This and that

These few days off during the Thanksgiving holidays, I’ve been working on several random projects. The ongoing weaving project will be in an upcoming post.

Next week it’s back to work and clearing the decks of old business before the turn of the year. That means some outstanding jewelry stuff, plus my fall projects and house goals. Start the new year fresh and new set of goals (the standard long term goals, but also very specific goals that I focus on quarterly).

On the jewelry front, did a batch of earrings for a shop. I like to get out little piles of beads within a particular palette and play with them until I’m happy with the combination or the look I’m going for.

Bead piles

I tend to deliberately not do a lot of duplication of identical earrings because it gets boring really fast. I like to just sort of follow my inspiration at the moment. I do have some regular styles I do, but there’s a lot a variation within that style. Below are several earrings I thought turned out especially pretty.

Earring closeup, better

At pottery class, I picked up several items that were done with the final step, the glaze firing, and brought them home. At this stage of things, I’m focusing on learning control throwing pottery on the wheel and experimenting with various glaze combinations. I have a notebook I keep everything in. Pottery has so many steps over many weeks, once more than a few pieces are in process it’s hard to remember what’s where or what you did if you want to reproduce it. So, I write down everything.

These two bowls I threw maybe my second or third week of class. They’re a bit thick, but the walls are nice and even. Will be perfect for soup or icecream. The first small bowl, the picture doesn’t show it great, but it came out kind of a mottled blue-green with bits of brown. Glad I wrote it down since I’ll try this glaze combination again. Glazes can be tricky since how thick/thin or application method can affect them radically, and layering them can be unpredictable since the chemicals will sometimes combine between them in wholely unanticipated ways. This little bowl is a good example of that.

Small bowl

The larger of the bowls, different set of glazes and application method. The black on the outside really traveled (was just around top edge). Notice the carved rings filled with black on the sides? I didn’t do that. It just filled in on its own. Couldn’t have done that if I’d tried. Interesting, huh?

Larger bowl

The small items in my hands are diz, a disk with a hole in the center, and is used as a tool with fiber combs when processing sheep fleece to prepare it for spinning using a drop spindle or my spinning wheel.

Diz set

I’ll do pics of fleece combing some other time. The metal one is explained below. The other two I did in class to see if I could make them out of clay. I put a lot of texture on the outside (showing) and then iron oxide to turn them that leather brown color. The functional surface is actually the inside, concave and smooth glazed to funnel fiber smoothly toward the hole.

Overall, I was experimenting and am pretty happy with the result. The only thing, I was guessing on the hole size. The older metal one has the hole at a size I like. Seeing them all together in the picture, the holes in the clay ones are much bigger. Will see if okay when I try them out. If not, it’s just hardened mud anyway…and back to the drawing board. I’d say they’re a success, but need to test-drive them.

The diz below is one I made a while back in jewelry fabrication class. The back is copper sheet and the design is inspired from a 10th century illuminated manuscript that I had in my sketchbook (in background). I used a jeweler’s handsaw to cut it from thin brass sheet and solder it to the copper. Tricky to get them both hot enough to solder without melting the brass (way less and thinner metal than the copper). I did melt it in one spot, but that’s okay. It was a learning thing.

Diz closeup

I think I have a thing about pretty tools. Tools you use alot should be good quality and enjoyable to both use and look at. Plus, I tend to prefer making pretty but utilitarian things, no matter what the object or medium.

Anyway, I really like that viney motif I did in metal and thought I’d try it in clay. This is a hollow form I threw with extra thick walls so I could carve it. The item is a paperweight or breadwarmer.

Carved clay

I waited until it had dried to leather-hard (not gooey anymore, but still moist and not crumbly). I made a small version of a wire loop tool that I had but needed something more delicate. I took some half-round wire from my stash, bent it, and an old ball-point pen and some super-glue later, the perfect tool! Then, using a point, I lightly free-handed the design, then slowly carved it out using my new improvised tool. Cleaned up the details with my needle tool. If I do much of this, I may try to get a set of wax carving tools from my jeweler’s tool supply.

For a first carving effort, I’m pretty darn pleased with it. Now to let it dry so it can be bisque-fired (first firing to harden it), then to glaze (I’m thinking iron oxide) and fire it again.

Next, I needed to blend some fibers on my drumcarder for an upcoming holiday gift exchange, and also some for me to spin into yarn for a gift I’ll need soon.

This pile of fibers is wool, silk, and mohair from various parts of my stash. The fluffy ropes (“roving”) are technically ready to spin, but they can also be blended together into something new. I want the resulting yarn to be lofty, bouncy, textured, and a little hairy, so that made a difference on the fibers, in addition to the color palette. Also added some metallic sparkle.

Fiber pile

This is the fibers being blended in my drumcarder. This is basically a bigger version of traditional flat hand-held cards, just more volume.

Drumcarder in process

The resulting sheet of layers of fiber is referred to as a “batt”. The most common way to spin it is to tear it into strips, attenuate those, then spin the yarn.

Carded batt

And of course no project is complete without Rory making himself at home. It’s especially enticing if he thinks I probably don’t want him to lay on it.

Rory helping drumcard

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