Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Molding the future

In my SLK jewelry workshop, one of the techniques Jen Cushman taught us was using molding putty to make molds of favorite pieces, or maybe of something you'd really like to use in jewelry but don't want to part with, and then use resin to fill them and recreate the piece.

It's quite easy to do, and I made a bunch of molds of items that Jen had that looked gorgeous so I can use them in the future pieces.

Here are the molds ready for the resin.

You can't really tell what will come out of a few of them, but I have at least one to show you - the only one I made into a piece of jewelry already. See the one on the top right corner?

Here it is all made into a resin piece and colored with Gilder's paste.

I paired it with another component I made at the workshop using a new technique - creating hollow forms with resin paper. The glitter inside the bezel moves around with the movement of the piece.
Then I hammered some bronze wire till kingdom and riveted it, to break the shape of the molded resin and the bezel, since they're the same.

It's a really long necklace and large too. I don't think I'll be selling it, and maybe not wear it either - I think I'll just hang it in my studio as a reminder of an awesome trip.

The one thing I retained most from the workshop was to be more adventurous with materials and tools, and free myself from preconceived ideas of how things should look like. I was so happy that with time my wrapped loops had become so perfectly symetrical, and when I looked at Susan's loops and saw how "carefree" they looked and how that actually made the piece more interesting (at least in my eyes), it opened a new door for me.

We were making resin paper and I decided to use a leaf that was part of our kit to create a large riveted pendant - and played with fire and oil pastels to give it texture. I used eyelets on the paper and then wrapped to the hammered and riveted piece.

Another one to adorn my studio.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I have jewelry dysmorphia...

You know, a bit like body dysmorphia - when you're a regular looking gal and you look in the mirror and see yourself 100 pounds heavier, toothless, boobs dropping to your knees and a moustache like Groucho Marx? (BTW, I always hate making references to any famous people in my blog - doesn't it always show your age?...)

Except that happens to me sometimes with jewelry - I have this image in my brain of what something will look like, I think I have all the tools, supplies and the ability - and when it's done, it has nothing to do with what the coggs in my brain are showing me. hmmmm....
Mind you, this time, it was not my fault. I hate you, colored aluminum tubes!

I wanted to make metal earrings with either negative space holes, or resin-filled holes, and I wanted a dangling bead matched by tubular rivets in the same color as the bead and the resin! I bought the colored aluminum tubing for my rivets, waiting the longest time as usual for them to arrive (if they did at all - thank you mail system for keeping things surprising for me) and then proceeded to make my earrings - beads and all had already been selected.

So here they are:

I knew you were going to ask about the matching tube rivets! well, it turns out they are only colored on the outside, so when I rivet the pink and the green aluminum tubing rivets, the color is actually on the inside and what you see is the white inside of the tubing, baaahhhhh...... (caption: this is me crying).

To  make myself feel better, made a bunch of my favorite earrings:


You know, these earrings are cut and sanded, the inside edge formed to accomodate the resin, the metal is colored, images glued and then resin poured, dangle beads wire-wrapped. It bugs me sometimes that:
1) my clients sometimes have no idea how much work goes into the process, or how long it can take - but maybe it's my responsibility to be better at talking about my work;
2) that while I make one pair of these, someone makes 3 necklaces stringing handmade beads from other artists in an artistic way and selling them.

But then again, that's not my path, and I always wanted to see my blood, sweat and tears in my work - the more the merrier. So I guess that's ok.

Disclaimer: I have a bunch of gold-filled earwires I bought at the very beginning and I'm trying to save a penny of two, so I used them in these earrings instead of making my own as usual. So sue me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And then we made jewelry...

We started the workshop working with Ice Resin. I have been working with it for a while so there was a lot I already knew. But I still learned quite a bit, especially to be more adventurous with the resin and also to alter it, engraving it, and using paints and pastel colors to change it.

When we were in Paris, the concierge at out hotel wasn't the most polite and friendly person in the world and his favorite word was certainly "Non!" He actually ended up inspiring the first piece I made in Durfort. It is called "Monsieur Non". I used a picture of a man and took my revenge upon the concierge by painting his moustache red and giving him pink eye shadow. Used some sparkle and did not seal the paper so that the resin would seep in and make it look older. I applied the resin in layers, engraving the word "non" and using paint to highlight it.

The metal piece above it was another example of what we learnt. Susan taught us to use a forming block to create different shapes, and then we used nail polish to color them. Pretty cool...

