Tackle that stash - Beaded sunflower pendant

From the Jewelry Artisans Community "Our September challenge is in honor of the end of summer. Many of us are ready to say goodbye to the extreme summer heat and are looking forward to the cooler days of fall. But, summer isn't only about hot days; it brings us beautiful flowers, sweet juicy fruit and colorful vegetables. One of the ways I know that the end of summer is near is when the big, bold sunflowers make their appearance. In recognition of this, your challenge is to use this sunflower photo ..."

My first plan was to crochet a pendant with wire and seed beads. I had made a big yellow flower pendant before, now I wanted to make a smaller version of it. I'll make it short, it didn't turn out the way I would have liked it to. A flower, yes, a sunflower, no.

I had to think up a plan B, but maybe you know how it is, if something doesn't work out and you don't already have another plan up your sleeve, it's sometimes hard to find the motivation to go back to the project.
Instead I amused myself with this and that, and through one of those "thats" I found a mahogany obsidian cabochon in my stash. Wire was out of the question this time, but that meant ... that's where the project almost died a quick death right there and then ... a peyote bezel.
Fact is that I'm not a friend of peyote. Don't ask me why, don't try to convince me, some techniques stick, others don't. Peyote didn't. Time to give it another try? I'm not ashamed to say that the first attempt almost drove me up the walls. Peyote and I didn't suddenly become best buddies, but we did our best the second time around ;-)
For the petals, however, I went back to brick stitch because I wanted them to be stiffer and sturdier.
I need a break now, but who knows maybe peyote will be back? I still have those rivolis that a friend sent me ........


Oldies but Goodies - Colorful

This morning I woke up and was cold. For a moment I tried to remember where I was - which is not always easy after the strange dreams I tend to have - what day it was and why it was cold. After coming to my senses - as much as that's possible - I was glad to realize it was not winter yet. It's fall which is fine with me.
Nevertheless winter is lurking around the corner, with the cold, the darkness in the morning and in the evening.
What's better to fight those thoughts than some bright colors and lots of them?
Colorful was the topic for this week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge and colors we got, in all variations.
As always I hope you'll enjoy my little selection!
Shhhh, just as a reminder, if you make jewelry as well, why not come over and join our next challenge?

1 and 8 MC Stoneworks
2 and 3 Jewelry Art by Dawn
4 and 10 Cat's Wire
5 and 7 Violetmoon's Corner
6 and 9 The Crafty Chimp


The Hook

Time has been running again, can you believe September is almost over already?
You know what that means, another Jewelry Artisans Community blog carnival which this time is about tools.
Now I do have a few tools. I have a hammer, a file, mandrels, pliers ... and I have the hooks. Some of these hooks make up a big part of my life as a jewelry artisan, so I decided they should get the spotlight.
One of them, to be exact. The Hook. The One Hook. The 1.75 mm Hook that started it all.

So my original plan was to call this post "Ode to The Hook". Then I remembered that I suck at poetry, even if I don't try to rhyme.
My next plan was to tell you The Hook's story. Where he came from, what he had seen, what he expected from life, but then I remembered that I have no idea where he came from. He was just there. There is a chance that he was used for The Baby Shoe. Yeah, I never liked crocheting with yarn. The Baby Shoe stayed a single and lived at home with me for a very long time because somehow I couldn't get myself to throw it away. Until The Baby was about 25 or so. Chances were low she'd fit her feet in there. I'm digressing.
So maybe The Hook made The Baby Shoe. I don't know, that was so long ago that I still lived in another town then.

What counts is that Hook was there when I needed him. Now you may wonder why Hook is male to me, but in German the crochet hook is male which is kind of funny thinking about it (all hooks are, so obviously Hook can't be an exception). And when I needed him, he didn't find some silly excuse like "I can't, there's a soccer game on" or "I have to finish this computer game" or the worst of all "I'll do it, eventually".
Not Hook. He did his job and stuck with me through thick and thin and some incredibly ugly practice pieces. He was never jealous, not when some fatter old dudes (2 something mm ones inherited from my ex-MIL) came along and not when a new case with shiny new hooks came along and finally took over, younger and slightly slimmer than he was.
He didn't take it the wrong way, didn't feel betrayed.
Instead Hook retired gracefully and is now hanging out standing up in wire or thread spools with some of his also retired pals (the fatter old dudes, in fact).
Maybe it's time to make him work a little again ...

