FSOJ’06,wk3: Synergy

Hairpiece_coppersilver_mal I debated on what I wanted to post for week 3’s theme, synergy.  I finally decided that the perfect thing was a piece of jewelry I’ve been working on for a good part of the summer in fabrication class (my first project) and actually just finished this week.  Good timing.

Originally the first project was supposed to be a cuff bracelet, but I figured I’d wear a piece in my hair a lot more (long hair) and I made it more complicated than it would have been by adding  the stones, texturing and shaping.

The synergy is the combining of the copper, fine and sterling silver and stones to create something altogether different than the individual components.  It was a good learning project, especially getting the bezels shaped top and bottom to fit the curve of the piece and the curve of the stones.  Very subtle shaping, and I think some of my wire experience was an unexpected help there since I was already very used to making very tiny tiny subtle adjustments.  I was going for a fairly organic  look and love the mix of the silver and copper peeking out here and there, and all the texture on top.   Some of the silver I sprinkled was some of my wire scraps from wire wrap.  I thought it’d be a nice personal touch for my first fabricated piece.

I still need to finish several picks to go through the holes on either side to keep it in my hair.  One I’m going to do is from wire (ss and malachite, maybe pearls too).  Another, I’m going to beat up some heavier gauge copper wire to make it look like a stick of driftwood.  I also made earrings to go with this piece.  I’ll eventually put the rest of the pics and details for anyone who wants to see the rest of the set when it’s done. 

out the door

I’ve had a few interesting projects head out the door to their new homes recently and thought I’d post them.  I’m going to go ahead and elaborate (warning: long post) with some design notes on here for some of my students and anyone else that is interested in the design behind some of the pieces.  A lot of what I make is pretty straight-forward, but even some of the simpler appearing ones often have lots of little decisions along the way.

RutilatedquartzdoublepenThis first piece was a fun little pendant I just finished yesterday and they picked up tonight.  The stones are rutilated quartz.  The top ones with the rutile growing in those central star shapes as opposed to normal shards only comes from one place in Brazil, no where else.  It was interesting to wrap.  The customer already had the idea of hanging them like this, which I completely concurred with.  I really like the contrast of the shapes.  I wrapped it in 24 gauge gold-filled wire.  I wanted to complement the sheen of the rutile shards, so I didn’t twist any wire this time.  We also debated when they dropped off the stones if she wanted it to be a solid fixed piece or let the bottom piece swing freely.  We decided that swinging freely would be nice.  Personally, while I would have done whatever, I strongly felt it’d be nicer swinging freely as well and am glad they decided to go that way.  I think it will add more physical movement to the piece and really add a lot of light movement across the rutiles in the quartz.  I knew from the beginning that I would do a clean simple wrap with clean lines so it didn’t detract from the stones and emphasized the geometry of them.

I wrapped the angular piece on the bottom first.  I debated doing the bezel similar to a couple of recent projects (half-round wraps mostly, with prongs where needed) but thought it would look heavy on that stone–wanted to keep it lighter looking and really frame it in to draw attention to the neat shape it’s cut in.  I tried something a little different.  Normally, I wrap all one style (prongs, or kicked in, or swirly, etc.) but if you look closely, you’ll see that I used prongs at the bottom (angeled to complement the direction of the nearby rutiles), kicked in on the right side to emphasize the vertical lines and then a wire laid across the front of the stone in the upper left.  I rarely run wire across the face of the stone like that, but I thought it rather looked like more rutile and sort of neat.  Structurally, could have done either prongs or kicked in all the way around, but with the asymmetry of the stone, I like the asymmetry of the mechanics as well.  Also shaped the wires at the top of the bottom pendant where they’re gathered to close it so that the angles complemented the angles of the top of that stone. 

It wound up being a little trickier to wrap as I worked my way to the top because I had to bend the angles as I went to make sure things were hitting right, which meant they were in my way and I was having to dodge wire once I got near the top, especially avoiding bending the ones that I’d temporarily dropped in that upper left corner, then getting everything on there tight enough to bind them back in and yet still be able to get the stone in and out until I was ready to bind it in permanently.  The other tricky bit was that I had to be exceptionally careful throughout the piece to make sure my bails were centered so that the bottom piece hung centered from the top piece and all that centered above the point on the bottom piece.  Visually, if something is a little off on a normal pendant, I can usually compensate to make it look right.  With this piece, there were several points that if it wasn’t all perfectly aligned, it would have just looked and hung "off" and not looked right.  I did compensate the tiniest bit for the added mass on the left side (extra weight) so that it would hang straight and not want to tilt from the weight.