My second piece is called "Cheeky love". I bought a few 1950's postcards at the flea market in Paris and one in particular I found very amusing. It was a photo of a couple in a bedroom, she had her arm in his, and he was saying something like (in French): "now that we are married, we can have some fun in this bedroom". I loved it! So I used it in a heart-shaped bezel, colored with oil pastels and glitter paper and added some blue rhinestone chain.

I finished it with sari silk and the heaviest gauge wire I ever used, 8 gauge. We were hammering away like crazy... I really love the look, but I'm note sure how much of this heavy wire I'll be able to use in the future - it takes a while to get it into the shape you want and in the meantime you and the neighbors are going deaf...

But after all that hammering, Nese, our wonderful cook, would prepare us lovely meals with local produce, wonderful French bread and lots and lots of cheese. I have never eaten better tomatoes in my life.

Here we are, getting ready to tuck in. Meals together were definitely a highlight of the trip.

Susan, Mary, Claire and Nese

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

France trip - Part III

I have a complaint about Paris. In many places in Europe, you can find a really nice coffee shop pretty early in the morning for a lovely breakfast. ,Last year in Barcelona, one street up from our hotel, my husband and I would go to Mauri  (a beautiful coffee shop from 1929) at 8am for wonderful coffee and I always had a sweet bun with pate de foie gras and a boiled egg (ok, I think I just lost some readers now, please bear with me, I eat funny…)
Now I thought I’d do the same in Paris, and dreamed of this Parisian coffee shop with wonderful crisp and buttery croissants. I headed out onto the streets on the first day with Sandy on my quest for such a place and it was like a ghost town! Everything was closed! So every day, I had my breakfast surrounded by couches with bed sheets on them. Oooompphhh! I was not a happy chappy! Parisian people, I will return – and next time I want my dream croissant in a nice setting waiting for me. Be warned.

On Monday, I headed alone to the Marais district. I had not been there in my previous visits to Paris, but it is certainly on my list for my next visit. I specifically wanted to visit the Place des Vosges, which is arguably the most beautiful square in Paris. It is the only one where you can step on the grass and it was filled with people enjoying the day, soaking some sun, people with babies and children, older people with their grandchildren playing ... Everyone taking it easy, enjoying the moment. And so did I.

The square is completely surrounded with beautiful arcades where you can find quaint boutiques, artisan ateliers, art galleries, trendy restaurants… Around the area there were brasseries, more shops, Jewish delicatessen full of food treasures.

After a few hours, I headed to the Père Lachaise cemetery.
You see, I had a special assignment: a picture of The Lizard King's (that's Jim Morrison for those born yesterday) grave to send to hubby. And here it is:
Very unassuming, hey? Can you believe they have maps for the cemetery, because there's so many people visiting to see the famous people's graves?
I like taking pictures of the lovely angel statues and others, and I'm planning on using some in my pieces. But maybe I won't tell anyone where I took them...

I think she looks so peaceful... 

 And I like the way it looks like he's watching over someone.

The following day we flew to Toulouse and then had another hour's drive to Durfort. Cathy was driving, I was navigating from the front seat, and Mary from the back. Cathy made a few French enemies navigating the roundabouts but we made it safe and sound and had a lovely trip through the beautiful French countryside.

We stopped in a neighboring village for lunch - we knew there would be nothing in Durfort - and had a wonderful meal and got to know each other better and bonded.

And we arrived in Durfort. La Cascade is a beautiful rustic house with stone walls and wooden shutters, quiet and romantic. The perfect setting for a lot of things - jewelry-making included, although I'm not sure the neighbors appreciated all the hammering we did...

The front of the house...

The back of the houses and the small patios were so inviting...

And every night I would be lulled to sleep by the sound of the cascade outside my room... Bliss...
I was so ready to start some jewelry-making the next day!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

France trip - Part II

The next day, some people were planning on travelling about an hour to a flea market just outside of Paris; I had made up my mind not to travel on anything but the subway throughout my Paris stay but mostly on my two legs who really needed a workout. Plus I so wanted to go to a museum. I dismissed the Louvre, because although I would love to go, I know you have to plan your trip and head straight to what interests you most because it’s a whole world inside. And I hadn’t planned it properly. After all, I only knew I’d be going to Paris for a year…
The Musée d’Orsay was at the top of my list – it’s set in an old train station and the architecture is exquisite. The size was manageable, plus I knew I’d find paintings by Vincent van Gogh there – and that I couldn’t pass.