You want to know what my fellow JAC members have to say? Check it out here. I knew their posts would be slightly more serious than mine ;-)

Violetmoon's Corner
Jewelry Art by Dawn 


Interview with the artist - Michael from Truewood Wands

There are several reasons why I'm happy about this post.
It has been months since I was able to have an artist interview on my blog and it really motivates me to get back into it. Even better, however, is the fact that our artist today is not just a fellow cat lover, but also a smart and talented man.
I'm so glad he agreed to answer some questions and I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.
Welcome, Michael!

Medium Bubinga pendulum

Tell us a little about who you are and where you come from.

I'm Michael Zimmerle. I was born in Oregon, USA, but have lived most of my life in Colorado. I grew up in the Denver area and have lived for the last twenty odd years in a tiny town in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado called Paonia with my wife and four cats (of course). I'm fifty one and a bit odd in general.

What's your craft and how did you get to do it in the first place?

I'm a part time craft woodworker and general putter-arounder. I like to experiment with different things including making odd things that make noise, from wind chimes made from old plumbing pipe and aluminum tent poles to cigar box guitars and lyres. My items for sale are mostly things I have made from wood on the lathe.

(Here's just one example of Michael singing an original song of his and playing on a handmade cigar box guitar, by the way.)

My father was a kind of renaissance man in that he could do a vast number of things. I had a book when I was a child: My Daddy Can Fix Anything. That's my dad. Toys, appliances, cars, furniture, if it needed fixing, dad would at least give it a try. One of the things he had (still does) was a multi-tool called a Shop Smith. It's a variable speed motor mounted on rails that will accomodate a number of attachments. One of those was a lathe. He would occasionally take my brothers and I out to the garage and show us how to turn wood into interesting things. There were candlesticks, a couple of bowls, and other things that he had made around the house. "Dad, how did you make this?" "Come out to the garage and I'll show you." That is the way I grew up.

Several years ago, about the time J. K. Rowling released her fourth book, I tried my hand at making a few wands. I didn't have a lathe, and made do with a drill and plain wood chisels. The results weren't great, but it did reignite my interest in wood turning. My dad got me a mini lathe for my birthday that year. I've been having great fun turning ever since. I don't get to do as much of it as I would like. 

12 inch walnut wand

Is there a story behind your shop name or why did you choose it?

I had been considering names and looking at other wands on the internet. One thing that struck me was the number of wands made out of synthetic materials. That's fine, particularly for prop recreations, and even for those for whom a wand is a serious magical tool, the synthetics can be useful if that's your thing. However, I noticed that some people were making it obvious that the wands they had were all wood. I have an affinity for wood as do most practitioners I know, so this seemed like a good thing to point out. Truewood Wands seemed like a good way to get this out in a simple way. I also like the way it sounds.

I think this is one of the most asked questions – where does your inspiration come from?

Part of my inspiration comes from me not being as good at my craft as I could be (laughs). I start a wand with a square length of stock. The first step is to turn it to a round profile. Because I'm a little sloppy sometimes, the result is a little irregular. Most times, these irregularities suggest contours that might look good on the wand. Sometimes there is a feature of the wood that a shape might accentuate or enhance. One wand I made for my wife had a pinhole knot. I considered trying to eliminate it with a groove, but instead made it the center of a bead/ball shape. Instead of being a flaw, it became an interesting feature.

Now, this is the part where I get esoteric. Each piece I work conveys something to me. I might have a wand tell me what it wants to look like. Sometimes the general “feel” of the wood suggests curves, rounds, sharp “V” shapes, and etc. I don't think I've ever made two wands alike.

(Actually I understand that very well, after all I like to say the wire and hook take over.)

Rowan wand made to order

Tell us a fun thing about yourself.

I've been told by friends that if I were in solitary confinement, they would have no worries about me. I can entertain myself with practically anything. A piece of string, sand, dust on the floor, a spot on the wall.