I left the very top loop of the bottom pendant unfinished until I got the top stone wrapped for two reasons.  One, the orientation of the loop (side to side, or front to back) would be determined by which design I used for binding the top stone.  Sure, I could turn it later, but no reason to weaken the wire even a little if I can avoid it.  Two, having the loop finished would mean that I’d have to incorporate the bottom pendant in the top pendant as I made it, almost from the beginning.  Having that hanging off while working on the top piece, while doable, would have been unnecessarily crazy-making between the weight of it and it being in the way.  Far better to add it way at the last.  As it turned out, good thing I waited because I wound up changing my design I thought I was going to use for the top stone.

The top stone, what’s on there is actually the second attempt.  I scrapped the first one.  I was originally going to do what I do on high dome stones like this one, and often amber and thick domed dichroic glass.  It’s a simple wrap in heavy wire that lets a lot of light in, but as it turned out, while the stone has a nice dome, it’s just shallow enough that I didn’t think it was secure, and it also let the stone turn a little too freely.  I was concerned that one, the stone turning…well, it’s prettier from certain orientations, so I wanted to be able to fix it in place.  More importantly, if it turns freely over time, I wondered if it would either eventually wear a groove or scratch in the stone, or wear the underside of the wire and weaken it.  Anyway, it just wasn’t working for me so I took it out and redid it in a simple bezel/cage wrap and kicked in the wires on the sides.  I think it echoes the wrap of the bottom piece and the wire kicked in on the sides emphasizes the shape.  Started the wrapping at the bottom center, which is what I normally do on ovals and rounds.  It’s easier to get the sides symmetrical that way.  Plus, I needed to remember to put that bottom loop in there for the other piece to hook into.  Once everything was bound on the top one, then the last little step was adding the bottom piece to the top.  Overall, I was really pleased with how this piece came out.  I think it framed and complemented the stones nicely.

Trinity_cross_ssgf This is a piece that I sent off fairly recently.  It’s a Trinity cross that was custom ordered by a gentleman, a design he asked if I could do.  I thought, sure, it’s a variation of any other number of shapes I do occasionally.  Overall height is 1.5" or so.  The base wires are 22 gauge gold-filled and sterling silver, mixed, and it’s wrapped in gold-filled 22 gauge half-round.  I twisted the outer course (sterling silver) of the internal wires.  It was a prototype design and I’ll probably do variations of it later, a neat project.

This is another one of those pieces that wound up being more involved than first appearance.  The general mechanics of binding a bundle of wires and shaping to whatever shape is something I’ve been doing periodically and isn’t all that complicated.  That being said, there were several design decisions to be made with this one:

  • drawing out a clean "cartoon" to go by (more on this later)
  • to interweave or not to interweave, and if so, how
  • what to do with the ends
  • how to do a bail for a chain

On the cartoon, this is basically something I do for anything where I want to make my design to a certain shape.  For example, if I’m shaping a heart, I always sketch one to compare against.  I can’t freehand a heart out of wire to save my life, for some reason.   Angles/curves just don’t look right when I’m holding it.  So whatever the shape, heart, snakes, etc. I sketch a shape.  Then as I’m working, I wrap a little, shape a little, compare against cartoon, adjust.  Wrap/shape, compare, tweak.  Wrap/shape, compare, tweak.  And so on, a little at a time.  For this type of wrapping, I usually use wrap wires about two feet long or so.  Longer, the weight causes the wraps to want to twist around easier and it’s a pain to support the ends, so I just piece it on the back periodically.

For this type of design, the symmetry is critical, so I didn’t want to freehand the design.  I played around with my compass and drew out a new cleaner design to use as my cartoon.  As I worked, I just wrapped/checked against the design constantly to make sure I was maintaining the correct curve.  I worried about what would happen at the corners, but the wraps worked out just perfect.  I spread the wires slightly at the corners to give a similar appearance to the bail.  More on that below.  I also rounded corners ever so slightly–sharp bends would make the piece weak, especially with wear over time.  I think this piece was meant to be something that is worn pretty much constantly, and by a guy (and military if I recall) so sturdiness was an extra important consideration.

