One question that I am often asked is what inspires me when I’m designing jewelry. Because I’m just starting out in the world of metalsmithing, inspiration is often found in simply messing around with hammers and tools just to see what happens if I do this, or bend this thing like that, or by smashing, twisting, and melting metal for fun just to see what will happen.And sometimes I get lucky when a mistake happens to turn out better than the originally planned project, and that can send my brain into many
Inspiration can really come from anywhere, but lately, most of my inspiration comes from simply sitting in my garden and looking around at the many little treasures to be found.Sometimes it’s the color and shape of a stone, the pattern in a leaf, the excitement of a single persimmon growing on a tree that has never before borne fruit.There is always something special to be found in the garden.This time, inspiration came in the form of Grandma Ginny’s traveling daisies.
My second Mommy, Grandma Ginny, was a painter.I have fond memories of backyard parties, park picnics, or visit-grandma-in-her-studio days.Happy sun speckled memories of us kids cartwheeling, hoola-hooping and roller skating while Grandma Ginny sat at her easel, paint brush in hand bringing the blooming spring garden, a view from her house of the San Francisco skyline, or a bowl of bright orange persimmons to life on her canvas.Her paintings are vibrant, full of life, thoughtful, and every bit as lovely as she was.She also loved to garden, and loved her flowers almost as much as the deer in her backyard loved to eat them.She planted huge white daisies right off of her back porch because she said she liked to look at them when she walked out into her yard.
After she passed away, my parents pulled up a little piece of her happy
white daisies, taking care to preserve the roots, and planted it in their garden as a nice way to remember her.It
thrived.Since then my parents have
moved two times, each time taking pieces of the daisies with them to their new
home and leaving some daisies behind. When
I moved to Maryland, my dad sent me a tiny little daisy with enough roots to
get it started.I dug a little hole and
planted the daisy and gave it a drink of water….and then I forgot about it…oops!Well, apparently daisies are easy to grow
because without much help from me the daisy grew and grew and multiplied and
flourished.Since moving back to
California, we have lived in 2 houses and each time I planted tiny offshutes from
Grandma Ginny’s original daisy planted by her over 30 years ago. Thankfully, I'm now much more in tune with my inner green thumb and no longer forget to care for my plants!
I was inspired by the curved and elongated shape of the daisy petals. The way the
yellow center next to the white makes the petals look even whiter and creates an effect
where light appears to dance around (a painting tip I just learned from
my dad who is also a painter). I was inspired by the happiness I feel when I see the daisies bloom, and
of course by Grandma Ginny.
It's that time again...my Aspiring Metalsmiths team has chosen a topic that we will all write about it as a fun team project. This time the topic is "How does the coming of spring affect your work as a metal smith?".
I work in my garage with the door wide open because much of what I do involves fumes from a torch or other chemicals, so you can imagine how freezing cold my studio can get in Fall and winter. So the arrival of spring means happy sunshine streaming in and warm hands to work with. And what happens when the happy spring sunshine streams in? It reveals all of the dust and dirt and that mountain of tools that never seem to get put back in their place. Anxious to shed the cold, gloom and cobwebs of winter, on the day before the official start of spring, I did a major cleaning overhaul of my studio. I even swept, and then vacuumed my studio floor, something I’ve been avoiding for a long time since so much of what I vacuumed up was probably tiny balls of real gold that have a habit of rolling away, or that itty bitty candy pink sapphire that flew out of my hands or that little handmade gold leaf that dropped with a tiny ping…to never be seen again. But, ahhhh…it feels good to have a nice clean studio.
Spring also means that I get to stare at beautiful blooming trees like this one that sits right outside of my studio door.
And staring at bright beautiful Spring flowering trees makes me of course….buy stones in bright beautiful spring colors. These remind me of bright blue skies, fresh green leaves, and the raspberry pink flowers on the tree outside my studio door. The freshly cleaned studio, the warm sunny days, the brightly colored flowers, the new stones…all lead to one thing…an explosion of new design ideas; enough to fill an entire notebook. And when I don’t have my notebook, I scribble designs onto the backs of receipts and odd scraps of paper found at the bottom of my purse.
But...spring also brings something else…lots and lots and lots of extra curricular activities for the kids. Some organized...
