Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Artistic insomnia

I’m not the only one lying sleepless at night because ideas keep on manifesting themselves in the overly tired brain. I know. But at 3 AM in the morning, after 4 hours of patchy sleep, the world is a big, dark and quiet place and so thoughts do tend to take up a lot of space and I do feel a bit alone. But… who hasn’t been fighting inner ghosts in the middle of the night?

Luckily, these days I’m mostly awake because my brain refuses to shut down, when it’s just having a juicy new idea to warp, bend and shape. Very good, but I do need sleep and hence I have tried different strategies:
  1. Getting up and drawing the damn thing (over and over) to get it out of my head. It helps, but sometimes it just sparks new ideas and then I’m back to square one
  2. Taking a shower. Kind of resets everything. Works quite well too, unless it’s too late in the night/early in the morning – then I’m just even more awake
  3. Have my boyfriend “teddy” me (he cuddles me thoroughly, which is very comforting)
  4. Earplugs (I’m a very light sleep and wake up at any noise, but I also find them quite uncomfortable)

I am sharing this tendency of insomnia with my aunt Barbara, who is currently visiting me from South Jutland. We both love Art Nouveau and most definitely have the same artistic blood running in our veins. Barbara has for decades been creating the most amazing pieces of decorative artwork, painting large hat boxes, smaller wooden boxes and very pretty oval brooches and I admire her work immensely. I have given her the key to my workshop, enabling her to go there and work when I’m at my other daytime work and she has made herself a very nice corner, working partly at the table and partly on the window seat.

 It’s so cozy to work in the same room as her. Mostly we are quiet, deeply concentrating on our respective work and listening to some quiet classical music. Once in a while we take a break and share our development and other thoughts.

Barbara surely "developes" her work at top speed, now she's in a working frenzy. And what beautiful work! This is how far she got yesterday, being very productive indeed. I’m expecting her to finish up most of these today.

So what will it look like when it’s done? Much more layered and detailed. Here is some of her previous work, including an amazing hat box which she made especially for me. Perhaps we’ll open an Etsy shop selling her pieces. Do you think she would succeed?

I am writing this in the morning. It’s 7:30 AM and both of us have been awake for some time, ideas churning. My aunt is up and about to leave the home to go to the workshop and I’ll meet her there in the afternoon. Oh what bliss to share the passion for creating beauty with someone so close to my heart!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Busy bracelet days

I am so lucky… I am currently having a customer visiting me and my shop all the way from France! Well, she isn’t only here for my jewelry, but still… it sounds kind of cool to say “a customer is coming in from France” while looking important. Never manage that last part – I start chucklin’ also because Melanie, as is her name, is just such a nice person! If I’m really lucky, I get to upgrade her to the status “friend”. Let’s see…

Anyways, Melanie had bought a few of my pieces via Etsy, amongst those an oxidized bracelet form the fairy treasure-collection with a moonstone in a golden bezel.

She then realized, that the bracelet was a tad big for her and convoed me to ask if I could make it smaller for her. Now, it holds a stone and hence I was very hesitant to do just that, so I offered her to make her a new one – then she would also get the chance of having it custom made.

So, Melanie came to my shop, had some tea (and lunch) and sat down in my window seat to draw herself a new bracelet while I worked and we chatted. Very cosy indeed! I showed her a bracelet that I had just finished (it’s for sale on Amio):

Inspired by that, she decided on an open bracelet with curls in each end and a somewhat smaller leaf. It’s not often that I get to work physically with my customer, but this was a very nice experience. Melanie stayed around while I worked on her bracelet, and hence could all the time make new choices when I had to make some – instead of just accepting my choices. To me it was a big relief to have her choose as we went, making sure that she got exactly what she wanted. In the end she decided to only have the leaf (which was somewhat smaller than the original) itself oxidized and exchange the moonstone with an emerald.

And here is the result:

We were both very pleased with the result and I will definitely work a bit more with this design! Luckily Melanie stayed around and will visit me tomorrow too before she’s heading back to France.

I have enjoyed both her visit and working with her immensely and hope to see her again. Business or not – she’s plain pleasant company!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Flush-setting at last!

These days I look a lot at my left pinky. Not that it’s something special, but it holds a small ring that I just created – and in the ring I have flush set two light blue sapphires.

So? You may ask.