To interweave or not.  Originally, I don’t think I was going to, but once I got going, I decided it wouldn’t be any harder to interweave it versus just layering it as I went.  In the end, what made the interweaving more complicated was at each point where a layer passed another layer, I had to do some funky manipulations and be very careful to not distort the lay of the wrap wire.  I think in the end, the interweaving also gave it a little more strength.  Plus, as the layers crossed, I had to do subtle adjustments to put a little bump up or down and made it overall with an ever so slight convex shape.  I think the undualations mixed with the wrap/spiral makes it really catch the light and will give it a lot of visual and light movement.

The ends.  That’s always the quandry with wire.  What to do with the ends.  Half the time, something decorative can be done with them, but with this kind of design, that would detract.  I wound up doing a hidden thing (that’s the point) I do occasionally.  A little bit of planning is needed since it has to be done right from the outset, not something you can decide on later.  Just need to make the outside course of wire doubled so that it goes across the end of the bundle and provides a place to hook onto when I came back around.  The only fiddly part was with all the movement and shaping initially, I was constantly having to check my opening because it kept closing up.  It was basically just a wire’s width–too much and it’s weak–too narrow and it won’t admit the wires I want to hook into it later.  I wound up adding some temporary spacers hooked in there that I cut out later so it didn’t close up on me.  When I got to the end, took out the spacers and hooked the opposite end in.  The join is on the underside course of one of the center intersections.  Barely even shows on the back because I added a little halfround to finish the pattern.  I like the backs of my pieces to be nearly indistinguishable from the front when practical.  Sometimes I put special little things on the back that only the wearer ever knows about.

The bail.  I initially thought I was going to put a loop at one of the points.  When I got there, I decided it would look strange and disturb the symmetry of the piece.  What I wound up doing was slightly spreading the wires at the tip to maintain the visual sharpness of the points (otherwise, it would have looked more rounded) without adding an actual sharp bend.  The top point in the picture was the first point I did and I spread it a little more than I would the others to be able to admit a heavier gauge secondary bail that I made later.  Avoided the loop and it’s barely noticeable in the overall design.  I did wind up putting a spacer in that as well since making the curved side as I left the point, it kept wanting to suck it down closer.  My tolerance was just barely to admit the large wire so any shrinkage would be a real problem…so again, the spacer wire I removed later.  I also added spacers on the other points as I did them so they kept their points (and also used spacer wire to keep the right distance as I bent each wire individually as I rounded the points).

Pearlamth_set_2This next set of pictures are part of a set I did this summer with these two really large blister pearls a customer brought to me.  One she wanted in a pendant and one she wanted as a pin.  Wanted one silver, the other gold.  Didn’t matter which.  Didn’t particularly care what color beads since we’d determined in our initial conversation that we tend to like similar palettes–if I liked the colors, she probably would.  In other words, total artistic license.  A lot of freedom in a way, but more pressure too.

For this pearl (yes, the big flatish stone…big, as in probably 2" tall, both of them), I thought would be prettiest to hang as a pendant and it had a little more of a grey cast to it, so I put silver on that one, and put gold on the pink-cast one (below, later).  The other interesting aspect of this stone was that it actually had a strong convex curve across the bottom third of it.  (Side picture is lower down.)

I decided to use amethyst, purple pearls and austrian crystal on it.  Especially with the convex bottom standing out, I thought a waterfall pouring off the bottom and swinging freely would give it a lot of movement.  For the asymmetry of the stone, I didn’t want the waterfall to go all the way across, but gave it visual balance and weight by adding the little sweep of beads on the left side.

Pearlamth_pendant_side_4 The cage/bezel wrap was pretty straight-forward, but I ran into an unexpected issue with the bezel not wanting to stay in place due to the convex shape of the stone.  The thin edges of the piece didn’t let me build something thicker/stronger to keep its shape independently, plus it would have looked too heavy to use a thicker bezel or one of heavier wire.  I think I used 22 gauge as it was.  I really wanted the bezel to almost fade into the piece so that you mostly saw the pearl and the beads, not the wire.  I wanted the wire to be more subtle.  That’s also why I didn’t do a lot of swirly sweeping curly things with the wire on this one.  It had such a pretty shape, I really wanted to keep the clean lines.

