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Painting With Fire

I have learned lots of techniques within the scope of jewelrymaking: wirework, soldering, polymer clay, beading, resin, lampwork, PMC, the list goes on.  There are certain things that just don’t interest me at all, and one of those has been enamel.  Powdered glass melted onto the surface of metal, usually in a kiln.  I skipped the Thompson Enamel booth at the last PMC Guild Conference.  Call me a purist, but I like the neutrality (goes with everything) and polishability (is that a word) of silver by itself.  I could bring color into a piece with beads, plus I didn’t care for the garishly bright enameled pieces I had seen.  But last year Barbara Lewis published this book about torch-firing enamel, and she asked different jewelry bloggers to write what they really thought about the book and technique.  We saw torch-enameled beads popping up all over the jewelry web, and many of them used a filigree base lightly coated with beautiful glass.  My interest was piqued by Jen Judd’s necklace at the artBLISS* Meet & Greet.  Beautiful enameled filigree beads in blues and greens.  I had a tough time making eye contact instead of staring at the necklace.  So I bought a torch-fired enamel kit.  After all, I already have (most of) a lampwork station and it works for both.

That was December.  Today it is the second week of March and we’re having 80-degree weather, so during naptime I decided to try torch enameling out in the garage with my “big” butane torch, the one that melts silver way too fast.  I figured I’d see if I liked it before spending my free time trying to get my propane tank and lampwork torch to talk to each other.  I skimmed the tutorial, lit my torch, unscrewed the cap on an enamel jar, jabbed a few beads, and went at it. 

I know you’re not supposed to use enamel straight from the jar.  You are also not supposed to eat peanut butter straight from the jar.  Don’t tell, ok?

*While I’m off topic I’d like to mention that artBLISS is happening again in Northern Virginia September 21-23, 2012.  Registration opens soon, and you can sign up for the mailing list to get notified:

So anyway, aside from having to refill my butane I just kept heating and dunking beads.  It was so fun and easy!  And no kiln annealing like with lampwork; you can use your beads as soon as they’re cool.  I only burnt myself twice.  Ahem.  Here is what I made today.

Now a Thompson Enamel booth would be like a candy store!  Good thing I can mail-order from Barbara (Painting With Fire Artwear).  If you’re interested in learning how to do this technique, check out Barbara’s blog with links to everything you need.

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And for the record

So after I wrote about the 800th earrings it took me another day before I started wondering how many necklaces I was up to.  (Seriously. I don’t have time to notice stuff like this.)  Here is a necklace in the current grouping I’m prepping for the shop, N900. 

That’s right, the nine HUNDREDTH necklace I have inventoried.  This just blows my mind because it doesn’t even count the dozens (hundreds?) of stamped personalized necklaces, like this one I did last week with my new handprint and footprint tags.

My daughter has been bringing home sweet little handprint artwork from preschool, and the little foot reminds me of the “fingerprinting” they did on my son as a newborn.  This necklace is for someone else, but that reminds me I still need to add a “Bowen” tag to my “Olivia” necklace.  What is that saying about the cobbler’s kids having no shoes?

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800 pairs and counting

I’ve been pricing and tagging new inventory for the shop and as I wrote “E800” on the back of an earring card it struck me: this is the 800th pair of earrings I have made. That doesn’t count the countless pairs I made that didn’t stick around long enough to get a number, or the ones I made in my pre-professional jewelry life.  (You can read more about that era here.)  And I’m sure there are other jewelry artists who have inventoried way more than 800 pairs of earrings. But AnneMade Jewelry is coming up on its 8th birthday next month and it’s fun to think about the different chapters of my story.  (You can read about chapter one here.)  And I sometimes struggle with the instinct to one-up myself with every new piece of jewelry.  But I’m striving to showcase good materials with simple settings, so while there’s a lot I could do with a fluorite briolette and an earhook I have come to love the beautiful simplicity of earrings like E800.  I don’t need to win awards for creativity or earn badges for making each new piece different than anything that came before it.  I just need to make jewelry because it keeps me sane!
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Wire Button Bail

Hi, gang.  I have been sqeezing in studio time here and there, working on a grouping for the shop downtown.  When my son was born in October he slept all the time, so I was able to keep making jewelry for the Christmas season. 

My newest studio helper

But as Bowen has gotten older his naps don’t usually coincide with Olivia’s naps, so now my bench time is that much more precious.  I apologize if I don’t update my blog a whole lot; it’s just something I’ve had to cut out along with listing jewelry for sale online. 

A while ago I found some old steel cut buttons in an antique store.  They were from the estate of a button collector, lovingly arranged on a card.  I took one off to give to a friend who loves romantic-vintage stuff like that.  The second one came off the card today when I was creating this sampler necklace inspired by another that sold right after I made it. 

The floral centerpiece is a PMC piece I made, and the dangles include freshwater pearls, vintage crystals, sterling silver beads, quartz, and an antique button from my precious stash.  If you’ve ever tried to dangle a shank button without having it tip forward or altering the shank, you know my challenge for today’s studio time.  Now I’m sharing my tricks with you.  Here is the bail I created as a solution.

Reverse side
Forming the loops after putting the wire through the shank is harder than it looks, especially when using half-hard wire.  Once I did that, though, I squeezed the loops tight around the shank so the bail wouldn’t jiggle.  Then I pressed the top of the bail forward so it would sit close to the top of the button (the center of gravity) to prevent the whole thing from tipping forward.

I did something similar with a big, orphan bead cap that has been laying on my bench for awhile.  Rather than capping a huge bead, I wanted to frame a small pearl but I didn’t want it to hang face-down.
I threaded the pearl, bead cap, and a small sterling bead onto a headpin, which I then bent sharply so it would stay put.  I bent the headpin to follow the contour of the bead cap, through a hole in the cap’s edge, and into a hanging loop.