Sandy, who was my roommate, decided to come with me and by this time, we were navigating the Paris subway in true Parisian style. Well, minus my Paris Visite card that would never work and was replaced three times, and the map in our hands.

 Sandy is truly talented - her work is beautiful, imaginative and well-crafted - no wonder she was chosen to be part of the Ice Resin Creative Team this year. Yeeahh! Go Sandy! Plus, she is a giver - always helping out and doing things for others. She was so wonderful in class to everyone, helping people with their projects and showing them new techniques, including me.
Sandy's admirer
Outside the museum, we stopped to see a mime and Sandy gave him some money. He motioned for her to give him a kiss and leaned. When Sandy approached to kiss him on the cheeks, he quickly turned his face and she ended up kissing him on the lips!

Cheeky (or is that lippy?) mime!

The museum was fascinating! Full of exquisite sculptures -  many of the human form. I was mesmerized by the level of detail, the folds in the skin and yes, even some cellulite, haha, that someone could carve out of a stone… As we entered, there were numerous signs not to take photographs, but rebel that I am (read: usually respectful of those rules, and not keen to get into trouble) and seeing so many people with camera in hand, I immediately pulled out mine, and was also immediately caught and told to put it aside. Jeez, a girl can’t feel just a little mischievous for one tenth of a second…

Pretty soon, both Sandy and I were crying. No, the security guard did not strike us with his baton after my camera indiscretion.

Rather, she was standing in front of James Whistler’s Whistler’s Mother, and I was standing in front of van Gogh’s Starry Night… It was not, after all, my favorite painting – the one at Musée d’Orsay was his first version of the famous painting, and is much more serene, but the same fundamental themes are there. The one I love, which is in NY’s Museum of Modern Art, is much more troubled and haunting, the lights in the sky look like whirlwinds – it was painted in the asylum at St. Remy when his mind started slipping away. Why is it that madness seems to be so often associated with genius? And what does that say about us, struggling jewelry artists? Does it mean we’re crazy, or that our work is crap? Well, I don’t have any pieces selling at Sotheby’s for millions of dollars, so I guess I won’t be checking into St. Remy anytime soon…
We had a lovely lunch outside on a sidewalk café, where the friendly waiter insisted Sandy had the chicken because it was the best thing on the menu. Turns out it was a whole chicken! I had the quiche Lorraine, and when I told him it was very good too, he replied “yes, but the chicken was better!”. Ah, French waiters – they always have to have the last word.

Onto to the subway we went, and headed to Montmartre. The subway station is not for the faint-hearted. It is a steep spiral of stairways, and at every turn you expect it will be the last but it just goes on round and round. Has some pretty cool graffitti, though.

We took the funicular to the Sacré Coeur, and where immensely lucky that there was a service going on at the time. The basilica was filled with the sound of this French angelic voice, and the organ in the background. Truly magical moment, that made my heart burst with happiness from all the beauty pouring through my senses.

The day was coming to an end, and we joined Susan, Jen and some more members of our gang for a lovely dinner at a Montmartre restaurant. This was, of course, preceded by us wandering the streets surrounded by prostitutes and pimps trying to find the address and the restaurant name that the gals had sent us. Finally, a nice guy who must have felt sorry for the look of desperation in our faces stopped to help (then again, we were in the red light district - did he really stop to help? gulp...) and pointed us to a restaurant where, alas, we found them!

Next, Place des Vosges and Pere Lachaise cemetery (no I’m not creepy visiting cemeteries, I’ll have you know it atracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year…or do I need to check myself into St. Remy?).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

France trip - Part I

So I got back home last Sunday night, and have not posted yet because I spent the last two nights trying to upload photos to my Facebook account. The internet connection here is so slow that by the time I’ve uploaded everything, man will have landed on the moon. What’s that you say? He already has?!? Wow!
See how information transfer is slow around here?...

I arrived in Paris in the afternoon of September 28. I had briefly considered marking my route and taking the train and subway to make my way to the hotel, but quickly dismissed it thinking I’d be exhausted from the long flight Maputo-Lisbon, then connection to Paris. Plus I knew a bunch of people had arrived in the morning and would already be gathered at a nearby restaurant when I arrived, so I wanted to make it there quickly!
I confess I took a step back when I arrived at the hotel – it’s a nice building, but when you go in, there’s a room with a small reception desk, a long table with plastic chairs for breakfast, and some sofas covered with what seemed to be white bed sheets! I guess since it was the Hotel des Arts, we can call the sheets artsy… (although I was thinking more of the other word that goes with artsy...) The room was clean and the location is great, close enough to a subway station, so it was all good.

