Where all of my rings seem to end up… :)

I think it’s because my fingers are a convenient place to store them!  I find that whenever I’m working on new (for me) ring styles, the prototypes always end up on my own fingers.   The downside to this is that I usually end up with rings that only stay on my index and middle fingers – its nice that stacked rings are “in”!  It is pure happpenstance that the only finger on my right hand with no rings on it is my ring finger!
I’m still working on my faceted stone setting, so two of the new rings have CZs set in them – the bead-wire ring (middle ring on index finger), and the square shank, square setting ring, which is the top ring on my little finger.  Both of these may end up staying in my personal collection!
My further adventures in earrings include this prototype pair of flowers:

This design still needs a little work.  These started with 1/2″ discs of 24 ga sterling, but I think I need 26 ga instead.  I found the 24 ga to be a pain to do repousse with at this scale, and the edges of the petals didn’t round off as nicely as I wanted them to.  They’ll be cute when I have all the kinks ironed out of production!
In other news, I finally received the anti-tarnish fabric I’d ordered, so I can get to work designing my new jewelry storage roll next week!  I promise to take pictures and post a tutorial as soon as I can.  At my normal rate of Getting Things Done, I’d say look for it on Friday!

Using my time wisely!

I’m afraid the anticipated photo shoot for new products is going to be put off for a while.  I’d anticipated doing it this week, but my mother has a black-tie gala for the Bridgeport Hospital Auxiliary to go to, and has borrowed my Paisley pendant to wear to the event.  This takes place on October 3rd, and I’d rather wait until I have my pendant back so that I can shoot everything together.  Besides, this will give me time to make a few more new things!

I’ve been planning for some time to learn various methods of setting faceted stones.  I’ve only recently gotten to that happy place where I have both the appropriate tools and acceptable materials, but I have been making good progress!  Earlier this summer I started making and using tube settings, like the one in this ring:

This, sadly, is only a CZ, not a diamond!  I suppose eventually I will be able to afford very, very small diamonds, but I didn’t want to practice on them!  People confuse “hardness” with “toughness.”  Because diamonds are so hard, they are also extremely brittle, and are prone to cracking and chipping if not treated carefully!

Just this week I finally tried a flush setting, which is a way to set a stone into the surface of a piece of metal without prongs or extra “settings” around it.  It only works for fairly small stones, but I’ve discovered that it is incredibly easy!  This is a good thing, because small stones tend to be less expensive than big stones.  I’ve now found that I’ll be able to accent pieces with small stones quite easily!  This is my test piece:

It’s really tiny – 3/4″ total length.  The stone is only 2mm, but it was really easy to set!  I was afraid such small stones would be very tricky and tedious, but so far flush settings are OK!  I’m not so sure about the earring design though.  I like them sitting on a table, but I don’t like them so much as they look when worn.  They’re a little too short.  I think if I were to try this design again I’d scale the whole thing up by about a third.
Now that I have some new techniques to play with I want to start branching out and using them a bit.  At least this means that when I place orders for stock I already have an idea of what I’m gong to use it for, and it doesn’t end up sitting in my inventory for years waiting for the right idea to come along!  The current goal is to start to amass a small collection of faceted stones that have some color!  CZs are inexpensive and perfect to learn/practice with, but there just isn’t enough color contrast for them to be noticed when they’re set in silver.
My next project is to make an anti-tarnish storage roll for my finished pieces.  Everything is tarnishing way too quickly, and I have several pieces with soft stones that can’t just be tossed into the tumbler!  I suspect this is because my space constraints force me to store everything in my basement, which is quite damp.  A storage/transport roll will take up considerably less space, and I’ll be able to store everything upstairs!  When I’ve finished and worked all the kinks out of the plan, I’ll post a tutorial.  Look for it to be up within the next two weeks!

Finished pendant!

Friday’s pendant, with stones set!  Perhaps not one of my best photos (the silver really is a lot brighter than it looks), but I wanted to show at least some indication that the small stone is a garnet, and I didn’t want to take the whole “studio” set up out just for a quick snapshot.  This is what I get with shooting on the table in the back yard.  No, it is not going to stay on the ribbon.  I have some Venetian Box chains arriving on Saturday, and I hope to be able to put it on one of them.

If you compare the final piece to the original sketch from Friday’s blog post you can see where I deviated from my original plan.  I’d planned to do two 20ga wires with 30ga wire twined around them (sort of a figure-8 wrap) and have them go down the right side and curve around the bottom, but I decided that my twining skills weren’t up to it yet, plus it would take too long.  I made little Argentium balls instead.  Also, when I made my original sketch I hadn’t decided to put the 3mm garnet in yet.  I’ve decided that the whole thing reminds me of paisley patterns, so that’s what I’m going to call it when I finally take good photos and post it in my shop.

