September 28, 2012

this week...

my well-loved little piano
Inspired by Ali Edwards' challenge, I'm trying a different kind of post (to mix in with my usual posts). I was a little late to participate in the challenge, but I love the idea, so here goes!

This week found me:

Creating jewelry. Finished up a batch of silver pieces. Got happily engrossed in turning them into finished jewelry. 

Encouraging third-graders in art making. Last school year I volunteered in my younger son's class during art and craft projects. Loved it! The teacher asked if I would help again this year even though my son has moved up to fourth grade. (of course I said Yes!) 

Listening to Owl City a lot. Yeah, I may not fit the demographic of his typical fan, but his music has a youthful joy that makes me happy. Bonus: it's clean, fun stuff that my kids like, too. Also, really moved by the Plumb song Need You Now (How Many Times), which I just discovered this week on Air 1 radio.

Singing along to above music, really loud, when no one else is home (usually while working in the kitchen).

Playing piano. Got tired of what I've played recently, and it seems early for Christmas songs, so I've been rediscovering my old The Joy Of Bach book. Forgot how soothing those orderly, rhythmic songs are. Some also have beautiful drama hidden in them.

Stressing and stewing about adversities in my personal life. Nothing new, just ongoing stuff I wish I could fix or change. Note to self: stew a little less.

Walking to and from the school and church. Partly because of good weather, and then a few extra times because one car was in the shop. (glad we live so close!)
Tasting a few wonderful, big strawberries from the backyard.

Anticipating another NASCAR race this weekend. After watching much of the awesome race that got Jeff Gordon into the championship chase, I decided to make a point of watching the rest of the races this season, just to have something fun and different to look forward to.

Talking. Open House night at school. Nice to see so many smiling faces of people I haven't had a chance to talk to in a while. Feeling more connected, happy.

sunset (caught with my phone during the school Open House)

September 24, 2012

simple woodgrain silver

simple minimalist woodgrain texture silver disc earrings by Jennifer Kistler
minimalist silver earrings
Last week, I finished a batch of silver pieces and ran them through the kiln. This included some more ocean wave pieces that had been sitting half-done, plus some more woodgrain texture silver discs. These have been finished as earrings and listed to my Etsy shop. My goal is develop a nice collection of the woodgrain texture pieces.

Another thing I've been working on the last couple weeks is running test pieces of bronze and copper through the kiln. Bronze and copper metal clays must be fired in carbon, and they are much trickier to fire properly. I had switched to a different container for the carbon, and had to test several times to get the right combination of ramp speed (how fast the kiln heats up), target temperature, and hold time (how long the target temperature is held). I think I have arrived at the right firing formula for each metal clay. I already have some woodgrain texture pieces started in copper, and will be making various pieces in both copper and bronze very soon! There are so many possibilities with the different color metals, and thankfully these are less expensive than the silver metal clay (the price of which has stayed high, even though silver itself has gone down from where it was a while ago). I am envisioning pieces with multiple dangling fall leaves in the different colored metals. There are so many things I want to try, I wish it could all be done more quickly!

textured silver disc earrings with green aventurine stone accent by Jennifer Kistler
small textured silver disc earrings with green aventurine stone accent

September 17, 2012

shimmering kyanite

Kyanite raindrop necklace woodgrain silver link by Jennifer Kistler
opaque blue, darker streak on side
Some years back, when I was still fairly new to making jewelry, I stumbled across an intriguing stone in my favorite color on a web site. I had never heard of it, but felt like I had found "my" stone!

Kyanite is a lesser-known gemstone. It has two different hardnesses, 6-7 (moh's scale) across the width of the crystals, 4.5 across the length. This makes it difficult to cut. It has industrial uses, such as in heat resistant porcelains, spark plugs, and electrical insulators. Kyanite that is cut into beads is usually blue or green, but it comes in a few other colors as well. Blues range from transparent royal blue (AAA grade gems) similar to Sapphire, to medium and light blues that can be transparent, opaque, or anything in between. Blues range from cool cornflower blue to light watery aqua that can look similar to Aquamarine. Kyanite has subtle or obvious shimmery streaks through it like thin layers. Quite a bit of Kyanite is medium blue with royal blue streaks.

