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Tree of Life

When I get a fun custom order I like to share the story behind it.  Recently I was contacted by Keith who wanted a special piece of jewelry made for his wife. “We married on Oct 8th 2011, and my wife included my two daughters, Morgan and Paige in the ceremony (along with our 12 other nieces and nephews).  The day was beautiful and my wife made everyone weep (including me) when she surprised everyone by making vows to my two daughters also.  She vowed to always be there for me and my daughters, because she was not only marrying me and committing to me, she was also marrying my daughters.  My daughters realize how lucky we all are to have her in our lives.  I only hope part of her rubs off on my girls and being with her makes them strong, independent, kind, caring, selfless women someday.  As I blabber on……I hope that you can help me……I am desperately trying to find someone who will make a special piece for my wonderful, loving wife.”

How could I resist?  Plus, unlike some well-meaning sweet husbands I work with, Keith had a good idea of what he wanted.  “My thoughts were a chunky rectangular bracelet or necklace with a family tree design, with possibly the kids’ names and/or birthstones somehow incorporated.  I want the center of the piece to simply state ‘BLESSED’, because everyday we are blessed to have her in our lives.”  He even sent me pictures of different jewelry pieces he liked so I knew we were on the same page.  I sketched (a rarity – I usually just start sawing and stamping)… 

…and he tweaked the design, and finally this is what I created.

Dillion is Irish, meaning “faithful”

I love the oxidized sterling, the chunky chain, how the focal piece is curved to fit her wrist.  I even used the compound leaf* stamp for probably the first time since I bought it several years ago.  The trunk was created with I and Y stamps, and I added serifs to the B to make the block capital look prettier with the lowercase Kismet font stamps.  Most importantly, Keith loved the finished product and gave me permission to share his sweet words about his wife.

*See?  I’m totally using my Biology degree. A compound leaf is one in which several leaflets share a single petiole.  I bet you didn’t know I was a plant nerd.  Don’t get me started on whorled leaves!

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Spring collection

I love birds.  My husband kind of scowls but laughs whenever I bring anything else bird-themed into our house.  (He gave me bird things for Christmas, though, so I think he’s catching on that they’re not going anywhere.)  And bird stuff is everywhere, so apparently I’m not the only one who loves it.  Again this year I did some bird-inspired pieces in my spring collection for Simply Charming Boutique.

Of course there has to be a little pink & green for our beloved Apple Blossom Festival, too.

Brenda (from the shop) encouraged me to do some more artisan-looking pieces like my Elements line, so there is a larger presence of wirework…

…and birthstone stacking rings that are made to order.

I also played around with some empty sterling bezels on copper.  I could fill them with polymer clay or resin, but I liked how they looked with just the metal.

Happy Spring!

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Leather wrap bracelet

I love making jewelry, but I don’t tend to wear the jewelry I make.  Part of it is because none of my jewelry is sacred, so even if I love something after creating it, eventually it makes its way into my inventory.  Another reason is to avoid what I call the Amway Effect: My friends know I sell things as a business, so if I tried to sell products to my friends they might wonder whether I am only friends with them because they are potential customers.  So if I wear my jewelry it could be seen as advertisement, and my friendships are way more important to me than my sales.  (I have friends who actually give me a hard time for not advertising in this way; I can’t win.)  But my sales are just fine without nagging my friends, and if they want to buy something they know where to shop.  And then I can indulge in other people’s jewelry and support some of my fellow artisans.

Enter the wrap bracelet a la Chan Luu.

I want one, but haven’t found anything like it locally.  On Etsy they cost more than I want to spend, especially since I know how much the supplies cost (or don’t cost, as it were).  So the other day I pinned a tutorial and collected the supplies.  Still in Sedona mode, I chose chocolate brown leather and a silver button, but then I couldn’t decide if I wanted turquoise or bronze beads, so ultimately I decided to make a triple wrap using three different colors of Czech glass.  Not as ambitious as the quint-wrap pictured above, but still more interesting than a single.

So here and there I’ve stolen some precious kid-nap time to create this thing.  About three beads into the thing I was kicking myself for starting with a triple wrap, which meant my sewing thread was about 9 feet long.  Finally as I got to the third color of beads my thread was a reasonable length and I felt like it was easier.  I imagined Vietnamese women laughing at me as they cranked these things out for Chan Luu.  Now I know why the price of wrap bracelets on Etsy is so high, and after putting this much time into it I’m definitely wearing it around for a while.

