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Etched Nickel Components

It’s been a quiet summer in my studio.  My little ones are home and it’s a slower time for sales, plus there are things going on behind the scenes that have hijacked my attention, so I enjoyed having a little break from making jewelry.  But preschool is starting back up and I’m itching to work on ideas that have been swirling around in my head.

I have etched copper using chemicals or saltwater, but there is an unused sheet of nickel silver that has been sitting in my studio for years.  I bought it on a whim back when I used to be able to hop on a train and shop for supplies in New York City for the day.  (I laughed out loud when I saw how little I had paid for it!) Because it contains nickel, an element that causes a skin irritation for some people, I hadn’t used it in any of my metalwork yet.  It’s not as soft as sterling, doesn’t actually contain any silver, and doesn’t polish up as brightly either, so it is kind of the black sheep of the white metals family.  But I remember making a note to myself that this stuff can be etched like copper with supplies found at Radio Shack, unlike silver.  And thanks to my trolling Pinterest during summer break (ahem), I got the idea to make etched nickel silver components for drop earrings.  The earwires would be sterling silver, and no other part touches skin.

I had another unused product I had bought a while ago, a StazOn ink pad, which is supposed to stick to all kinds of non-paper surfaces.  I applied it to a rubber stamp, then stamped that on the cleaned surface of the metal.  After that dried I filled in a little with a fine Sharpie, then let it go swimming in ferric chloride.  (Parents, please do not let your children swim in ferric chloride. It will stain their swimsuits.)

After etching and neutralizing I oxidized it with Black Max, which was surprising because it doesn’t work on copper, but I prefer it on silver because it’s faster, easier, more color-neutral, and less smelly than liver of sulfur (and reusable).  Then I polished off the raised areas and am really tickled with the results.  I can tell which leaves were added with the marker, but I’m okay with that.

I had intended to make fat rectangles for the earring components, but after I cut one I decided it would look better (and go further) halved into long rectangles.  I like linear earrings anyway; they’re more flattering to the face and less likely for the nickel to touch the skin as well.  I don’t mind the muted gray of the nickel, as opposed to the bright white of the sterling silver.  It pairs well with labradorite, which has its own interesting, stormy look going on.

Here is another pair with white freshwater pearls.

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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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State of the Studio

I never quite know what to tell people who ask how my jewelry business is going.  Actually, more frequently it’s something like, “Are you still doing that beading thing?”  I usually end up saying something like, “It’s going really well, thanks!” and leave out the fact that I managed to nap every afternoon during my first trimester and still managed to crank out a successful spring line (which is now mostly gone, sorry!).  I am so thankful for the gals at Simply Charming Boutique in downtown Winchester for doing such a great job of selling my pieces. 
You may remember in the fall I switched gears to focus on two new lines, Facets and Elements.  They both did really well over Christmas.  I expected there to be the typical lull during the winter before working on spring, and considering the crazy metals market (silver doubled in the past year) I figured sales would taper off.  But every month (instead of every quarter) I’ve had to restock my collection and I’m finally starting to realize that I don’t get to be the Lazy Jewelry Gal any more.  I still get to dabble a little in new techniques (like resin and polymer clay) but gone are the days when I get to chronicle every activity on my blog or upload pictures of my inventory.  To my out-of-town readers, I apologize for keeping all my jewelry captive in the Shenandoah Valley, but I guarantee if you come visit you will have a beautiful trip.  This summer I am going to try to work ahead a little and build a collection for fall & Christmas, and once that’s underway I will try to post some pictures, but come October I may be off the grid for a while because we’re expecting another baby.  !!! 

So…  I may not get around to posting anything new from my studio, but AnneMade Jewelry doing well and I’m still having fun! 

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A little background

I go back and forth wanting to keep the background of my jewelry photos neutral and consistent, and then getting bored with that and wanting to use props.  Lately I’ve found some fun things with which to give my new pieces some company in photos.

Slate (flagstone?) from our patio

Old books, salvaged architectural elements
I love how this rusty metal sets off the white and shiny silver in this bracelet

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Facets at Simply Charming

I posted photos of the initial members of my Facets line, heading shortly to Simply Charming Boutique.  Once I started working with gold again it made sterling seem kind of boring, so there are more gold pieces than silver.  Maybe it’s because gold is just perfect for fall and I have a hankering for cool weather and crunchy leaves.

The Facets collection includes genuine faceted stones like garnet (grossular green, brown hessonite, traditional almandine, pink rhodolite), citrine (both pale and topaz-y deep), burnt orange carnelian, amethyst, apatite, iolite, smoky quartz, and did I mention gold!

I used a lot of gold-fill components, which is a heavy layer of 12-14K gold over a base metal core.  It has the look and durability of 14 karat gold without the $1,297/oz price tag.  I also used some vermeil (ver-MAY), which is a sterling silver base heavily plated with high-karat (18-22K) gold so it is solid precious metal and has that rich yellow color like museum jewelry.  I love the way it looks with pink, orange, and purple.

Simply Charming Boutique has reopened in its new location (with free parking) and I can’t tell you in words how BEAUTIFUL it is!  My jaw dropped open when I first walked in, partly because it’s an old building with wonderful architectural details, and partly because Brenda has filled it with all kinds of wonderful things.  Go have a look if you’re near Winchester, Virginia!