Kyanite horse bracelet by Jennifer Kistler, not for sale
light blue Kyanite with royal blue streaks, shimmery layers, and black inclusions
Sterling Silver snowflake earrings with Kyanite
earrings with watery Aquamarine-like Kyanite accents

Kyanite continues to be one of my favorite natural stones, so you'll see it turn up in jewelry I make. Today I'm sharing photos of a few pieces, showing some variations of the stone. It is good to know that Kyanite is a somewhat heavy stone. For instance, a necklace full of good-sized Kyanite beads will weigh noticeably more than one of, say, Jasper beads the same size. In smaller amounts it is not as noticeable. Also, it may break more easily than some stones. I recommend putting on/taking off ALL stone jewelry over carpet, a bed, or couch, in case it is fumbled and drops (I speak from experience!).

The necklace at top is currently for sale in my Etsy shop, the bracelet is my own, and the earrings are available in my secondary Etsy shop.

September 13, 2012

turning images into jewelry

rearing wild pony necklace
My jewelry features my own designs, so you won't find it anywhere else! For years I wanted to create jewelry with my own horse designs, and then I couldn't resist expanding into some of my other favorite nature motifs. Today I thought I'd share the process of creating the images that I use.

I often do drawings by hand first, either from my mind (such as the pen and ink drawing of a prancing Arabian horse that I call "Joy", seen in the center of the photo below), or inspired by photos (such as many of my more realistic horse designs like the Andalusian in piaffe, and cantering Friesian). Then I scan them into the computer for cleaning up and sizing. Other images I create from my own photographs (most of my autumn leaf designs were made this way, as well as my plumeria flower). I do this in Photoshop by "drawing" the outlines or silhouettes I want on a separate layer on top of my photo, and then deleting my photo.

some of my illustrations that have been turned into jewelry designs

The next step is to determine the size(s) I want for each image. Then I send the digital files to have them made into clear rubber (photopolymer) stamps. I usually have two or more sizes made of each image for different uses.

I use these custom stamps (stuck to an acrylic block) to impress my images into the metal clay. It sounds simple, but images don't often turn out right the first time. Once I like how the image is in the clay, I use a template to cut the clay into its final shape. For pieces such as the leaves that are shaped like leaves (no background shape), I carefully use an X-acto knife to cut along the outer line of the design.

custom image stamps ready to use with metal clay

My woodgrain textured pieces are created without an image stamp, but rather I carve the texture by hand with a simple sculpting tool in the wet clay, then cut out the shape of the piece. Each one has a one-of-a-kind texture.

So that's how I turn my images into jewelry, up to the point of getting the image in the metal clay. (There are many more steps before a piece is finished.) Due to this process, I am able to use my own unique designs over and over, and reinvent them with different background shapes, use them in different sizes, and so on.

What's next in new designs? I would like to add a jumping horse with rider. I would also like to figure out how to capture some of my favorite places/views in simple line drawings that will translate well to small stamps, but that is quite a challenge. I have some sea creature ideas as well. I also would love to hear what horse images or other nature-theme images you wish you could find in jewelry.

September 10, 2012

living simply, or less is more

If you desire to live more simply, or feel overwhelmed by cluttered spaces and cluttered schedules, you're not alone. I believe modern society is contributing greatly to this, but it doesn't have to be that way! We can each stop to think and make our own choices about how to live our lives. In response to this, minimalism and simplification seem to be popular themes for blogs and articles these days.

Anyone who has been to visit me knows I will never be a minimalist when it comes to stuff (yeah, I hear you laughing! And never mind all the kids' LEGOs!). But I am always on the lookout for things that just don't need to take up space in my house. (at least things that I can make a decision about.)  The fact is, if you were to look at just my personal stuff apart from my family's, I really don't own that much (my husband owns more shoes than I do). I certainly own a lot less than I used to. The exception is all my supplies for making things. Being interested in many creative pursuits tends to do that! And I'm okay with that. But I regularly purge my supplies, too.

Minimalism or simplifying is not just about the physical stuff. It's about what having the right perspective about stuff, and the right amount of stuff, can do for the other aspects of your life.

I try to live more simply, especially when it comes to schedules, for my sanity! Too much busy-ness makes me tired and grumpy, worn out on the inside. I need time to just be, time to think, time to take care of daily chores without cramming them between a hundred other things, time to be the kind of person my kids deserve.

The reason I tell you all this is because a recent blog post inspired me to share a few thoughts on the matter. While we're not all going to quit our job and move to the country, that beautiful guest post is a fantastic example of what life can be, proof that "less" really can be more. That post is from my favorite blog, Be More With Less (Life On Purpose) by Courtney Carver. I have been reading her blog for many months (maybe close to a year now), and I love that the concepts in her blog posts can be applied to your life in some way, regardless of how minimalistic you are. Her writing is also very uplifting, which I appreciate. For inspiration to dump that extra clutter (of all types), and have time/space/money left to enjoy what's really important in life, take a look!