Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Commemorating a Little Boy

This delightful little pendant was custom made to commemorate the coming of a little boy.  It is pierced entirely by hand out of 18k yellow gold. All the edges were smoothed and rounded, to give a nice flowing look.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My new website - come and visit!

Things are looking a bit dusty in the blog lately. I can't believe I haven't been around for 2 months! First, my computer died (RIP, dear one), the replacement took 2 weeks to arrive (agh! But welcome, new computer), then sales, my parents are moving from a different state, and and and... Everything piled up, as life sometimes does.

But the biggest time drain is also one of the most excitings: I have a new jewelry site! It is all mine, I can do a lot more with it and it is new and shining. Please drop by and visit me: I am strangely excited by the fact that I now have my own domain, with my own name.

I know I owe a couple of posts on talent (and there are some very interesting comments to answer, from the first post). I promise I will get back to this topic as soon as life has quieted down a bit.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Talent or Hard Work?

I am lucky to belong to several communities of great craftspeople, like The Artisan Groupthe Aspiring Metalsmiths and Handmadeology. Through these communities as well as Etsy and a myriad of sites I have bookmarked over the years, I see a lot of beautiful handmade items, from ceramics to woodwork and everything in between. Often, when I see a particularly nice item, I think "What talent!".

Recently, I have become more and more unsatisfied with this simple reaction. It boils all the creative process to one variable: talent. What about hard work, experience, self editing, research and education?

I sincerely believe that most people can, with hard work, dedication and good instructions, create a decent, basic example of almost anything. Almost, because no matter what, this author cannot yield a needle or sewing machine. And, with time and practice, we can all be very good at a variety of activities.

On the other hand, we all know people who have a brilliant talent, who seems to be magically able to create beautiful things. Yet, how sad it is when these talented folks don't work to develop themselves. Like a brilliant student, who does just enough work to scrape by at the end of the year.

But when you join natural talent with hard work - oh boy! Great things happen.

So don't really only on your natural talent - develop. And don't let a lack of talent stop you - you may just find out that you did, indeed, have it in you all along.

Please share your thoughts on this subject! I want to write a couple more blog posts on talent and hard work and I would appreciate hearing what you have to say. And if you would like to share specific examples of these, I will gladly incorporate the pictures (this post seems a bit bare, doesn't it?)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Muse, oh Muse!

It is once again time for the Aspiring Metals Team blogroll and the topic chosen was Inspiration - what inspires us and where do we get our inspiration.

Inspiration is such a fleeting thing. Sometimes, it is just a spark of an idea, which you have to battle out in your mind and on paper, until it takes on a complete and workable form. At others, a piece will come up in my mind, with all details and ready to be made at the bench. There are times when my imagination seems to be racing and ideas will spontaneously pop up at the oddest times. At others, nothing seems to happen.

Since I want to make my living as an artist, the second situation is very worrying. I am actively trying to develop a consistent artistic vision (won't that sound good on my artist's statement?). I find that the more I work, sketch, look for unusual shapes and colours and go through life conscientiously, the more easily inspiration comes. If I slack off, then I can easily fall into a rut.

A support network, where I can bounce ideas and get feedback, is also very important to me (like my wonderful team that inspired this post). Sitting down and making things help me focus and figure out what works and what doesn't. And, since I am an engineer, figuring out good proportions, interesting design rules and when to break them is also a constant challenge.

For example, I was doing forging exercises to develop some hammering skills. The result was an interesting shape. I love long, thin pendants and my exercise piece was crying out to be used. By playing around with the shape, I was inspired by the flow of the metal to add a delicate blue green stone to highlight the liquid shape. The result was a gorgeous, elegant piece (in my humble opinion, of course).


Each month the Aspiring Metals team chooses a topic and each write about that topic on their blog. This month we want to know what inspires you, and where do you look for inspiration?

See what we have to say by visiting the blogs below:

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Special Project

When my sister announced she was going to get married, I immediately offered to make the rings. It is, after all, what I do and making things for others is one of my ways of showing love and support. I was thrilled when both of them accepted.

And so the fun began. The original plan quickly grew. Her fiance's aunt heard that I was planning to make their rings and wanted to contribute to the project. She sent a lovely old key chain, in an amazing shade of gold. My sister also wanted to incorporate a ring which our parents had given her for her 18th birthday, with a lovely diamond. And there was also a bit of new gold, which they had bought as an investment.

My challenge was to incorporate all the elements into a beautiful pair of rings, which would also be a symbol of their union. Oh, dear.

The first step was to prepare the metal. I melted the key chain and the ring, carefully poured into an ingot mold and laminated it down to a long strip measuring 1.6mm by 2.2mm wide. Since the mill is hand operated, my muscles got quite a nice workout. I also prepared some yellow gold wire, from the fresh investment gold.

The metal was then cut and shaped into rings. I didn't want to solder them, since a wedding ring should be a perfect circle, with no beginning, no end and no weak spot, like a solder joint. The alternative was to fuse them together, by carefully heating them just up to the melting temperature, so the ends would melt together, but removing the heat before the whole ring collapsed into a shining puddle.

For the diamond ring, I also fused the wires for the prongs onto the shank. And, let me tell you all, I am not fusing prongs again! It is too nerve wrecking, since the prongs tend to melt before the shank is hot enough to fuse.

The rings were then carefully sanded and polished. Once the surface was perfect, I gave them a matte, brushed finished, which looks very elegant and modern.

Here they are! Wedding rings without beginning or end. The gold represents the union of the two families, merged together by their marriage. From this, their own efforts shape their future, represented by the yellow gold, which is a fruit of their labor together. And everything is joined together seamlessly, supporting one another.

