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…

Playing Catch Up…

I am so severely behind with my blog posting. In March, my family & I ended up travelling home to Nova Scotia to attend a funeral. That wiped two weeks out of that month and therefore made me behind on my projects for my “Jewelry Sabbatical“. The 13 hour drive however, gave me a lot of time to think & refocus, and my priorities have shifted a bit. I had a brain wave for the engraving collection, and that is still in conceptual stage while I wait for some logo templates I ordered. I also had a clearer idea about which direction to take the website, so I have been working at updating the look of the site and the overall branding of heavenlyflower.com – all tasks that are severely needed & overdue – I just didn’t expect to be working on that element at all this year! Blame it on retrograde if you must, but these days I just feel motivated to work on getting projects cleaned up, completed and continuing on past goals (like the website). It’s not exactly spending all my live long day at the bench as I had planned, but I am happy with the direction things are headed so I have to go with it. For the first time in 8 years I feel like my goals & dreams are in reach. I tend to go with my gut day to day and this is no exception. Perhaps taking the pressure off this year helped my business goals come in clearer focus. Now to not self-sabotage…a topic I will leave for another post.

I will still be blogging about my new found adventures in creativity as planned however I do have a few topics revolving around the handmade market and business that I will also be writing about as it pertains to what is on my mind these days.

I am also happy to announce that I will be participating in yet another Market Mommy Blog Party next week. Stop by the blog and participate. There will be prizes from fellow mom entrepreneurs as usual. I will be giving away gift certificates! ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally: while I was organizing photos I came across this photo of my oldest trying her hand at what mommy does. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t want them to “hurry up and grow up” but I do welcome the days when I can share my passions with my two girls. This was taken back in October, before my creative space/playroom was finished. She was just newly two years old when this was taken.

The piece I was working on:

The finished project:

More goodies to follow…including my adventures in brass last month!

Come Tour My Workspace…

The creative madness (um, I mean, magic…) unfolds in my head. But I have never in the 10+ years of jewelry making & paper crafts had a proper work area to transfer those ideas into the tangible world. I’ve always lived in apartments for my whole adult life; and when we bought our house 3+ years ago, two children have been born since so I have been working from the kitchen table. ๐Ÿ™‚

As summer drew to a close and my youngest was gaining independence, I decided it was time for a proper workspace. But what would work? Where? I needed a place that I could multi-task: make jewelry, fill orders & prep them for shipping, take photos (I was so sick of setting up and tearing down my photo box), and also work on my other creative endeavours which include cosmetic making, paper crafts, candle making…on top of this, I needed a way to keep the girls occupied while I work. So the space would also have to act as a playroom.

Upon pondering on my open-concept home, it became clear that one room would be perfect: the laundry/mud room.

What? You say. A laundry room. Sounds silly doesn’t it? Here is where ” outside the box”ย  creative thinking is key.

Our laundry room is very large. In the initial plans for the house, it was supposed to be three smaller storage rooms and an exit to the garage. Thankfully, the original owners opted to make it one large back room. Prior to last August, this room served as a laundry room and very large bathroom for my cats; and because the kitty litter was there you really did not want to spend a lot of time in it, let alone have babies crawl all over the floor.

My husband had plans to move his computer gear into that room as well, so a plan formed. Cat litter was moved out of the room entirely. One side would be set up with carpet tiles so the girls could have a play area. The other side, my desk/work station. The room was already equipped with lots of cupboard space and counter space which would house all my creative products. And bonus – I could also get the laundry done as well! Perfect solution for a busy mom who rarely made it down the stairs to do the laundry…

In October we set up the space; and I did some more organizational arranging last month when I realized I was going to take a jewelry sabbatical.

The space esthetically is nothing to shake a stick at: I do hope to do some painting and refreshing in the future. Functionally however, it is a dream come true.

Above is a view of my main workspace. We have three of these flea market tables and one works well for a large work area. The other desk/cabinet was here when we moved in; not great looking but it’ s free and functional! You can see my shipping materials in the hanging file above the table. My light box for photo taking is in the middle and that small fridge at the very left keeps any cosmetic concoctions or supplies that need to be kept cool (and my husband’s beer!). See those two carpet tiles missing at the top left of the carpet? Spilled beer. Sigh. They will return after we can get the smell out. LOL!

The fridge sits on my cart that holds my “hardware”: metal working materials, polishers and all of my engraving fonts. I also have a printer that comes in handy when I am not at my usual computer.