And some not so organized...mud soup anyone?
These new springtime activities mean less and less and less time to spend in my freshly cleaned sunlit studio happily creating jewelry with my brightly colored sparkly new stones. Maybe I’ll have time to get to them next winter!
For this months "Aspiring Metalsmiths" blog roll we've decided to do tutorials to share information and learn from each other. My tutorial is about drilling sea glass and soldering it onto a closed sterling silver ring that can be hung from a necklace or made into earrings. There may be a better way of doing it...but after lots of trial and error, this is the method that works for me. I should add that this tutorial is geared for people with some basic knowledge of soldering. While I go into great detail about working with the glass, I don't go into great detail about the actual soldering.
First, you'll need to find yourself some sea glass.
The best beaches for finding sea glass are beaches near old city dumps or beaches where the sand is pebbly. If it's not too cold, wade out a little to where the waves crash...that's where the best sea glass can be found. Also...get there early before other beach combers take all the beautiful cobalt blue!
Drilling the sea glass:
*I use a 1mm diamond tipped ball bur for a dremel that I purchased at my local hardware store.
* I fill a glass pyrex baking pan with about 1" of water and attach my dremel bur to my Flex shaft. You can use a dremel or a drill press...I just happen to have a flex shaft, so that's what I use.
*First, mark the spot that you want to drill with a sharpee. Turn it over and mark the other side as well. It helps to hold the glass up to the light so you can see the first sharpee mark through the glass...this will help you to be able to place the second mark directly opposite it. You want the sharpee marks to line up as perfectly as possible since you will be drilling halfway through on one side, and halfway through on the other...you want the holes to line up.
*Place the sea glass glass in the water...I just hold it with my hands. Being careful to only get the tip of the bur wet and NOT the flex shaft, drill halfway through one side of the glass...flip it over and drill the rest of the way through the other side. Don't apply pressure...just let your drill bit do the work. You'll know it's working when you see clouds of powdered glass swirling around your bur.
*Because you will be putting the glass onto a ring that will be soldered closed, you don't want the hole to be too tight on the metal. If the fit is too snug, the glass will conduct too much heat and the glass will break. Even though 16g round sterling silver wire fits perfectly through the hole made by the 1mm ball bur, I still like to widen the hole a little just to be safe. For this, I attach a diamond tipped bead reamer to my flex shaft. Again, place the glass in the water and drill with the graduated reamer to enlarge the hole.
Soldering a Sterling Silver ring closed with the sea glass on it:
* Make a ring whatever size you like with your 16g wire (other gauges of wire can be used...I'm using 16g for this project).
At this point I set the glass aside and solder the ring closed without the glass on it. This way I can hammer it perfectly round on my round mandrel. Once I have a perfectly round ring, I cut it open at the seam, file the ends and put the sea glass on. Close it the same way you would close a jump ring.
*Now to solder...Hold the ring of silver with your third hand tool and at the same time clamp the sea glass with a pair of cross locking tweezers. The tweezers act as a heat sink and help to prevent the sea glass glass from breaking. I use medium Silver solder for this step because it requires less heat than hard solder, yet is still strong enough for everyday wear. I have had success with hard solder, but the chances of breaking the sea glass are higher. Solder your ring closed by pick soldering. Basically, heat the ring and place your solder on the join. Circle the ring again with your flame and heat the solder to help it flow. Try not to directly hit the glass with your flame if you can. Do this step as quickly as you can to avoid excess heat flowing to the glass. Get in and get out!
DO NOT QUENCH!! after your solder flows....walk away! Sorry to scream, but this is important. :-) Go heat up your coffee, check your e-mail. Basically...let the glass cool on it's own.
Pickling and Finishing:
* I use eco-pickle, which is basically just distilled white vinegar and table salt...OR sometimes red wine vinegar and pink Himalayan salt for a gourmet pickle, if that's all I have left in the cupboards. I take a coffee cup, fill it with just enough vinegar to cover my piece...and microwave it about 60 seconds until its hot. I then put it on the warmer on my stove top and add the salt. (sometimes I put it on an electric coffee cup warmer in the garage because nobody in my house likes the strong smell of warm vinegar). IN THE MEAN TIME...I put my sea glass charm into a cup and ran it under luke warm water...gradually turning the water warmer and warmer until it is sitting in a cup of hot water. Only then do I put the charm into the hot pickle. Basically, when working with glass, you want to avoid ANY abrupt temperature changes that will result in your glass breaking.
