A Life of Varied Endeavors

Tag Archives: jewelry

Steel Wire and Niihau Shells

Steel Wire and Niihau Shell Earrings

Steel Wire and Niihau Shell Earrings – click to enlarge

A few days ago I sold these earrings in my Etsy shop.  They are a favorite pair, and I want to mark for myself the realization that I’m accomplishing one of my goals of moving into working with metal: the joining of beadwork and metalwork.

Niihau shells are special to me because they were treated as very precious things when I was growing up in Hawaii.  Many years ago (now) I inherited a couple of Niihau shell leis and love them dearly.  But my life does not lend itself to wearing them, and I decided to take a few shells off to play with.  This is one of the results.  I’m feeling like I want to do more.

My alcohol ink pals

Alcohol Ink Cast of Players

Over the last couple of years I’ve been using some alcohol inks on certain jewelry items.  I’m currently doing some real-world testing on finishes that I hope will seal the ink and keep it from fading or wearing off the metal.  As this process continues, I still enjoy looking at my color samples arranged on display.  Sort of a styrofoam cake of my entire cast of characters.  The alcohol inks are nice in their pure colors, and nice when gently combined.  I’m also enjoying taking the color off with a steel brush wheel, and starting over with a fresh surface.  Works in process.

Coleus & Pearl

Here are a couple of pictures of a piece I finished a couple of months ago.  It was a long time from start to finish, and then it had a couple of “finishes” before it was really done.  The enamel piece was one of the first pieces I ever did. I think it’s about 2 and a half inches long.

Learning to see, draw, visualize – jewelry rendering

I don’t have formal training in drawing, especially technical drawing and perspective. I’ve taken one or two drawing classes over time, and have always wanted to be able to draw, but either it hasn’t clicked, or not been important enough, or I just don’t look at things in a way that lets me SEE them.  

It’s becoming more important lately as I try to express ideas in jewelry, because it’s important to be able to visualize pieces, processes, and effects.  Working with silver is expensive these days, the time it takes to make a piece is not trivial, especially when you are just developing skills, and your ideas may not translate into reality very well if they’re not clearly thought out.  Even if there is still some intuitive and spontaneous work that can take place during execution, I’m finding the “making” process to be much more rewarding if I have a better idea in advance of where I’m heading.

So I borrowed a book from the library (through the very wonderful King County Library inter-library loan program) called Jewelry Illustration by Dominque Audette.  I worked with it and did some exercises – and it really helped me.  This is finally an approach I can mostly understand.  Check it out!  I recommend it to those who are willing to invest the time and concentration and who need these skills.  After I had to return it to the library, I decided to purchase it (Amazon).  I need alot more practice, but even the little bit I’ve done has helped my thought process.  Here are some pictures of my exercises.



Experimentation -!-

This is a piece I would have loved to sell or give to someone, but I’ve decided it’s too experimental.  Now I can enjoy it for what it is, and maybe wear it around.

The experiments include:

  • shaping an oddly shaped stray piece of copper for a pendant
  • soldering an odd shaped bail on the back
  • putting two odd enamel colors on the front
  • trying to enamel the back with a different color while leaving the bail bare
  • enameling hex seed beads on the front without melting them
  • making an inexpensive necklace to hang it from to avoid the cost – and perhaps wrong effect – of sterling silver
  • making a “clasp” that would echo the colors and feel of the pendant and seed beads.

This was one of those let-it-be things, in the end.  I love how the front of the pendant turned out. Mostly, for some reason, the enamel would not stay on the back, despite repeated tries and using proper solder on the bail.  But I like the rough and casual effect on the back as it turned out.

I do like the braided cord, and the glass bead dangles that make the “toggle”.

This piece came together over several months, and I’m glad it’s here, being what it is and nothing more.  Any thoughts or comments?  I’d love to hear them :).

Sammie's Hex Beads on Enamel Pendant

Sammie’s Hex Beads on Enamel Pendant

Beaded Daggers Toggle

Beaded Daggers Toggle

Toggle and Bail

Toggle and Bail

Experimentation Hex Beads on Enamel Pendant

Experimentation Hex Beads on Enamel Pendant