Monday, March 26, 2012

Making Jewelry is the Easy Part

We were in a quick stop while on the road the other day and the girl in front of me in the line for paying, handed the cashier and her friend some business cards and said they were having a sale that weekend.  When my time to be first in line came -  I handed them my business card and said that I made jewelry, and if they needed anything to give me a call.  The "friend" behind the counter, said " I make jewelry too" and showed off a pair of glass earrings.  She then turned to me and said - "I never realized how easy it is to make jewelry"

I've thought long and hard on her statement and have decided that it is definitely worthy of a blog...mostly because it's true and at the same time, it isn't.

I can't disagree with the premise - it doesn't take a mental giant to make ( or buy ) a couple of eye     pins...throw something on them and dangle something from them, and voila - one pair of earrings.  Or buy some memory wire and necklaces and bracelets are right around the corner. Purchase a piece of leather or cord, buy a bail  or make one for the stone that you have, and you have a pendant necklace.  Yes, all of the above is easy and doesn't take any skills and any idiot could do it.

Is this how I make jewelry - NO! ! !  I spend hours on line looking for the new, the different, the appealing to incorporate into my jewelry.  I spend 4 to 5 days at the Tucson Gem and Bead show and other shows, doing the same thing.  I rarely have a complete idea of what I want to make.  I buy things that appeal to me and then combine them into something that appeals to me even more.  I wish what I did WAS easy...but it isn't.  It's a combination of magic, a good color sense, and intelligent shopping.  Is it quick?  Never! Is it easy - sometimes, if I've made wise purchases - but sometimes, I rip things apart umpteen times to achieve the look that I want.  That elusive "look" that I know when I see it, but don't always know what it is I'm looking for until I get there.

I work with wire allot too.  Mistakes or wrong turns here are even more demanding - sometimes it must all be discarded and you have to start over.  Sometimes the wire just won't go where you want it to. Sometimes the wire and beads don't fit each other.  Depending on the type of wire you are using - you have to decide early on how you plan to finish it because many stones cannot be oxidized - or tumbled - and forging can easily ruin a stone unless you possess perfect aim....I don't.

I came to this obsession too late in life, and there are many things that I wish that I could explore, but I haven't for one reason or another.  Soldering - make a mistake there and the house is gone.  Precious and other metal clays...which I so badly want to do, but that $600.00 kiln can buy allot of other goodies.  Enameling - blowing glass - making beads like Rona Sarvas.  Real metal work with presses and all those cool machines.  All of  these different avenues to jewelry require an expense for new equipment, some sort of training and learning curves, and at least through the intro parts, they cannot be easy, because learning something totally new is never easy.

So I guess the answer here is - that depending on what you want - making jewelry can be very easy.....or very difficult.  I am no longer satisfied with a couple of beads hanging on a premade earring of some type.  I do like easy especially for what I sell, because then I can keep the prices down and they are more apt to sell fast.  But the most soul satisfying pieces are those that I agonize over, until they are perfect...and that is never easy.  Please come visit my shop and take a look at what I've been agonizing over lately....til next time

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tangerine in Jewelry

No, I have not gone fruity, that is Pantone's color of the year or the I am sure that any of you who make jewelry or anything crafty, already know. It is a great color - it is orange, but it is not ORANGE.  In other words, it doesn't scream at you.  In the right tones, it is very wearable and does not make you look like a Halloween pumpkin, unless you wear too much black with it, and that might confuse some people.

The trouble with tangerine, or orange,if you prefer...especially if you make there are not allot of choices out there.  There is sun stone which is a great subdued orange, but it is moderately pricey and is hard to find in large pieces...and I would assume, if you did find large pieces, that you could remove the "moderately" from that pricey label.  There is carnelian, which I love and use allot of, but there is no way that one would assume that dark carnelian, the kind that I like, that anyone  would ever, willingly use "tangerine" to describe it.  To me, good carnelian is burnt orange, bordering on the red...nothing whatsoever to suggest tangerine.  Then there are various colored sapphires, and here we are looking at definitely pricey, for very small stones.  Last but not least are man made stones - Swarovski crystals and cubic zircons.  I use Swarovski and rarely use CZ's.  I don't use CZ's because it is hard to find them in bead form, they may have holes, but they usually have the pointed backs of  fine stones and I don't care for that look in strung jewelry.  I ordered some hyacinth Swarovski crystals this week and they are going back - they scream ORANGE at me, and although they are pretty, they are not what I am looking for.