Pearlamth_pendant_back_2  What I wound up doing (right–>) to stabilize it was a crisscross across the back.  It was actually pretty strong going around the stone, just the convex shape made it want to jump out of place and the crisscross served to stabilize it.  I’ve never needed to do this to any other pieces, so it was kind of a new thing, but a good thing to remember should this come up again.  Plus, I thought it actually turned out looking pretty neat.

The earrings are a waterfall style I do, topped off with a focal bead of faceted amethyst bead that I’m pretty stingy with and pull out when I really have a good use for it.  I used similar beads to those on the necklace so they go together.

Blisterpearl_pin_set_1 This is the other blister pearl, this time set in gold-filled wire with faceted garnet and citrine.  The pearl had rich pink cast to it that definitely needed garnets for the gemstone.  I added the citrine because I think it’s an especially rich combination, the garnet red and gold.

If you’ll notice, the pearl is cut in an pretty unusual shape that I wanted to take advantage of.  I figured I’d do the swirly wire work on the pin, partly as a contrast to the clean lines of the previous style above.  Where the last style was cool and clean, I wanted this one sumptuous, bold and rich. 

I wrapped the pin first, using a heavier gauge round wire (20 gauge maybe) and something lighter and twisted (probably 21 or 22 gauge).  I made the pin a separate piece on the back out of the round wire and made sure to catch it as I swirled around the stone.  I was originally going to put a lot more beads on it, like nested down in some of the lower swirls, but everytime I laid something down there, I wound up cutting it off.  It wound up being way more eyecatching to make those pretty faceted garnet beads the focal point.  Too many other beads kept being distracting.  That one little sweep is just resting nested there at the swell of the pearl and wound up being far more effective.  The swirls and a lot of beads were just too busy.  The earrings are another style I do that I use a lot when I make sets with lots of swirls that complements them nicely.  Again, same beads as on pin.

wrapping faceted teardrops

This post is for someone over at the wire jewelry forum that had a question on ideas for wrapping faceted teardrops.  As I mentioned, smaller teardrops, I tend to use a bezel/cage wrap with prongs instead of kicking in the wires so less of the stone is covered.  The problem with doing this on a larger stone is that usually they’re deep and will tend to roll around, so they need more to stabilize them.  The issue with making a deep bezel is that it can cut off light to the stone, so a compromise of a deep but open setting is the trick.

Amethystpearprongpendant This amethyst here was around 10×15 mm.  If you look at the bezel going around, you just make a few wraps leading up to the prong, then a little wire doubled in to form a prong and wrap on the other side side to stabilize it.  Often I will make the prongs on the back longer than those on the front.  The wire is square 24 gauge gf and 22 gauge half-round.

     Alexandriteteardrop_ss_wove_2 This other prong setting was a pretty large stone that I did for commission for a customer.  It was about 1 1/4" tall, narrow for it’s height, and pretty deep for its proportionate width.  Being a dark stone, a deep bezel on it would have cut off a lot of light, so I did this open prong bezel.  If you look closely, it’s out of pretty heavy wire (20 gauge) and the wires on the sides weave back and forth creating a more open side, plus it was easy to taper the height of the bezel as it appoached the thinner top, making it lay nice when worn.  The original inspiration for this setting came from the November ’02 Wire Artist Jeweler magazine (out of print, can get back issues though), although I significantly modified the design.  The overall concept of switching the inner wires back and forth from top to bottom was a good one.  The execution was a little fiddly and might be tricky for a beginner, but the results pretty nice.  This design has a lot of potential for variations.

FSOJ’06,wk2: Mother Earth, Father Sky

Soj6wk2_motherearthfatherskyThis is my project for the Season of Jewelry project, Week 2, using the theme of Mother Earth, Father Sky for inspiration.  For my personal goals, I used a recently acquired kyanite teardrop bead for the center drop instead of letting it languish in my stash for years.  Another personal goal, keeping some of my nicer pieces, I’m toying with keeping this one instead of selling it…or at the least making another similar so I’ll wind up with one.  I was especially pleased with how pretty this combination of stones was.

This piece is made from sterling silver.  The blue center teardrop of kyanite, the iolite beads in the swirly part and the pearls represent Mother Earth’s oceans, and the moonstone and clear austrian crystal represent Father Sky’s moon and stars.