And of course…my daughters’ย  toys…they never stay in one area. ๐Ÿ™‚

The above view is of the entrance to the room. My work area is directly behind me. You see my oldest on her slide on the right. My washer & dryer that I adore; and the cupboards above are great places to stash my supplies for making cosmetics, their packing materials and misc. supplies such as mixing bowls, the ever useful Popsicle sticks, etc. That blue thing on the floor is a tunnel in case you are wondering. Endless fun for babies. ๐Ÿ™‚

A view of the play area. There are lots of baskets and bins to store their wooden blocks, musical instruments, and pretty much any toy that I don’ t like to have under foot in my living room. ๐Ÿ™‚ That cupboard is where I keep my beading supplies and craft paint; we’ll get a peek inside shortly.

Inside my jewelry cupboard…at least the beading side of it…still room to grow! *grin* It could be neater but it will do for now.

My very useful “built-in” bookshelf that holds paper,ย  books, jewelry (those two large binders on the right of the third shelf houses my completed jewelry ready for shipping), my engraving plates and charms in metal and wood, and that wooden case is where I keep my hole punches and rubber stamps.

I found this scrapbooking cart at Costco awhile back & although I do not scrapbook, it’s handy for holding all my decorative paper! On top is my Provo Craft Cuttlebug.

The room also came equipped with ample counter space. Here in one corner is my microwave for flower pressing & melting soy wax for candles.

Above the microwave you see my main cupboard filled with cosmetic making supplies. I haven’t delved into making mineral makeup as of yet; just soaps, lotions, scrubs, lip balms, etc etc….

This is a fairly messy end of the room…but I wanted to show two of my three pantograph engravers….my husband’s computer gear is to the left of them (that’s our router stuck to the wall) and recycling bins underneath…it’s a hot mess at the moment so I’m only showing off the engravers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s a closer look at my workspace…the wicker baskets above hold remnant fabric, candle making supplies (mostly holders), extra shipping materials, and packing supplies. I use my old laptop downstairs if I ever want to look up something on the internet or get info off our server. That little box on the wall was a great find! I forgot to take a photo of the inside…but I got it at Ikea for half price. It is supposed to hold CD’s, but I keep my inks, pigments, embossing powders, glitter & stamping pads in it. Robbin is kept neat & accessibly hung on dowels and wire off the top rack.

(That hook rug raccoon was a creation of my late mother’s when I was a child. It always makes me smile to look at it).

This little photo box was such a great, inexpensive investment! I still believe natural light is the best light for photographing jewelry, but if I waited for great weather to take photos outside in this climate I would be unable to take photos year round! My photos still could use work but they have improved dramatically since buying this light box.ย  Underneath I keep props for photos as well as other jewelry making materials.

It’s always great to have a whiteboard to stay organized and brainstorm! Mine is under-used this month; I must remedy that next month.

Thanks for taking a peek at my workspace…it may not look like much, but my girls & I love to spend our time down there. Hopefully it will inspire you & your creative space however big or small!

4 Gift Certificates to Give Away Via the Market Mommy Blog Party

I am honoured to once again be participating in the Market Mommy Blog Party. This time around, I am giving away 4 gift certificates: one $30 and three $10 to those who participate. The theme this time is “Etsy Shops” so stop by the blog and check out what other creative & ingenious products other Mom entrepreneurs have to offer by way of Etsy!

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.ย  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!

Clasp-o-phobia: Getting over my fears ~ a review of Bali Silver Clasps.

For December, Artbeads offered through their Blogging for Beaders program the opportunity for us to try products from their Bali Bead line. Upon reviewing my choices, I decided to try & review the clasps.

You see, I am self-diagnosed with clasp-o-phobia: the fear & doubt of the functionality of most clasps on the market. I have tried different clasps in the past, including barrel clasps, toggle clasps, “S”-clasps, hook & eye clasps, etc…but none really impressed me or gave me a sense of security. I am one who hates the frustration of doing up clasps on bracelets, and also the feeling of a clasp that may become undone during regular use.

So because of this, I have stuck to using two tried and true clasps: the lobster clasp and the magnetic clasp. Although the lobster clasp can be tricky to get latched at times, the security you get from knowing that it is not going to come undone makes it a winner in my books. It’s a clasp we are all familiar with, and can be used in adjustable bracelets and necklaces.

