Sunday, May 22, 2016

Metalsmithing Challenges

Today I'd like to share a little project with you. It's not very good to be honest and there's lots of mistakes I made, but it's a bit of a milestone for me since it's my first time fabricating a bezel set ring from scratch at home with nobody holding my hand and showing me every step.

While it's not the prettiest, that entire piece is made by me. The cabochon, the bezel setting, the ring shank, everything. I took a metalsmithing class in the summer of 2014 and then another one in 2015 and I could never recreate my results at home. Not to fault my teachers at all, it was mostly me trying to get the tools and supplies together and just not putting in the time. All the time between classes and trying it myself didn't help me either.

I had quite a few challenges when I was first trying to just get my little smith torch running. I had propane and a spare oxygen concentrator, but getting everything set up with proper fittings took a little trial and error. When I finally had it working out, I couldn't get the torch to stay lit. It kept blowing out. It took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to figure out that it was the oxygen concentrator.

When you start up an oxygen concentrator, you let it run for a few minutes to get the air flowing. I had the valves of the torch shut during this startup period and when I would light the flame, all that air that was building in the lines would come out at a higher pressure when I opened the valve, blowing out the flame. I had experience with this in my lampworking torch, I have no idea why it took me so long to figure out that a jeweler's torch would do the same thing.

Next I ran into the challenge of working with copper compared to silver. I love the look of both copper and silver, but silver is expensive! I get very anxious about the price of supplies and I have a hard time making those learning mistakes when they are expensive. For a comparison, a 6" x 12" sheet of copper is about $13 and the same size piece of silver is $250. Needless to say, I started with copper.

Copper is not as easy to work with though. Every time the copper is introduced to heat it gets a nice coating of soot and firescale that is a pain in the ass to clean up every time I needed to retry getting solder to flow.

So these are some of the things I've struggled with since my first metalsmithing class. Maybe you can see why this ring is such a huge accomplishment for me.

Going forward, I'm going to try to get through all of the copper that I have before attempting with silver. Hopefully that should give me a good foundation for the basics and get me a larger jewelry collection.

Wish me luck :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bead Shows and Teaching

So since my blogging has been pretty sparse in the past few years, I'll just start by telling you what I've been up to lately.

I'm taking a step back from bead shows. It's probably not shocking to anybody since bead shows in general seem to be getting a little smaller over the years. I love getting to chat with my customers in person and see their reactions to my work. I get to see what everyone is making and learn so many new things. I get to be with people that "get it." It's rewarding in a way that online interaction never really can be.

At the same time, prepping for a bead show just takes the energy out of me. While it is nice not to have to photograph everything, I still need to price everything and display it and lug it around. I always seem to break something too since at the end of the weekend, I'm too tired to really carefully pack up my stuff.

Over the years bead trends have been changing like they always do and lampwork beads just aren't as popular as they were years ago. I always make enough sales to make a bead show worth it, but it is a lot of work and it does take away from time spent making new work and selling online.

So, I'm sure I will do a few bead shows here and there, but I just don't have the time to devote to bigger shows like Beadfest and Bead and Button since they have such a high overhead.

If you do like to buy my beads in person and are bummed that I am minimizing my bead show offerings, you'll be happy to know that Let's Bead in East Rochester, NY and Bead Breakout in Pittsford, NY carries my work. They are both excellent shops that offer classes and tons of bead selections.

I am starting a new adventure in teaching as well. I am currently assisting with soft glass classes starting this summer at the Rochester Arc and Flame in Gates, NY. It really is a wonderful facility with many class offerings not just in glass. Many of you have been requesting a stringer class from me and that is what I am aiming for. I feel teaching is not something to be rushed. Classes are expensive and it wouldn't be fair to my students for me to just jump in as a teacher with no experience. It is something I am working on though.

Who knows, maybe when I have more teaching under my belt, I will revisit bead shows and start teaching at them. We will see what the future holds.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

An Update and a Giveaway

So, as you might have noticed, I haven't been very good about blogging in the past year, or even a few years. I suppose I'm just spoiled on quick facebook updates and posting pictures on instagram. It's just so much easier to post something on a whim without needing to think about what you are going to say.

But, as I'm not traveling and getting to many bead shows anymore, I thought it would be nice to find another way to communicate with my Bead People, particularly since social media can have some limits and not everyone is using Facebook and Instagram.

So for now, I will keep this short and sweet and try to make up for my bad bloggerness with a giveaway.

So here are the beads to be given away for the month of May. Each time you do the following, you get an entry:
1. Comment on the giveaway picture (via blog or Facebook)
2. Share (share multiple times for multiple entries on Facebook
3. Like (or love or whatever on Facebook
smile emoticon
I will draw with a random number generator on June 10th.
I am currently limiting this to folks within the US because of the recent hike in international shipping charges, but we'll see how things go in the future.

Hopefully I will have more to share another day. Thanks for stopping by to see what I'm up to