If you’re not lucky enough to be in the Shenandoah Valley but you want to get details about the pieces, feel free to email me for pricing and availability of any items in the Facets or Elements collections, or you can check out the rest of my jewelry at my Etsy shop.

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Facets Collection

Now that my Elements collection is having fun in its new home my jewelry-making is now geared toward another new collection called Facets. 

Where Elements is rustic, neutral, and casual, Facets is bright, sparkly, and colorful.  I intend for the pieces to work together to make a layered look, or to be worn separately based what you’re wearing.

Pictured here is a 20″ sterling bubble chain with amethyst, peridot, and apatite.  It can be paired with the amethyst solitaire pendant on an 18″ chain and the cluster earrings.  Or if your top has a lot going on you could do just the earrings or solitaire. 

As with the Elements collection, I challenged myself to create pieces that embracing the current economic climate; interesting without breaking the bank.  Just because you see gold and faceted stones, don’t expect to pay a million dollars for them.  I love to bargain hunt, even with beads.

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Fall 2010 Elements Collection

The collection is carried exclusively by Simply Charming Boutique in Winchester, Virginia.  Brenda does a terrific job selling my jewelry as her customers can touch it and try it on and see the colors and scale in real life.

In the past I have spent an amazing amount of time describing and editing several pictures of each piece to list on the web, but now this is my way of showing my readers what’s new while being judicious with my time.  I realize not all of you will be visiting the Shenandoah Valley this fall, so if you see something you like and want to see if it’s still available, just click on the photo and email me with the web address (URL) or item number (i.e. N540).  To give you an idea of the order of magnitude, prices are $18-29 for earrings, and bracelets and necklaces are mostly in the $30-$50 range.

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My Elements collection is well underway, so I’ve moved from production mode to pricing/tagging mode.  Ugh.  Not my favorite part, so the procrastinator in me looks for something fun for distraction.  Another line! 
My Facets collection is next so I’ve been in purchasing mode shopping for faceted stones and chain.  It’s taken me awhile, but I’m embracing gold again.  I’m planning to have both silver and gold and colorful stones like peridot, amethyst, citrine, garnet, and maybe some Swarovski crystal to fill in where nature is either lacking or cost prohibitive.  On Friday I got to visit one of my favorite places, Sparkles Bead Shop in Newark, Delaware.  Connie, the owner and my precious friend, walked me through the new Swarovski colors, and just standing in front of a halogen-lit wall of sparkling facets was so inspiring.

One part of working with color that is not my strong suit is putting different colors together.  When I get dressed in the morning and choose a colorful shirt, I wear neutral pants (or my beloved green capri pants with a neutral shirt).  That’s a color cop-out, especially when I love how other people put bright colors together.  So I’ve learned little tricks that help me out, like looking at a non-jewelry item to get inspiration.  When I go to the fabric store and don’t really need anything, I’ll walk around and look at color combinations used in the fabrics.  Pictured here is pile of picnic blankets I saw in Parents Magazine. (When I joke that I never really leave work, I’m not entirely joking.)     
I do the same in the scrapbooking section because those color combos tend to be a little more contemporary.  Also in that magazine was this ad for lice medication, but here is the part I saw: turquoise, avocado, burnt orange, chocolate, mustard.  I’m drawn to circle motifs, but I’m training myself to be in “color mode” these days.
I’ve had a break and let myself get distracted while still being productive, so now I’ll go back to the grindstone and finish pricing and tagging Elements.  I’m planning to put a gallery page up so people outside the Shenandoah Valley can see what’s new, too.  Will keep you posted!
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Creating a Line

Simply Charming Boutique, the wonderful store downtown where most of my jewelry is for sale, is moving from the Loudon Street Mall around the corner to Picadilly Street.  The owner, Brenda, is expanding her artisan jewelry collection and encouraged me to “have more of a theme” with my collection. 

I am well aware that my style is all over the board, and until now I have kind of just made whatever I feel like.  Over the past six years (has it already been that long?!) I have heard many people suggest having one cohesive “line” each season.  I’ve put it off because I’m into lots of different techniques and styles, so it’s hard for me to pick one or two.  What if I my line doesn’t sell because I chose a style that doesn’t interest people?  I guess I’ll have to risk it.  And for the pieces that don’t fit the look of the current line, I can list them on Etsy for people outside of my little town.

In September when the shop moves I’ll probably have a larger space at the new location, but I don’t want it to be crammed with stuff.  I keep telling myself I can always add to it if pieces sell.  Right now it’s the middle of summer and I took the end of July to brainstorm.  For the first line (“Elements”) I’m going to use mostly metal (instead of stones, pearls, lampwork, etc.) to give me a chance to do some metalwork.  I want it to have a rustic feel: oxidized metalwork, handmade components, a mix of metals, brushed finishes. 

Since becoming a mom my daytime priority has shifted from jewelry to my daughter.  I make jewelry when I have time; usually it’s during her afternoon nap.  (I purposefully keep the lighting in my studio “bad” in order to make myself leave work and have a break when it’s dark outside.)  This week I’m having babysitters come over to play with Olivia in the mornings, which gives me another chunk of time each day and lets me stay focused.  My fingers are constantly black from oxidizing and polishing, but it feels good to have a goal.  I’ll work on the Elements line until it feels like I have enough for a grouping, and hopefully after that I’ll start on a second line: rich, deep colors, faceted stones, chain…  Will keep you posted!