Improvised jewelers bench

My jewelry classes have been going well. I'm making a pair of earrings. Sawing tight curves on silver sheet was challenging but I'm beginning to get the hang of it. The hardest part, so far, was making the earnuts for the post earrings. The earnut design is a deceptively easy piece to cut but it's really tough to file it all straight and symmetrical.

Since I like to be able to continue my projects at home, I had to acquire a bench pin and improvise a jeweler's bench. I normally work at a regular desk, which is too low for a bench pin. The pin should be at chest height so you don't have to stoop over your work.

I looked at prices for second-hand benches but couldn't find any that were either in good enough condition or within my budget. In the end I decided to adapt a piece of furniture I already had in my studio - a chest of drawers where I store materials. I removed the first drawer to make room for the bench pin, made a metal sheet cover for the counter top and only need to make a similar metal cover for the inside of the second drawer, where the shavings from sawing and filing will fall. It's a bit small and I'll still use my desk for certain tasks, but it works for now.


Tools make me aggressive

I began jewelry classes yesterday, so today I had to go buy a few tools I was missing, and also some fine silver to learn how to make my own sterling.

I've worked with wire and other materials for quite a few years now, but I felt that I would benefit from learning more advanced techniques from a real jeweler, rather than trial and error that tends to waste a great deal of material. Your mistakes can become quite expensive when you're dealing with precious metals, so it's good to have some guidance.

As I was coming back with my little bag of tools, I started thinking this would be a really bad day to get mugged. I wasn't carrying a lot of silver, as you can tell by the picture, but it was still expensive, damn it, and I was feeling a little uneasy. The funny thing is that, because I was also carrying a hammer, and I'll grant you that it wasn't a very big hammer but it can still cause some damage, my mind kept shifting from "please don't look at me, I'm not even here" to "mess with me and I'll smash your skull in." I think it's a good thing I had an uneventful trip back home. I'd hate to spend my next jewelry class in jail.

At the back of the picture you can also see some of the new resin pendants I've been making recently.


iclay crafts

We made these with my resin molds
I bought some iclay to play with my kids during the holidays. iclay is a really soft, super light, alternative to plasticine. It's made in Korea and it's actually closer to polymer clay and biscuit because it doesn't crack or become moldy when it dries.

It's an extremely flexible air-dry clay and it's really easy to mix colors. It feels a lot like playing with chewing gum because when you try to pull it apart it stretches until forming really thin strings, but it's not as sticky on your hands. In fact, it's got an almost powdery feel and the only time it stained my hands was when I sprayed some water onto it because it was beginning to dry up.

They even say that if you add some water to a fully dried piece and place it back inside the closed container that it will become soft again and you don't ever need to throw it out. I haven't tried doing that yet but if it's true it's pretty cool.

But what I really liked about it is that when it's dry it turns into foam rubber. It's not hard plastic like cured polymer clay. It's soft and you can squeeze it in your hands. In fact, if you roll it into a ball and let it dry, you've got a bouncy ball - my son LOVED that!

Resin heart with iclay frame.
It's far from perfect because I had "help"
from my 3-year-old daughter :)
It was her necklace, after all.
I've been working with resin lately, and my daughter asked if I'd give her one of the hearts I made. Then she wanted to turn it into a necklace. It was one of the milefiori hearts, so it has glass beads inside, making it almost impossible to drill a hole through the top because the resin is softer than the glass and the drill bounces off the glass beads and makes a mess. I decided to try using the iclay to make a frame for the heart.

Just like polymer clay, it doesn't bond with glass or resin very well, but it was a snug enough fit that it won't fall off. I attached a wire loop on the top and let it dry. The wire loop may be yanked out in time but it's easy enough to replace with a little more clay.

The best thing about the iclay frame is that it, because it's rubber, it protects the edges of the resin, so if my daughter drops it it will bounce and be more resistant to breaks and scratches. I'm considering making an iphone cover out of it. I think it would work perfectly against accidental drops and I can mix my own colors :)


More resin jewelry

After all those sprinkles I decided to make resin pieces with other objects inside. I can't tell you how much fun it is.

What I've learned in the process is to plan the placement of the objects if you're going to have to drill later. Glass, metal and other hard objects will not be easy to drill through and in some cases I opted for wire wrapping the whole piece rather than drill to insert a bail.

Cupcake pendants with sprinkles inside

Ocean themed pendants.
There are air bubbles in these but I like the effect
because it looks like the objects are under water.

Paper inserts.
These were a fail because the paper wasn't sealed properly.
I diluted the wood glue with water and I shouldn't have.
Still, they look nice, aside from the unseemly blotches. 

Paper clip pendants.
The one on the left turned a golden yellow because I added
some nail polish to the resin.It gives it an aged effect. 

