September 24, 2010

silver leaves & sparkling stones

Soon to become earrings... little silver leaves and gemstone beads. I haven't worked with some of these stones before, and I'm excited just seeing them sparkle on my work table. (And I spent way too long last night reading up on them!)

Front to back: "Petrol" Tourmaline (light to dark olive greens, ambers, and browns), Grossularite Garnet (close in color to Peridot), Andalusite (a neat smoky pink-brown color, with a few color-change beads that can appear mossy green), and Zircon. This Zircon is the natural stuff, not man-made Cubic Zirconia. I'll be taking out the burnt orange zircon beads for my fall leaves jewelry, and the blue ones (which I am totally in love with) will likely be saved for ocean-theme pieces (and will complete a special project for myself), maybe a few will show up with snowflakes this winter.

Well, I'm headed out to enjoy the beautiful sunny fall afternoon (even though that means weeding in the yard)! Have a great weekend!

September 21, 2010

fall is here

Fall, or autumn depending on which you prefer, is definitely here! I have come to love fall over the years, with its moderate temperatures and colorful trees. Nothing draws me outside to wander the neighborhood with my camera like the turning leaves. Summer left as suddenly as it came this year, and the Pacific Northwest has been mostly cloudy and dreary (and unusually muggy) ever since, which really isn't what I have in mind when I say "I love Fall". So I was thrilled that today turned out to be a bright, crisp fall day. That's more like it!

Leaf shapes, especially maples and similar leaves, are one of my favorite nature motifs (along with snowflakes, followed closely by seashells and tropical foliage). I am working on several different styles of fall leaf jewelry for this season. I actually had the designs ready to use last year, I'm excited to finally create with them this year. I took advantage of the weather today and took some photos of newly finished jewelry, one of which is shown here (it will be listed in my Etsy shop). Watch for more to come, some simple, and some more complex, and some paired with gorgeous gemstone beads in fall colors!

September 14, 2010

visit to a volcano

"Nature is the art of God".

I love that quote by Dante Alighieri. The world around us is a masterpiece, from gentle waves on a tropical beach to rugged mountains, from lush forests to colorful deserts. And while I'm not a camper (and prefer that  "icky critters" aren't involved), I love getting out and exploring nature. Nature is my inspiration to create art. My nature photos may not always be fabulous, but I just can't resist sharing them!

I remember when Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. About six years later, we were studying ecosystems in school and went on a field trip to the blast zone around Spirit Lake. This is where the trees had been blown over like toothpicks and the landscape was still very gray from ash. We walked among the fallen trees, and noticed emerging new life. While that was interesting, it was not a place I wished to return. When I was in college, I took a basic geology class and we had a field trip to Mt. St. Helens. It was then I discovered the wonders of the south side of the mountain.

This summer, I figured our boys (ages 7 and 9), might be ready for such an adventure. They like getting out and exploring nature, too. So in late August, we took a day and went. First, we hiked the trails around Lava Canyon. This is where an old lava flow was uncovered when a small (relatively speaking) mud flow came down the south side of the mountain and wiped out a swath of the forest. A creek rushes wildly over and through the lava, and the view changes with each step. I would love to paint a picture of it, but no single view really captures its essence. When I'm there, I feel surrounded by something that cannot be taken in from a single viewpoint, but rather from the whole experience of it. As you wander down the trail, the scene feels both small and giant, as you are tucked down in the canyon, yet perched on the side of a dangerously powerful mountain.

Second, we stopped by the mud flow above the canyon, where lots of pumice-like stones and other volcanic rocks are left behind and create what looks like a wide, dried-up riverbed. My boys love rocks, so this was a good stop. As I recall, the summit of Mt. St. Helens can be seen from the mud flow, but it was hidden in clouds, so maybe next time we'll have clear skies!

Before leaving the mountain, we walked the lower portion of the Ape Cave. The cave is an old lava tube from an eruption about 2000 years ago. Caves aren't my favorite thing, but I thought the boys would like it, and they did.


September 9, 2010

finishing silver pieces

large Dala Horse pendant
(custom order)

As I recently finished up some silver pieces made from silver metal clay, I thought I'd share a few photos from the process. And you'll get a sneak preview of upcoming sale items, some of which I haven't offered before, like the snowflakes and leaves.

If you're not sure what metal clay is, it is composed of .999 pure (fine) silver particles (recycled/reclaimed) blended with an organic binder. Each piece is made individually, using my hands, basic tools, and custom stamps from my original images (except I can't claim the Dala horse design that has been around much longer than me!).  I will also use molds of my own relief-style sculpted images, similar to some horse head medallion ornaments I have made in the past (only smaller), I just haven't gotten that far yet! (So many ideas, never enough hours!) During firing in a special kiln, the binder burns away and the silver particles fuse (sinter) together to leave a .999 Fine Silver piece. Fired metal clay silver is a little less dense (and therefore lighter weight) than cast silver, but is still a quality silver product especially suitable for creating unique jewelry. It allows me to work in a sculptural way (as opposed to traditional metalsmithing methods), which seems very natural to me.

After firing, many pieces are antiqued (oxidized) for contrast to bring out the design. I use different combinations of polishing techniques depending on what suits the piece, including tumbling, hand-polishing, and burnishing for a high shine. These are the steps I'm sharing with you today!

completed, dry metal clay pieces (ready for firing)
fired, now .999 silver
(wire-brushed surface, the first finishing step)
oxidized, ready for preliminary polishing and tumbling
tumbled and hand polished, ready to use!

September 1, 2010

a brand new blog

Welcome to my new blog! Here I will share my jewelry projects, related news, what inspires me, and a glimpse into my studio and life. If this interests you, be sure to check back as I will be posting again soon. I have also imported a few older posts from my previous blog that I wanted to share here. Thanks for stopping by! - Jennifer