Tomorrow- stamped post-hoops!

What I’m working on

So far, despite losing three days of production time doing other, practical things – this has been a productive week for me!  I was able to get a lot of work done in just the two days I had free, and that wasn’t even all the available time!  I’m really feeling good about my ability to sink my teeth into this and get some really creative work done.  So far I have been able to complete the onyx earrings pictured above (these are about 1/2″ long), make several pairs of fairly simple sterling hoops, and four pairs of two new  styles of sterling studs.
these are maybe 1/4″ in diameter

These are maybe 3/16″ to 1/2″ in diameter

The earrings are nice, but they’re really pretty simple, design-wise.  Simple can be good – lots of people want simple, and I’m happy to provide simple, classic, goes-with-anything jewelry to people who want it.  This is the bread-and-butter stuff.  Not too difficult, not too expensive, not very time-consuming, with wide-appeal.  I sell a lot more of this basic style of jewelry than I do the really complex original jewelry, probably because it’s a lot less expensive.  People can walk away with a $15 pair of earrings and feel like they got something special because it was handmade, and they didn’t have to break the bank to do it.  Pieces like my Underwater Vision necklace definitely draw their attention, but whoever this piece goes home with will need to have a more specific taste in jewelry, and much deeper pockets than the average shopper!

Having time during the day with Scarlett at school is giving me time to design more of the complex pieces in addition to the simpler pieces.  Here’s one I’m working on now:

my sketch around the focal stone – it was in with a pile of rutilated quartz, but things on that table were a little messed up, and it looks more like tourmaline in quartz to me.
removing excess metal from in back of the stone 
adding the first bit of embellishment… 
…and that’s as far as I got while the camera was still in the room!  I was able to finish all of the metal fabrication on Friday, so on Monday it should just be final polishing and setting the stones!  I’ll post more pictures when it’s finished.

On Perfectionism

I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  You know that axiom that says “anything worth doing is worth doing well”?  I have a corollary that says “anything that can’t be done well isn’t worth doing.”  Unfortunately, my subconscious seems to think that “well” is interchangeable with “right” and “perfectly.”  This tends to mean that any time I come across something I think would be fun to try, I research the heck out of it.  I want to make sure I have the best idea possible of what I am doing before I get started.  After all, why reinvent the wheel?  Why not give myself the best possible chance at success on the first go?  This strategy has served me well, but it also means that if I feel I don’t have a skill or piece of equipment (or  the right temperament) for a given project, I’ll put it off – sometimes indefinitely- until I have what I think I need to “do it right.”  I’m starting to get the feeling that this attitude is stifling my productivity and possibly even my creativity.  I need to start working on identifying when being  “perfect” really matters and when it doesn’t.  Sometimes I wonder what I might be missing out on. 

Perfectionism in my jewelry is generally a good thing.  Because I sell my work, I don’t want to put anything out for sale that is sub-standard – according to my standards.  This means no lumps of solder on visible seams, no scratches on pieces that are meant to be highly polished, and the back of the piece is as neat as the front.  By my standards, scratches on the back are not excusable simple because they won’t be visible while the piece is being worn.  They are visible to me, and to anyone who picks the piece up and looks at it. 

I have my standards with photography as well.  I grew up with professional photographers in my family.  I’ve studied the subject in college, I’ve taught it at the High School level, and I spent about 15 years working as a printer in the photofinishing industry.  I have ingrained perfectionist habits as a result of all that time working with other people’s pictures.  I have an excellent idea of What Doesn’t Work!  I also seem to believe that I need to take all my photos in professional RAW format and adjust each of them individually in Photoshop.  The unfortunate drawback to this otherwise excellent standard is that most of my casual photos and family snapshots sit on my hard drive and never get seen by anyone except me.  Even if I skipped the image adjustment, I’d still have to convert them from RAW files to JPEGs before I could post them online or email them to family.  Do I really need to take all my family snapshots using the most professional file format my camera can produce? No, I don’t.  Nor do I need to put that much effort into casual snapshots of what I’m working on for my blog.  It makes sense to use a professional format when I’m doing product photos for my online shops at 1000 Markets and Etsy, and for photos that I’m going to use for gifts or holidays cards. For snapshots where the only purpose is to give people a glimpse into my life I think it’s overkill. 

When I want to show the world what I’m doing I need to take my audience into consideration, as well as my standards, and try to filter out the opportunities for overkill.  This applies to blog posts as well.  This post isn’t being graded, nor am I getting paid for it.  I don’t need to forward it to everyone I know who writes for a living for an opinion before I post it.  If I don’t allow some things to sometimes be less than perfect  I’ll never get around to doing anything.