Earth: Night and Day

This first post is a copy of the one I posted here under the Week 01 category.  For awhile now on various forums and blogs, I’d been seeing mentions of this Season of Jewelry thing.  The idea is a creative challenge of doing a new piece of jewelry a week, and for inspiration there’s a theme for the week that you can use or not.  The idea originated out of a wire jewelry forum on delphi so a lot of the pieces tend to be wire related, but it’s not limited to that.

Anyway, I found the idea tremendously interesting and think it’s a neat artistic challenge for where I am with things now.  I’ve been doing wire for awhile and while I have pretty wide range of designs, techniques and looks that I use, there’s been some things out there that I haven’t gotten around to that I’ve been wanting to try, or stretch a little with what I’m already doing.

When it came to sign up for the next season, which just started, I jumped in.  We’re beginning of the third year of the project, now a season at a time.  This is the Season of Earth, as an overall theme, then each week has its own theme.

My personal goals are first, just to actually make something every week.  Second, ideally to try something new or get around to something I just haven’t quite gotten around to.  This can be using stones I was once inspired to buy long ago and then never did anything with, trying new techniques, or doing an interesting variation on a current technique.  And sometimes it can just be making some one-of-a-kind something that I ordinarily only get around to making for a cool commissioned piece but rarely make to sell.  Along that same line is making a few nice pieces to keep.  I actually have kept very little of what I make and the nicest, most interesting pieces are someone else’s.  A third goal is to work on improving my digital photography.

This piece incorporates a couple of those goals:  using a stone I bought a long time ago and never Soj6wk1_earth_1 got around to, and trying out a different approach. 

The stone is a piece of petrified wood, one of several I bought some years back and never used.  I like this batch of stones because of the unusal markings and shapes.  Petrified wood seemed appropriate to the earth theme, as well as the clear/smokey quartz and pearls. 

There were several design challenges on this one.  One, was that it’s a pretty thick stone (like a domino thickness) with straight vertical sides, which means the bezel wrap is extra wide.   Using 24 gauge wire, that made it 14 wires wide.  I had to be careful with bunching when wrapping.  If I had a do-over, there were 4 twisted wires in the middle of the pattern on the side that I would have mixed some square in with since that was the worst culprit for wanting to bunch.

The next thing that was a bit fiddly was that, inspired by the vertical division of light/dark in the stone color, I thought it would be cool to wrap it with silver on the light half and gold on the dark half, then follow that theme with light/dark quartz hanging off of it.  I debated just mixing gold/silver in the overal bezel and somehow switching the dominant color to the front on the appropriate side.  Then I decided to just do the whole entire side for each in one solid color.  That meant I had to start at the hookup (bottom center) instead of at one end and going around.  Just doing the hookup of the two metals was no biggie with a little planning, but the loops really complicated it because I had to start with the gold completely to one edge and juggling 14 wires initially without being able to stabilize them with a temporary binder because I needed to free up one of the center wires to create the loops.  In retrospect, I would have preformed at least the first loop so I could have temp wrapped the bundle while I was stabilizing the end with the hook.  Things kept shifting where the loop I had to leave for the silver to hook in later needed to go, and I eventually put in a temporary spacer so I didn’t lose it as I worked.  The silver side was easier since I could start wrapping at the lower corner and work toward the bottom center, hooked it together, then went back and finished going up the sides.

Anyway, that was the unexpectedly fiddly bits.  Other general design stuff, I did some random diagonals and wraps on the side, which looks pretty cool since it’s such a deep bezel.  Mixed gold and silver together in the bail, the only place.  Debated on prongs versus kicking in wires, and decided I wanted less wire on the face of the stone.  I did curve the prongs to follow the grain of the wood a little, something a little different for me.  It doesn’t show, but the white side is more shallow.  I brought it all flush to the front, but that leaves the white sunk in a little on the back.  On the back, laid in some tiny pearls in that sunk area, partly for appearance and partly for stability. 

The only other thing, I’m going to look at it for awhile, but I may rework the smokey quartz dangles and take out some of the larger white pearls.  I’ll keep in a few of the flat pearls to tie the sides together, but I’m thinking the larger ones take away from the dark/light, silver/gold contrast a little.  I’ve been toying with redoing the stones with pale gold tiger eye beads on the light side and gradating to dark tiger eye on the dark side.  Going with just a tiny touch of pearl and maybe/maybe not on the quartz.  Opinions?