasis was less on personal exploration and problem-solving, and more on learning very technically specific skills.  She demanded a very high level of performance from us in these last two weeks and it was rewarding to step up to that challenge.

My activities in Haliburton are starting to overlap with the preparation for events when I get home.  I've placed a moderate order for some new items from Gesswein jewellery supply, and a scary but necessary order for sterling silver before the price climbs much higher (over $39 an ounce on Thursday!).  Someone wondered to me if things were starting to wind down in Haliburton, but no, the pace remains the same, and I'm trying to juggle the last few courses here as I anticipate my commitments when I leave.  I must say it is nice to try and maintain some momentum in jewellery making as I leave Haliburton in a couple of weeks.  Next week's course is casting, which I'm really excited about.  It may open some doors for me in terms of the possibilities of wholesaling my designs, we'll see.  This weekend is a last jaunt to Toronto to spend some time with family, and pick up some new items I've purchased to freshen up my craft fair booth display.  We have our school Show and Sale next weekend in Haliburton and I'm participating in the MayDay YayDay fair at the new Rocket Bakery in St.John's on the first weekend after I get back.  I'm hoping to have a few new items for that, as well as some of my popular regular stock items.  Busy is good, busy is good.....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


So I'm gathering from this turkey's display that they travel in harems.  He puffed up like this and shepherded all his ladies into the woods when he spotted me at my window.  I can't imagine meeting one eye to eye.  Though he certainly looks tastier for Thanksgiving dinner when he's puffy like this.

Last week and this week our instructor is Michaela Wolfert (  It was quite a change of pace last week.  Our only samples were tubing and then a hinge.  Other than that we focused all our energy on designing and making a pendant.  Many of us incorporated our hinge into the design.  But first, tubing.  Why make tubing you (as did many of us) might ask?  Well, commercially available tubing only comes in so many sizes and wall thicknesses.  So if you're designing a tubular stone setting or a hinge of very particular specifications, then you might choose to make it yourself.  Commercial tubing on the other hand may be preferable if your not too particular about the wall thickness, and the major bonus is it's seamless so it won't split as easily when strained, or repeatedly soldered.  So it was a worthwhile exercise, but we were all relieved to have it behind us!

I'm sharing images of some of my classmates work this week.  There were some very exciting and complicated designs tackled by everyone.  Here's some highlights:

Chantel Rusaw
Roller printed the surface texture of this locket and even the clasp on the side as well, the recessed deer was oxidized with a patient hand.

Ashley Neville
This locket hinges at the top and opens to receive different fabric inserts to match your mood!

Tracey McDonald
Very patiently sculpted this rose and joined the three bezels below it to beautiful effect.

Brittney Howe
I've shown the lid open on the wee compartment she created in this teardrop pendant set with two stones. Hers was the tiniest hinge in class.

And my pendant.  Hinged at the top and opens to reveal....

the nest hidden behind the grass.

This post was late because I spent the weekend in Toronto with some classmates taking in the One of a Kind Show.  There's a different atmosphere at the spring show than at the Christmas one.  It was quite nice.  And we ate delicious Ethiopian food (Ethiopian House at Yonge and Irwin).  Also caught up with some family over a very tasty brunch on Sunday.  But now I must get back to the studio, Surface Decoration 3 this week!  Lots of samples, fun, fun, fun!