The magnetic clasp is a dream for us who hate to fiddle with clasping bracelets. The worst thing that has happened is it accidentally pinching my skin if it was too close to my wrist when the magnets come together. I also like to include a safety chain with magnetic clasps in case they become attracted to another metal object and possibly come undone.

So when Artbeads offered the opportunity to review items in their Bali line, I thought this was a good chance for me to overcome my clasp-o-phobia. Many of the Bali clasps are very ornate and add beauty to the piece. I also know from past experience with Bali products that they are sturdy & well made.

I asked Artbeads to send me a variety of “S”-clasps, toggle clasps as well as hook & eye clasps for me to try – 7 in total – and they were happy to do so free of charge.

As you can see I am a bit late with December blogging due to the holiday rush, but here are the finished pieces inspired by the Bali clasps…

The first clasps I wanted to try were the toggle clasps. I immediately noticed how ornate & well crafted they were: very sturdy – great for big stones that I love to work with! They also had chain already attached which I appreciated. In the past, the sterling silver toggles I have tried did not contain a chain, and for me to add one was trial and error – sometimes too long, sometimes too short. These totally took the guess work out of it!

Above: toggle clasp with wire loops paired with 16mm faceted quartz & 12mm reconstituted smoky quartz beads.

Above: square beaded toggle clasp paired with large aquamarine nugget beads.

The verdict: I *LOVE* these clasps…who knew the functional part of a bracelet could also be a focal point! Very easy to put on and pair well with large stones. You will probably find when buying a bracelet with a toggle clasp you will appreciate going up a size so to have room to maneuver the bar piece through the clasp. For example I usually make my bracelets 7.5 inches – the common ladies wrist size, but these are approx. 8 inches. I don’t think I could comfortably get them on if I made them the standard 7.5.

Next I tackled designs around the “S”-clasps. At first, I found these clasps very frustrating. Again very sturdily designed, and very beautiful…but since they are made out of such a strong gauge of wire I found them very hard to get clasped & undone. Some slight manipulation with the pliers to loosen the “S”ย  part slightly, and success! A beautiful clasp that was fairly easy to use. A good shake and it was clear that these were very well designed: I was not worried of it coming undone accidentally.

Above: “S’ Clasp with double wrapped and snaked wire paired with square faceted onyx beads and pewter bead caps.

Above: “S” Hook Clasp with granulation & wire work with faceted onyx coins & pewter bead caps.

Finally, I tried the hook & eye clasps. I want to comment separately on these since all three were so very different.

I was really excited with this Simple Hook & Eye Clasp. This large clasp works perfectly with larger stones, as seen above with 16mm red banded agate beads. Because of the size it is quite simple to use.

The Hook and Eye Clasp Set is the polar opposite of the previous clasp. Very petite and great when you want a clasp that is inconspicuous. It works beautifully with the bracelet above showcasing 6mm South Sea Shell Beads in Sterling Silver. I was happy to find this clasp very easy to use – definitely a good alternative to the lobster clasp and I will be keeping this one in mind for future adjustable pieces as well.

I decided to use the Triangular Hook & Eye Clasp last. I had a hard time deciding what to make with it, considering its design. I found it rather awkward to use. Although it was my favourite clasp esthetically, it was my least favourite in terms of usability. When I finally decided to make a three-strand sterling silver & onyx bracelet with it, I really had to bend the hook part out with my pliers in order to get the clasp undone & easily done up. Because of this I added a safety chain. But to be honest although it takes some practice to learn how to use this clasp, it wasn’t so bad in the end. And it looks fabulous!

These are just some of the clasps available in the Bali Bead Silver line on Artbeads.com. Thanks, Artbeads for allowing me to try out the clasps free of charge & allowing us beady bloggers a chance to independently review your products.

(In case you are wondering, Artbeads does not pay me to do this. They simply provide materials, & then I give my honest opinion. :))

For 2010 – Free Gift With Every Purchase

Due to the success and positive feedback of my “free earrings with every purchase” holiday promo, I have decided to give a free gift with every purchase for 2010. It maybe a pair of earrings, a gift certificate for $5 off your next purchase (or pass it along for a friend to use), a beaded bookmark or hair pin…the fun is that you never know what you are going to get, but because it is from heavenlyflower.com you know that it will be quality!

Happy 2010 everyone…I am embarking on a new journey I am calling my “jewelry sabbatical” ~ new equipment and supplies are on its way and I will be blogging about it so you can take the journey with me. Hopefully we will be inspired together!