Another heart with sprinkles and a Steampunk inspired pendant.
I made a bezel and dropped some watch parts into the resin.
I added color to the first layer of resin and then added extra
clear layers on top to dome it. I used plastic watch part since
this was meant as a first experiment and i didn't want to risk
ruining the better metal ones :)

Resin Jewelry

I had a request some time ago to replace a faceted glass cab on a brooch. The stone had such a specific size and cut that i knew I wouldn't be able to purchase another to match. While considering alternatives I first thought about polymer clay, simply because I'm familiar with it and it would be easy to replicate the stone. With that in mind I made a silicon mold out of one of the matching cabs but it was obvious from the start that polymer clay wouldn't work because it's opaque. I could match shape and color but it would always lack transparency.

That's when I thought about resin. I'd never worked with resin before but I'd seen it on sale at my craft store and I'm always up for a new technique so I decided to try.

Since I needed to mix a larger amount than the one required for one tiny little cab, I planned what else I might want to do with the resin before taking the plunge. I bought some cupcake silicon molds and made a few more of my own. I saw a lot of tutorials on YouTube and read up on safety and what could go wrong before mixing a small batch of resin (30 ml out of the 150 ml package). I experimented with adding color by using soft pastels and ballpoint pen ink and trying out all the molds I'd done.

In the end I decided to buy glass varnish to add color to the resin since I couldn't get the other materials to mix properly. It worked perfectly. The color was only a little darker than I intended but I think it's not terribly noticeable. I finished the brooch and in the process became rather obsessed with making jewelry out of resin. So much so that I just bought my third package and feel like I've only just scratched the surface of what I can do with it.

The only downside is that it can't take any heat since it would be perfect if I could bake it inside a polymer clay frame. As it is, if I want to mix the two, I'll have to bake the clay and then glue the resin cab to the finished frame, but I'm sure that will also work.

I may do a tutorial post on resin soon, once I feel confident enough I know what I'm talking about :)

In the meantime, here are some of the first pieces I've done, mostly with cake sprinkles.


Flattening wire

It's easy enough to buy square or half round wire in precious metals but it's harder to find anything other than round wire in other metals.

The obvious solution to this problem is buying a rolling mill, or square drawing plates, but since they're expensive, I was thinking of alternatives I could use. In the past, for smaller pieces, I've hammered the metal but got an irregular result.

I thought about my Sizzix but you'd have to keep opening and closing the sandwich and I'm not sure it would work.

When I finally thought about the obvious solution I felt really stupid for not considering it before: I have a pasta machine!

In the picture you can see, from left to right, round 0,8 mm wire and next to it is the flattened version after going through the pasta machine on one of it's thinnest settings (I think it was setting 8). Next to that is a 1 mm round aluminium wire and finally the flat version of the same on the thinnest setting. It makes a great flat wire for braiding or wrapping.

I'm sure a lot of people have thought of this before since it seems so obvious but I decided to make a post just in case in can help anyone else.


Greeting cards for earrings

When you make handcrafted jewelry there's a certain amount of paper crafts involved in the process: you need labels, business cards, earring and necklace cards, background papers for photographing your jewelry (paper is much better than fabric as a background because it doesn't collect dust, animal hairs or fluff can will look bad on a blown up image), thank you notes, etc. Some people do everything on the computer (or have it done for them) and print it out, others like to use stamps, pattern paper and several handmade techniques to personalize their labels and cards. I use a mix of both. I created my logo and made the base layouts for my labels and cards but then I use pattern or colored paper as a background.

My point is that I had already accumulated a certain amount of paper and materials and since I like paper crafts, I had fun this summer making some greeting cards.
It was so much fun, in fact, that I felt I needed to come up with a decent excuse to be able to keep making cards. I came up with an interesting idea that seemed absolutely obvious to me. I looked around on the internet thinking that it was so obvious that someone must have done it first and maybe it would save me time to see how other people had solved some of the technical aspects. I did find some earring greeting cards but they all featured the earrings on the front of the card. It's a perfectly fine idea but I wanted the earrings on the inside so that they're protected by the card itself and also to make them a surprise.

In the end this is what I came up with:

The outside is a typical 5" square greeting card but it you can flip it inside out and display the earrings instead.

The butterfly digi stamp comes from Shery K Designs. She has truly wonderful free digi stamps but beware that her blog is extremely slow and it's quite a nightmare to be able to actually download anything (too many things have to load in each page before you're able to even scroll down or click on anything).

I colored the stamp with watercolor pencils and used a decorated glitter design cardstock for the background.

Inside I used the same background paper and frame but left the center blank for the earrings. I made a little folded tab to hang the earrings that I glued onto the white cardstock.

The cardstock layers make the card pretty sturdy so the weight of the earrings isn't a problem.

I'm pretty happy with the result and now I can make all sorts of variations. The frame can be square, round, oval, etc, and I can't wait to try out different styles.

I may have to make a custom envelope, though, because of the card's thickness.