I proceeded to the restaurant and immediately recognized Susan Lenart Kazmer. After all, I have her book, follow her blog, have her DVD, love her jewelry and she is as welcoming and flamboyant in person as she looks on the screen and print.
We had wine, cheese, introduced each other and ended up staying in that place for dinner as well. Everyone was tired, and some people had taken hours to get to the hotel on the subway/train option. Not good when you’re carrying hammers, pliers, anvils and such…

That first night, Susan had a bunch of prayer boxes with words inside for us to choose from. We couldn’t peek to see the words, supposedly the words would choose us, and would be the words we needed at this point in life.

My words were Playfulness and Gratitude. And that got me thinking. I guess I don’t play enough, really. Although I think I’m playful and I’m known among my friends for my laughter. But I also tend to be quite serious and responsible most of the time. I guess making jewelry is my playtime. But I should really lighten up on other aspects of my life and play more.
As for gratitude… for sure, I’m not always grateful for all I have. Aren’t we all guilty of that? Getting wrapped up in the “I wish I could”, “I wish I had” and not looking around to see the beauty that surrounds us? So go on now, right this minute, think of three things you’re grateful for. As I write, I’m grateful I met new friends, that I had a chance to see my family in Portugal, that the sky was so blue in Paris and elsewhere. I’d love to know your 3 things. Drop me a line, won’t you?

Next morning, we went to the Portes de Vanves flea market, with Jen Cushman leading us through the Paris subway maze. Jen is exactly as I pictured her to be, warm, gentle but assertive, and looking out for everyone.

Now I’m not really a flea market person. Not that I don’t love them, it’s just I’m not so good at pinpointing interesting items amongst all the chaos, unless they jump into my lap and speak to me. And as in this case they would do it in French, I probably wouldn’t understand them either J
Still, I bought a few things I really like: a 1920’s brooch which I will use as a bezel, a small ivory carved tube with a delicate crystal perfume bottle inside which I have no idea what to do with yet, an old Bible with some nice images to use in resin, antique lace, an old leather small pouch, some small frames I intend to use as bezels as well...


After lunch, some people wanted to go back to the flea market, others wanted to do other stuff, and I decided to go to the Galeries Lafayette, with my new friend Cathy Allen. Cathy is a beautiful gentle soul with a devilish sense of humor and I feel blessed I met her.
The Galeries Lafayette is a huge department store in Paris; I had just glanced inside on my previous trip to Paris because it was Christmas and it felt like the inside of a can of sardines. And I’m too small to be smashed between fellow sardines and covered in tomato sauce or olive oil… It was very busy now, but manageable. And I got to take pictures of the exquisite glass dome and the gilded balustrades inside.


We all met up back at the hotel that evening, and headed out. We stopped near the Eiffel Tower for some gorgeous pictures. I love how colorful and happy we all look – it seems everyone got the memo to bring scarves and clothes that would look cheerful together!

Susan, me, Jen, Cathy and Patti
We made our way to the Bateaux Mouche, the boats that take you on a cruise of the Seine river, either by day or night.
I had done it before by day with my hubby. But night time is magical, with all the buildings illuminated in all their glory. It was also the only time in my trip I almost froze my ass off!
Even the moon was on our side that night – it was a beautiful full moon… Thank you moon! Hope man didn’t hurt you too much when he landed on you...

Like Cathy said, it was better than the Jungle Ride at Disneyworld!!!
On my next blog post, the emotional Musée d’Orsay, mimes, and wonderful Montmartre, where beguiling cathedrals, bohemian artists and prostitutes share the same hills.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thou shalt remain unnamed...

Because it's hard coming up with suggestive titles...

Busy, busy bee, making jewelry, packing bags and tools for my travel later this week, making sure all systems are in place in the house and that I don't come back to a starving husband and kid after my 2 weeks off...

I still managed to make one piece of jewelry three times... because I'm stubborn as hell and won't let a piece of metal defeat me... (exceptions made for guns,  knifes, speeding trains... you get the picture...)

I had another beautiful slice of agate and wanted to hold it in tabs, but using 2 layers of metal underneath it, with negative space in between them. Now I had read somewhere that you can create that space by riveting the layers of metal with some paper between them, and then just getting the paper wet so it would come off.

So silly old me grabs a piece of cardboard, rivets the layers together and then.... IT WOULDN'T COME OFF! not with water, not with scalding water, not with submersing in water overnight, not with boiling in water... sigh...