People in groups don't interest me much, but I really like most individuals I meet. There is always something delightful to discover about a person. I have run into exceptions, but very few.

Oh yeah. I'm a singer in a Blues band. HooDoo HEDZ. We are a bunch of old white guys who love the Blues. We gig around locally a couple times each month.

Do you do other crafts, if yes, what? 

As I mentioned before, I putter around with a lot of things. As far as turning, I do some bowls and other serving items. I bead a little in a very limited way. Very limited way. I also like to experiment with things that make noise. I also make boxes, mostly for utilitarian purposes. I don't think I consider any of the boxes I've made as anything to be proud of.

I've also developed an interest in making things from recycled material. I have vague plans to work with pulped egg cartons and paper, recycling plastics and maybe doing some metal casting. That one is a way off.

Which one of your pieces is your absolute favorite? Which one was the hardest to make and why?

I really don't think I have a favorite. While I have made wands for myself, most of what I make I intend to send out into the world. I've been pleased with quite a few of my pieces, but I don't think that one stands out for me as a favorite.

There have been a couple of wands that have given me trouble, but I think that has mostly come from my own state of mind and not the piece itself. Years ago, I was working with a piece of wood. I tend to think that most good work comes from a place of love. Well, I was going after this piece (I don't even remember what I was hoping to make), and I wasn't in a good head space. I swear the wood said, “Love? You're not even being nice!” I put down my tools and set it aside.

Medium oak pendulum

Can you tell us a little more about the wood you work with? 

I work with a variety of woods, both domestic (USA) and exotics. I get most of my wood from local, large-scale wood shops as scrap or cast offs. On two occasions, I have been given some wonderful stock. Once was a craftsman who also did small scale logging and tree removal. I asked if he had any scrap. I went to his shop with a box. He sent me home with a truckload of absolutely gorgeous maple, apple, walnut, ash, juniper and a few others. Another time I stopped by a specialty cabinet shop and came home with purpleheart, wenge, mahogany, cherry, bubinga, and oak.

Each of these woods have special characteristics in both energy and the way they work. Strangely enough, even two pieces from the same board will sometimes behave differently. It's really fascinating. That's one of the things I love about this work. Nothing is totally predictable. There is always some interesting challenge.

I have a description of the various woods I work with on the shop page for those who are interested.

Is there someone whom you admire and who inspires you, artistically and/or for life?

I've been inspired by a lot of people. Too many to name, really, but I suppose my first inspiration comes from my parents. They are both people of exceptional intelligence, creativity, and character. They both have a kind of “go for it” attitude that makes exploration and experimentation a virtue.

What really inspires me is the sense of possibility. I see some works or people who simply ignore convention. It's like they have no concept of “the box”. Like, if you said, “Think outside the box,” they would reply, “There's a box?” We often have such narrow ideas of what art is. I love it when someone does something nonconforming. I don't always find it aesthetically pleasing, I don't always “like” it, but I always admire it. And it can be anything from wood, to music, to painting, or practically anything.

I'm also inspired by patience. I don't have a lot of that.

12 inch Bubinga wand

If you had free choice of one supply you need for your work, no matter how expensive, what would it be? (in your case I would guess wood, so maybe choose one you like best ;-)) 

Truth is, I have quite a lot of stock and most of the tools I need. What I really want is a year round shop. Right now, I'm working out of our carport, which my wife would like to actually use for the car. It means I don't have a place to work effectively in the cold months or in poor weather.

So, what I really want is space. And time.

Oh, and some ebony. That's a wood I have always wanted to work with.

Do you sell online, if yes, where can we find you? Do you do custom orders?

You can find my current offerings on Etsy at Truewood Wands. Keep an eye out for more listings. Right now, there isn't a huge selection, but I hope to get more wands up soon.

I love doing custom work! It's more fun when I have someone with me while I work, but I love being able to put the perfect wand or pendulum into a customer's hand!

Large Purpleheart pendulum

Famous last words ;-) Is there anything else you want to tell us?

Create! Make stuff! Find the magic in yourselves and your worlds! And love. Love lots.

Thank you so much, Michael.
I am looking forward to seeing more of your work and wish you a lot of success with your new shop!
People, head over to Truewood Wands and check it out ... you know you do want a wand or a pendulum as beautiful as Michael's pieces!