*Rinse in warm water...then file, sand, finish as you would finish any silver jewelry. Finally, I tumble it for about 15 minutes to clean the glass and give an even finish to the metal...it doesn't break the glass...at least not yet. :-)
Click on the links below to view the tutorials written by my fellow Aspiring Metalsmiths:
My very talented team, the "Aspiring Metalsmiths", does a monthly blog project where we choose a topic and "everyone" writes about it. I put "everyone" in quotes because this is my first time to participate...usually I write about 10 lines and get distracted and end up missing the deadline. This month the topic is "What I'm working on right now". I'm 8 lines into it and I'm not distracted yet...so far so good!
As usual, I'm working on tons of different things at once.
These gemstones will soon be made into rings....
Rose Quartz, Carnelian
The new rings will look similar to this ring, but I may wrap them in solid gold bezels....
I'm in the design stage with a couple stones.....
This one is a hand cut Ray Mine Chrysocolla from Laura of Cabbingrough
The little wheel looking things will actually be poppies. I'll stamp and dome the silver and add a center ball.
Or.....maybe I'll go with this design. Hmmmm....lots to think about!
I had to bevel the upper edge of this drusy with my sanding disc so that I can bezel set it. It will be either a ring or a bracelet....
I'm leaning towards this design....
I'm halfway done making several pairs of earrings that I hope to be able to finish soon. I will add the gemstones later...
Then there's my little Sterling Silver and Copper barn. This was for a team challenge where the theme was Architecture. I missed the deadline to enter and so here it sits. I'm determined to finish this little barn, and I actually have been working on it little by little over the last few weeks. I have to cut out, bend and solder the second half of the roof, cut and solder the hinge onto the back, and figure out how I want to do the finishing. I'm thinking the roof might get a verdigris finish. I like the way the soldering has left a distressed look to the barn, but I think I may end up sanding and polishing it because that way the little flowers I stamped into the sides will show more clearly....and part of me really wants to watch it age over time and end up with a natural patina...
I searched for the little sterling animals I made, but couldn't find them. I'll post pics of them when they turn up!
It will open like this, and have a hinge down the back...once I learn to make a hinge. There will be a latch on the front to keep the animals in. Moo!
I soldered little stalls inside but the solder didn't hold. I'm not sure why, but after several attempts I abandoned them, so the inside will just be hollow. The design is modeled after a toy barn Santa brought for my kids.
I have more things that I'm in the middle of....but I had to stop somewhere! I just wish there were more hours in the day. I'll post pics of my little barn when it's finished!
To see what my Aspiring Metalsmith Teammates are working on click on their blogs listed below:
My name is Lilian Ginebra and I am a mostly self-taught metal smith living and working in the San Francisco Bay area. I am so excited to have recently opened my jewelry shop at www.girllovesglitter.etsy.com where I have the opportunity to sell my designs. I am a mother of three young children, and I do most of my work in the evening when I magically transform from mommy to jewelry designer. Occasionally, someone takes a fantastically long nap, and I actually get to work during the day! Amidst the tricycles, suitcases, and holiday decorations, I have set up a home studio in my garage. This is where I happily sit late into the night cutting, sawing, sanding, torching, drilling, filing, and hammering away like a mad scientist while the rest of my family sleeps soundly.
I grew up in a family filled with artists, creative thinkers, and DIY’ers. I received a BA in Art History and Fine Art from San Francisco State University. I have been designing and creating jewelry for as long as I can remember. It began with daisy chain necklaces and then transitioned to friendship bracelets made from my mother’s seed beads. From there, I began working with wire and semi-precious stones. I have since graduated to the vast world of metalwork. I was hooked the moment I lit my first torch and melted my first sterling ball. From sketching a design to manipulating the metal and gemstones into my visions, I love the entire process of transforming my drawings into finished pieces of jewelry. My designs are inspired by colors and shapes from nature and my time spent living in the Caribbean and Mexico. I strive to make jewelry that is beautiful, well made, comfortable and that people will love to wear.