So here comes my saw again, I sawed new metal layers and tabs, sanded, oxidized, stamped, made holes, and then decided using small pieces of cardboard only under the rivets, and not between the whole layers. Well, this time it did come off, but there was hardly any negative space between the layers. It looked nice, but wasn't what I wanted...

Third time: re-read all the steps in previous paragraph, minus the paper and adding small pieces of copper tubing which I sawed and used between the layers, inserting the rivets through the layers and the tubing, and then riveting together. Voila!

I made the bail as well, and used a beautiful bead by ChelleV2 and silk ribbons from Marsha Neal to complete the piece - all mimicking the colors of the stone. I love it!

So please, people! Remember - you can use paper with rivets to make moveable rivets, but be careful with the type of paper you use. And if you want to add space, use tubing instead. Lesson learnt the hard way.

Here's a better picture to show you the space between the layers.
Just look at the gorgeous inside of that agate... Nothing beats nature...
Then made some rings. Other than necklaces, they are the pieces of jewelry I wear more often.

The teal one is for me. The band is stamped "Temet nosce" - know thyself.

I guess this is it for now and the next 2 weeks at least. I'm off on Thursday to Paris and then on to the South of France for my jewelry workshop with Susan Lenart Kazmer and Jen Cushman. I'm hoping to learn lots and not finish a single piece of jewelry. Yes, that's right. I don't want to waste my time putting pressure on myself to finish pieces, but would rather spend my time learning as much as I can and practising. Well, that's the plan anyway.

I leave you with Lola, in what is apparently a comfortable position for a dog to be in. Go figure...


Saturday, September 8, 2012

What's kept me busy

I spend as much time making stuff as I don't spend time blogging...

It's hard work, thinking of what you will write, if anyone will want to read it, taking pictures, editing, uploading (using a jurassic internet connection)...

I'm not even sure why I blog... I don't have an online shop, so I'm certainly not trying to attract customers; my blog isn't wildly popular so it's not like the world is suspended from my words... I guess one of the reasons I started was because I'm so physically isolated from other similar artists where I live that I hoped I could at least become part of an online community. Well, I can't say I've been very sucessfull... But I think that's my own fault as well. I guess you have to reach out first before people come to you. And I spend a lot of time reading blogs of artists I admire, but I rarely leave a comment...

So I promised myself that everyday I'll make an effort to leave at least one comment on the post that most strikes a chord with me. After all, I'm sure all bloggers love comments, and although most of the ones I read aren't short on them, and followers, etc., one more doesn't hurt.

Enough talk, let me show you what I've been up to.

I experimented with some foldforming... I don't have the proper hammers, and just used a regular ball peen one. Still love the result though and I'm looking forward to exploring this technique more.

I used beads by Radiant Mind on both earrings - they have the most gorgeous beads...

I am enjoying using tabs to hold stones. The first technique I used to hold a stone was wirewrapping, basically using tutorials by other artists. But I much prefer working with metal than the fine wire that kept getting all tangled... uffff.... plus, everything is my own design. That's essential to me!
The Raven
The Raven uses a wood tile by Skye Jewels. I love ravens because they are the symbol of my native city - Lisbon. They also abound here where I live, but they're different crows, they have a white collar around their necks. People don't like them, but with all the trash around in the city, I actually think they're providing a public service by picking up some of it!

I created the pendant by sawing two similar pieces of copper that were textured, LOS, and riveted. Didn't turn out exactly as I wanted - I wanted more height between the layers. But I think I know how to achieve that for the next piece. Hold tight!

Having more fun with the saw - but I hate sawing through these sheets of patterned brass - it's hard! Copper is like butter though - what wonderful material...

The Amazon
Some resin... can't go long without using some :) And yes, it's called the Amazon because the stone is amazonite - makes total sense, no?

A slice of agate in tabs... Notice the lovely bead by ChelleV2...

A Slice of Life
Yep, same name as Dexter's boat - I only realized it after naming the piece - I guess being a fan of the show creeps into my subconscient...

And finnally, my favorite of the lot... I love how this necklace turned out. My husband says it looks like a cross, and I can see that, which is totally fine with me, although not intentional. I picked up this amazonite a long time ago in Pilgrim's Rest - an old mining town in South Africa http://www.pilgrims-rest.co.za/ . If you're ever in that area of the world, don't miss it - it's lovely.

Nature's Bounty
Here's a closer look:

And now that I uploaded enough pictures for 5 posts all in one, I bid you farewell...