Tackle that stash - Water and sand

What kind of person wouldn't like a surprise parcel? And even better if you are a jewelry artisan, a surprise parcel with ... you guessed it, beads in it? An eclectic mix of beads. As I put it elsewhere "skulls and flowers, snails and leaves ... what sounds like the ingredients for an interesting potion is in fact a parcel ..."

One project that I started for myself from some of those beads to see if the design would work out the way I wanted it to still needs its clasp and confronted me with an interesting problem, but that's not today's story.
The last Oldies but Goodies Challenge is over, but seems to have inspired me.
Doesn't this say seaside?

Instead of silver wire that I would usually have used with the light blue/greenish stone chips I chose a warm copper wire, hence the title of this post as the blue stands for the water and the copper for the sand.
Together I crocheted them into a rope.
That didn't use up any stash, however, because the parcel only arrived a short while ago and the strand of chips had not even made it from my desk to the infamous drawer.
Not that I am obsessed with having to use stash no matter how, but in this case I felt one of my shells would actually make a perfect focal part for the necklace. I picked one that goes beautifully with the copper wire and knitted a setting for it that I attached to the rope.
One simple white pearl is the only embellishment.


Oldies but Goodies - Seaside

The Northern hemisphere is heading into fall, summer is pretty much over.
Time to say goodbye to the seaside? Not necessarily as the Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge shows you this week.

Will you miss summer and the seaside? Maybe you'll share some memories with us!

1 RioRita
2 MC Stoneworks
3 Jewelry Art by Dawn
4 The Crafty Chimp
5 Cat's Wire
6 Violetmoon's Corner


Oldies but Goodies - White

This week the Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge was inspired by a song again - A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum. I never understood the text, but love the song anyway.
Whatever it really means, the challenge is about the achromatic color white.

"Wait", you will say now. "She's starting to ramble. She has no idea what to write." You are right. It's 5,000° C out there, my brain has run off to the beach and I feel I AM starting to ramble just to introduce "white" to you.
So why not letting the picture do that for me? Here you go.

1 and 4 MC Stoneworks
2 and 7 Cat's Wire
3 and 5 Jewelry Art by Dawn
6 and 8 Violetmoon's Corner


Oldies but Goodies - Circles

And then there was the day when my sister went to the postal/stationery shop on the other side of the street - and came back with a compass for me for no other reason that she liked the smile and that it brought back memories. Just what I needed, memories of geometry class.

Although I haven't found any good opportunity yet to make some nice circles with it, I do like the circle shape (as you might be able to tell from some of my bead loomed pendants), therefore it was fun to see all the entries for this week's Jewelry Artisans Community Oldies but Goodies Challenge.
I hope you'll like them, too!

1 and 8 Violetmoon's Corner
2 and 6 Cat's Wire
3 and 9 RioRita
4 and 7 MC Stoneworks
5 and 10 Jewelry Art by Dawn

I'm sure you want to see the compass' smile, too. Here you go ;-)


Tackle that stash - Wire woven orphan lampwork bead rings

In the German version of this post's title I couldn't resist the stereotype of German words - Drahtwebwaisenlampworkperlenringe.
There is no such word. Had I ever used something like it in one of my German tests, my teacher would probably have knocked me over the head with a blunt instrument. Okay, probably not, I guess I have been watching too many TV crime shows again. Probably she would have used the red pen, though.

Sadly I have to admit that some beads proved to be no real orphans. There are always some orphan siblings around that I just didn't find in my lampwork drawer at the moment because they slipped into another baggie for a visit. Or it's one of those cases when I kept picking up a bead and didn't even realize it wasn't one bead, but two that looked the same (which reminds me of the time I thought I had lost one earring, so I kept wearing it in the extra hole of my left ear until I found out I had alternated between the two earrings ... it's true, my personal jewelry box is less organized than the biz ones).

This "orphan" actually has at least two siblings that I found after I had made the ring. They hid with some blue beads. I just hope I hadn't planned to put all of them in a design together?

And this beautiful leopard has always been a single bead, meant to shine by itself.

Maybe I'll try some orphan pendants next! What do you say?