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Bead Table Wednesday

I’m in the throes of holiday orders of personalized stamped jewelry, plus it’s miserable outside and not good for taking studio workbench shots, so here’s the result of my bead table Wednesday. 
On the way to new homes!
Okay, here’s a little eye candy…

These are my small and large tags stacked and stamped in Kismet font.  Merry Christmas, Ashley!  (Alina and Addison’s mom.)

Okay, I’ll throw you another bone along the “behind the scenes” line.  I was drilling a hole in a piece of sterling strip, AKA my Linear Drop Pendant, when my drill bit stopped drilling.  It went halfway through the material and then just sounded like a dental drill without making any progress.  I have a set of bits in various tiny sizes, so I put another bit in my Dremel and tried again.  No luck, same deal.  Plus that bit didn’t want to drill other pieces of sterling either.  After I went through a couple more bits I realized that a piece of the original bit had broken off and become lodged in the edge of the hole I was drilling, so it was dulling subsequent bits.  Fail!  And I didn’t know how to fix it.  If I hadn’t already stamped the piece I might have just scrapped it, but I’m stingy with my time and materials.  I finally just used my center punch (conical tip) to make divots on the front and back, and tapped my solder pick through the thin spot.  Fortunately the finished piece looked fine.  It’s days like this when I want to limit the design options to stamping blanks that come ready to stamp, no filing or cutting, but what’s the fun in that?

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Etched Monogram

A couple years ago I told you about a project involving a custom texture sheet and metal clay to recreate a bride’s wedding invitation on a pendant.  Full story here.  I’m so glad I posted the graphic I used, because I was able to use it again to make an etched copper disc for the same gal. 

Etching is a whole different animal, especially challenging for me when creating custom pieces.  I’ve only accepted etching orders from returning customers and dear friends, but I still kick myself every time I get halfway through a monogram piece and something goes wrong.  Eventually I come up with something I love enough to pass on to my customer, so it must be the end products that compel me to try it again. 

It is much more fun for me to etch when the results don’t matter, like these pendants (already sold – sorry!).  If the etched design doesn’t turn out I can just repurpose the copper.  Making jewelry should be FUN and not stressful!

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Helping Haitian Angels

I like to share when I have a project that touches my heart.  This time it was for a woman named Debbie who, with her husband, started an orphanage in Haiti that has helped save the lives of countless children since it opened in 2008. Watching this informational video absolutely brought me to tears, and I am so proud of the work they are doing.

Debbie commissioned me to make special thank-you gifts for the volunteers who have traveled multiple times to Haiti to help out with the orphanage.  Together we designed these pendants (with angel wing charms) for the ladies and keychains for the guys that read the name of the orphanage, Helping Hatian Angels.

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Tattoo Pendant

I like to share about custom orders that have a story behind them. A few years ago my friend Josh suggested I make jewelry from tattoo images.  I pshaw-ed him at the time, picturing skulls and dragons, until I discovered henna tattoos.  I never did anything with that (the idea is still filed away for a rainy day!) but I was recently contacted to design a piece for a woman whose husband’s tribal-style tattoo bears the initials of their children: K, G, and W.  Their friend who commissioned the piece sent me this picture of the tattoo to use.  No problem, right?

After playing around with the image in Photoshop I created a Custom Texture Sheet (tutorial here) and rolled my PMC over the top.  Bada bing, bada boom:

If you want to hear more “Behind the Jewelry” stories, click here or on the “Custom” label below. 

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Two New Tutorials

Custom Texture Sheets for Metal Clay or Polymer Clay

Remember this custom pendant I created from a wedding invitation?  Now you can make your own raised monograms, or you can type out a phrase in a pretty font to use again and again instead of stamping each letter individually.  Like this.
Vertebraid Bangle
This is a square/round (as opposed to flat) braid created with doubled strands of fine-gauge wire.  It makes an interesting base for sliders or Pandora beads.  Click here for the tutorial.
I had this braid sitting on my desk all summer; I’d pick it up and work on it when my computer was busy processing so I don’t really know how long it took me to braid. I think it takes less time than Viking Weave, but then again it depends on your proficiency at each.
Enjoy these new projects!
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You can read about my initial foray into etching in earlier posts, saltwater and acid.  I finally had the time to do the real commissioned piece, and my customer chose the chiseled font (which we agreed looks better with her initials than a script).  However, that also meant I needed to find a way to transfer the image from my computer onto the surface of the copper to act as a resist.  Because I have known how to etch in theory for years, I also have a collection of websites with helpful info.  This one explains how to use a printer or photocopier for image transfer, and it worked successfully.  This piece looks pretty on its new owner with her beautiful red hair.  Copper is so perfect for fall, and this is a unique monogram pendant that is not available in stores.