The last time that I visited the shops that carry my jewelry,  and they are all very au currant with their products and colors, because they are all very high end types of boutiques.  I saw lots of tangerine...and yellows...and touches of times, I felt like I was in a 1960's time warp.  I even saw some of those paisley type prints that we used to wear...I guess all things do come back if you wait long enough.

As many of you know that follow this blog, I am doing allot of my work with resin right now and I really enjoy it.  I love the bright colors that you usually cannot find in gemstones, and right now, I love the fact that I am able to get some tangerine choices.  The following are available at my Artfire shop:

I have one on my bench right now that is  the above orange and bright pink - granted, it's an acquired taste, but I loved it in the sweater set I saw in one of my boutiques and the owner said that if I made it ...she wanted one to go with the remaining sweater sets.  The market here still stinks, but people seem willing to buy less expensive if they really set an outfit off  and the price  is right around $100.00.  So that is what I have been trying to do and so far it seems to be working.  I do feel very lucky that I have been able to meet the need for tangerine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Time versus Money in Jewelry Making

As allot of you know, I have started working with annealed steel wire and I love the product.  It is inexpensive and extremely easy to work with.  If you make a mistake, you can fix it, unlike most metal wires that we, as jewelry artisans, normally work with.  Forgivable goes a long way in my book - especially when I am saving major time by rescuing a piece that I have put allot of effort into already.  

I have made many necklaces with the industrial look of the steel wire combined with both Swarovski  crystal and  or freshwater pearls.  I love the combination of these two opposites - it really meets my esthetic.  My pearl and steel necklace is in my Artfire shop and every time that I make one, they seem to sell.  I keep making them because I want one for me...but I can't get upset because they are selling...
I really do think that this is a great look.  It's funny though, I have two retail shops that sell my jewelry and they will not touch the steel.  One owner doesn't like the color of the steel and the other one feels that the pieces belong in a gallery, not a retail location.  The shops that do carry it, sell it really is a crap shoot, isn't it??

In any case - back to the reason for this blog.  I have been wanting to make a couple of very dark, almost black, necklaces out of the steel for me.  I worked on them this weekend and they came out even better than I expected. As soon as I get some pictures taken, I will insert them here.

Remember - I promised the pictures and here they are - unfortunately they are not the cropped, fixed pictures. But, as confirmed techno-tard, I have to be happy that I am able to upload a picture, something I couldn't have done about a year ago.
 I said to my husband that much as I liked them, I'd never be able to sell them - it took me almost 3 full days to make these 2 necklaces.  He thought that was my learning curve and any more that I made could be done faster - I said no, it's just that they are very labor intensive.  These are simple link necklaces, one with large links and one with medium large links and they are connected with fairly small jump rings.  Each piece is hand forged. Each ring is hand filed, even if I do use the dremel for the initial clean up.  I did wrap each joint on the large and medium link with fine wire because I don't solder and they were too flexible just left alone.  They needed something and the fine wire wrapping filled that need - and I did add a few very small Swarovskis to the wraps on the large chain as eye candy. Both of these were minimally cleaned, to keep them black, and waxed so they wouldn't rust.  All in all, allot of work.

Before we make anything that we intend to sell, we need to assess the old time versus money equation.  Is the piece going to be so expensive to make, that no one is going to be able or willing to pay the price that the piece must command if we intend to sell it.  It's a fine line that we must tread...are we making something to make us money, or are making something to give ourselves pleasure.  Material like steel wire is a great thing to gauge this on, because it is so inexpensive that time is really your only my advice is to think long and hard as you plan what you are creating, and why you are creating it.

I could conceivably charge $500.00 to $600.00 for these to barely cover my labor costs, but no one is going to pay for them...I could do them in sterling for about the same price, but I don't want them in sterling.  So I am left between a rock and a hard place...I'm just gonna use them as I envisioned them.  Necklaces for Linda, lucky girl. I know that, at some point, someone is going to say..."I love that necklace and I want one, how much does it cost?" At that point I will reassess these points and see what I want to do...and I will report back here.