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Creativity Inspired ~ Cool Tool: Microwave Flower Press

Earlier this year I obtained this neat little contraption called a Microwave Flower Press. They are available at many garden supply stores. I wondered if they really would dry flowers in minutes and still retain the same delicate quality of a flower traditionally pressed in heavy books.

The press is comprised of two terracotta slabs, wool pads and broad cloth. It boasts the ability to dry press flowers in as little as three minutes, and that it will retain the colour of the flower better than the slow-drying method.

After laying the wool pads and cloth onto the terracotta, take the flower(s) you want to dry and arrange them on the broadcloth. It was the middle of winter when I tried this experiment, so I obtained some plants with small flowers from the home improvement store.

After you have the flowers placed as you like, carefully place the other broadcloth, the other wool pad and then the other terracotta slab on top – sandwiching the flowers in between.

Into the microwave we go. It’s recommended that you microwave in 30 second intervals so not to over dry the flowers. Since these were small flowers, I complied with the suggestion. It took about 2 minutes to do most of these little flowers.

I did this experiment twice – and these are the successful flowers. One variety would not dry properly at all – either they were over done & flaky – therefore stuck to the broadcloth, or still retained moisture and stuck to the broadcloth – so just as unusable, either way.

These are the variety of flowers that did not work in the microwave press; I pressed them the traditional way – in heavy books – for 3 weeks. I agree with the claim that the colour is retained in the microwave press. The flowers I traditionally pressed did fade somewhat.

I look forward to trying out larger flowers this summer in the press. I’d also like to incorporate this into jewelry making somehow: maybe set the dried flowers in resin? Oh the ideas… 🙂

Adventures in Brass: Part Two ~ The Initial Project

My first piece that I made via the brass oxidizing experiment was really, really crude – but it worked up fast. I know my fellow jewelry makers will appreciate the sentiment of just completing a project so that you gain the experience in working with the material – even of the end result is not up to your standards.

The piece turned into two pieces actually – a pair of earrings and a bracelet.

I cut out t he metal using a pair of shears. Then rounded and filed the corners smooth. With a sharpie, I marked where I wanted to punch holes with the screw punch. (You can see another project there on the left working up…for another day. :)). These pictures are straight from the bench, so you see the creative chaos first hand. Sometimes I need to drop what I am doing to develop another idea before I totally forget it. So there are normally many projects on the go at once!

After the holes are punched, I flattened/work hardened the brass using a brass mallet and leather sand bag. Then, the brass pieces were ready for earring assembly…

The completed earrings, with onyx and gold-filled components.

With the rest of the pieces of brass plate, I decided to punch holes – two on each side – and attach together with jump rings.

Sorry terrible pic – but I laid them out staggering the sizes and lightness/darkness from the two brass trophy plates this once was…(and a peek of yet another project in the top right…;)).

Added a magnetic clasp and…there you have it.

These two pieces will be displayed in my workspace as my first ever metal work pieces. I think that it will be neat to see the progression of skill in a few years time. I wish I had of kept the first piece of beaded jewelry I made over eleven years ago! But, I probably sold it! LOL!

Now that I got this get-a-feel-for-techniques project out of the way, my mind is going a mile a minute with ideas. The other projects I am working on involve incorporating the engraver so I am anxious to get them completed and shared. Let’s see how much life gets in the way of play! Stay tuned!

Adventures in Brass: Part One ~ Oxidizing

I inherited a lot of trophy brass for my engravers. Besides practicing engraving, I thought I would try my hand at some fun techniques and see what happens. I haven’t had any formal training in metal nor have a worked with it before, other than some crude wire work. I just like to think up an idea and try it out and see what comes of it.

The first thing I did was create patterns on the brass plate using a paper embosser.

Then I needed to rub the surface with a very fine steel wool as trophy plate has a coating to protect it from tarnishing. The steel wool will remove the coating and this is the area that we will oxidize. The effect depends on how much of the coating you remove, but generally, the recessed areas will remain with the coating while the top will not.

The brass oxidizer I have is for the colour black and I got it from an engraving supplier, but is available from many sources including jewelry supply shops. This is an acid so you want to wear gloves and keep out of reach of children.

I used a Q-Tip to apply the solution to my brass plate.

I applied the oxidizer evenly over the surface of the brass plate.

Almost instantly, you will see the brass turn black.

Wipe off the excess…and there you have it. Oxidized, patterned brass. I applied a jewelry wax sealer to the end product.

So what to do with this brass plate? Part two will be the a peek into the projects…

2010: My Jewelry Sabbatical

In December, I thought really long and hard about what direction to take my jewelry business for the future. Last January, I was very pregnant with DD#2 (now 10 months old) & decided to start this blog and embark on “100 Days of Creativity”.

Last year was a very critical year for me. I had taken a break from designing jewelry (let alone selling it) in 2007 in order to relocate to another province, buy a house & have DD#1. I had put together an Etsy Shop in April 2008, but never really did anything with it.  I was longing for a life less complicated & was concerned my love for jewelry making was adding to the consumerism mindset I was trying to shed.

Luckily after joining an Etsy Street Team and networking with others in the handmade community, I realized that my passion was truly a gift not to be ignored. I was more than satisfied with sales & interest in my business again, particularly since I was doing this all on-line while taking care of two little girls.

As December Holidays arrived, & I had time to reflect on the year, I felt strongly that now was the time to take a risk and grow my skill set. I love gemstone beads but I really want more for myself, particularly in the customizable jewelry market. There are techniques I have been longing to have the time to try out for many years.

Profits from jewelry sales in 2009 was just waiting to be spent. I decided that the best use of this money was to buy equipment & supplies and embark on one year of skill building. To me it sounded very much like a sabbatical (noun: any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc. (per dictionary.com)). So, the 2010 Jewelry Sabbatical was born.

I have spent the month of January buying supplies, & cleaning up my workspace. Some of the techniques I wish to try & hopefully be successful at are: engraving via engravograph (pantograph engraver), jewelry making with resin, copper etching and patinas, wood engraving/burning, metal stamping…so far I have been playing with the engraver and am impressed with the results.

I’ve given myself a timeline month by month to which I will loosely follow in order to keep myself focused and on track, but the journey is bound to change esp. with a creative journeys! Rigidity just doesn’t work in order to have the inspiration flow…

I look forward to sharing my journey on the blog. I still will be taking custom requests and selling my jewelry, I just won’t be heavily promoting it or branding it for now. In the long run, these dreams and goals I have will help expand & streamline my business in the direction I have always wanted to take it. And much more importantly, help grow my creativity which is a pinnacle part of me, as an individual.

Stay tuned!