Well, this is my first flush-set piece and I’m terribly proud of it! I have been wanting to learn this technique, that I constantly see used very elegantly around me, for ages. Look for instance at some of my favourite designers Vibes amazing rings:

- Impossible to create without mastering flush-setting. To me this is a very professional way of setting stones and hence is something you do, when you are a “real” jeweler. Needles to say, that I felt somewhat inferior being unable to perform that technique.

I actually tried once with a piece of copper and some glass stones and broke both, which didn’t help mending my feeling of inferiority. Since I have been asking quite a few very talented goldsmiths how exactly they do it. The variations in their directions were very small, but in this way I slowly saved up courage and knowledge to give the technique another try.

I have just created a stunning ring made of her own old whitegold rings for a customer with quite a few flush set diamonds. I had to hand it over to a professional setter in order to finish it properly.

It annoyed me not being able to do it myself and when my customer picked up the ring, she asked, before leaving why I didn’t just learn the technique myself?

That was the last straw. I decided, there and then, to give it a go as soon as I was alone in my workshop again. I couldn’t find my practice stones made of glass and decided to jump straight to the real thing and pulled out a cast silver ring which I had previously made and two light blue sapphires of 3 and 2,5mm. I chose those stones partly because I happened to have quite a few of them and partly because sapphires are very hard (second after diamonds), so I figured they would be able to take some abuse.

And here is how I went about it:

I drilled a hole of 2 mm where I wanted the first stone. This part is debatable. The usual reason to do so is, that it will let more light in. Actually I think this is bullsh*. If you wear a ring, no light can penetrate from below – at all. I have seen plenty of flush set stones with no holes drilled through. However, I chose to do it here, because it seemed to me to be the easiest solution for a beginner and because it made it possible to check if it actually stuck (by pushing in a needle from behind).

Then I took a round burr which was a fraction smaller than the diameter of the stone = 2,8 mm and drilled until JUST a bit over half down. This is the critical part. Drill too deep and you end up with a well where it’s impossible to push enough material down. Drill too shallow and you won’t be able to collect enough material to form the edge. Practice is the name of the game I assume – and going slowly. As mentioned before: You might as well go straight to the ball burr-part, so you only switch burr once.
Then I switched to the setting burr – the one that looks like a house from the side and which creates a good edge for the stone to rest on. Choose one of the exact same size or a fraction bigger – no more! Now I had a hole that was ideally fitted for the stone. Well, obviously I ended up swapping burrs around a lot, because I went slowly and carefully and had to adjust and take out more silver than I had initially done, but I ended up learning how to achieve the right depth.

In went the stone. What you are looking for is that the “table” – the flat top of the facet-cut stone – is absolutely flush with the surface you are attempting to set in. Hence the name of the technique.

I then chose to work a bit like when you are bezel setting: With my point burnisher (it looks like a short awl or pricker, just with a bit more rounded point) I pressed in the edge north, south, east and west to roughly secure the stone before starting to follow the edge around, slowly pushing it down upon the stone. In the end I just went round and round, tilting the burnisher more and more vertical as I went.

And all of a sudden, it was done. The stone didn’t move any more. I tried to hit it loose - it didn’t come loose. I pricked through from the backside with a needle (though not full force) and it stayed. I had flush set my first stone! Okay... the surface had taken quite a bit of abuse, how fortunate that I had gone for a design with a coarse surface, but still... stone was stuck and that was the main thing!

Immediately I went for the 2,5 mm stone and repeated the process with the same good result.

Surprised and happy I sat back and admired my work, awed by the fact that I had finally done it and even succeeded in my first attempt!

All of a sudden I feel like a ”grown up” jeweler and a whole new range of designs opened up to me. A big design-limitation has been removed. Yesyes, I will have to practice some more etc., but the ice is broken and the way to tiny glittering diamonds flush set in my designs is paved. Hooray! I am looking forward to sharing those designs with you in future.

(There are many more instructions on flush setting on the internet. If you would like another one, check out the one from Ganoksin: )

A last comment on the hole-drilling-issue:
I was so enthusiastic about my new ability that I decided to throw myself into creating a new version with more, but smaller stones - this time without the holes behind the stones. Again I went for sapphires, but various shades of pinks. Here is the result together with the first try:

And solo:

I think it came out quite nice and when reconsidering the hole-or-no-hole-issue, I took a closer look at the first ring. Turns out that I can see the colour of my skin shining through the biggest of the blue stones when I'm wearing the ring, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I don't think I'll drill through again, or if I do, use a very small drill, but what do you say? Hole or no hole?