2.2mm 18k rose gold ring, 0.25ct diamond on 18k yellow gold prongs
Pair of 18k rose gold wedding rings

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ice cream making in the small studio

While folks in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the last days of summer, the temperature is rising here in the south. And the humidity is going down. Way down - last week, we were down to 10% relative humidity, which is desert like (the World Health Organization recommends at least 60% for healthy living, so, yeah, very low).

The warm sunshine had me craving something smooth, tart and icy. Frozen yogurt, as a matter of fact. But the freezer was bare and I didn't want to leave the house just for my treat. Deb Stoner, however, taught me well: "we are jewelers and we can do anything." So here is how this jeweler made creamy frozen yogurt.

First, empty the only ice tray into a ziplock baggie (yes, the only one. Bachelorette living at its finest). Then, use your general duty hammer to bash it into smaller pieces. Mind you, don't use the mirror polished hammer. You never know what may mar it and it is nearly sacred in my studio.

Now, put the crushed ice in a barrel, fill it 3/4 up with water and add salt. I am using barbecue salt crystals, because that is what I had on hand. It is great for salt casting as well, with all the textures. Throw in a small pot of yogurt too, since that is the main objective of this.

To get creamy frozen yogurt or ice cream, it is important to churn it or stir it constantly as it freezes. Otherwise, you get a solid lump of frozen stuff and that is not good. Since I have no ice cream maker and I didn't really want to stir the yogurt constantly, I improvised: the tumbler. It is usually used to finish jewelry, by turning the barrel and pushing little steel balls against the silver, to strengthen and give it shine. Since it is slowly spinning around, it also works beautifully to churn my yogurt.

Half an hour latter, here we have a perfect pot of frozen yogurt, perfect on a hot day.

Note - rubber barrels don't really like ice and salt. Rinse it thoroughly before and after use and don't do this too often, otherwise the rubber may become dry and crack.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Putting words into practice

Last week, I blogged about refining metal and why I feel that using every piece of scrap is important. This week, I want to share a piece that was made with this exact philosophy.

I had an awkwardly shaped piece of scrap that had been hanging around the bench for some time. It had been cut out between two oval bezels, so it had long, thin arms and a narrow central part. I thought I could use it for the backplate on a small pendant, but that would leave all the arms as scrap. I didn't like that idea.

Then, it spoke to me (yes, all metalworkers are nutjobs who listen not only to metal but stones as well). It said "I want to fly!" I could see the vague outline of wings, but it was still not enough for me. Then, as I was looking through my photo archives, I came across this image:

Perfect! I could see exactly how my little piece of scrap would fit. Of course, I altered the shape considerably (it is called artistic license, you know), but it all started here.

After refining the shape somewhat, soldering the hair pick and giving it a nice matte finish and burnished edges, my little butterfly was ready to fly off:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jewelry making the green way

One of the hypes for ecofriendly jewelry today is recycled silver. Some suppliers even sell 100% recycled silver at a premium. I think it is overhyped.

First of all, nearly all jewelers carefully save scrap and send it in to be refined. Industry does this as well. With the price of silver, this is simple good sense. All this silver is refined and resold. Buying 100% recycled silver will not lead to more silver being recycled, simply because most of it already is. The difference between scrap bought and refined silver sold is newly mined silver. If more people buy 100% recycled, then the "ordinary" silver will have a higher percentage of newly mined. But the total mined won't change because of this.

While most people are aware of the environmental impact of metal mining, not everyone realizes that recycling old metal is hardly a walk in the park, as Hans Meevis describes in his blog. Refining silver is similar, although different acids are used. Yup - a lot of chemicals are used, a lot of byproducts and a lot of energy are used. And check out how much copper is necessary - that copper is mined as well. Even though it is a lot cheaper than gold or silver, getting the copper out of the ground is still very high impact.

Fused pieces using scrap

So what is a jeweler who wants to minimize environmental impact to do? In my view, the most responsible approach is to reduce metal waste as much as possible. This has become a mantra in my work. Like patterning for sewing, I fit all the metal pieces I need to cut so that the least waste is generate. I carefully save scraps, which can be used for a small bezel, a bail, a decoration or for making shot. The pieces that are too weirdly shaped, I save for fusing projects.

The granules in this pendant were made from scraps of fine silver
I even use the fine metal filings from shaping and finishing metal to create lovely and interesting textures. To do this, I must make sure the filings are very clean, so that is another bench practice I have made a part of my routine. All surfaces are cleaned, small bits of charcoal and sandpaper are always removed and the small piles of filings are saved at the end of each day or if I start working with a different material.

These textures are created with filings that would, usually, be sent as scrap
Finishing is probably the great hidden way of wasting metal. I have been told that as much as 10% of the total weight of metal in a piece is removed during sanding and polishing. This is also the hardest metal to recycle, since it is very, very fine dust that will usually just disperse around the studio (which reminds me: people, wear a breathing mask while polishing!). The best way is to avoid adding marks and dents to the metal which will require filing, sanding and polishing metal away. I also explore a lot of matte and textured finishes which, while more labor intensive, also don't require removing a lot of metal.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Making soup

I don't think I have done a food post before. But I do, on occasion, head over to the kitchen side of the shared kitchen/studio. Since I am in the middle of a Southern hemisphere winter, a nice pot of soup would be just perfect. Looking around, I had arracacha roots, plenty of carrots and a gorgeous yellow bell pepper, which would make a lovely golden soup. Good, hearty and nice to look at.

First, arracacha roots. They are a delicious, low calorie, high fiber tuber. After they are cooked, they have an almost creamy consistency and a sweet, nutty taste. And, yes, they are bright yellow. Try them.

Back to the soup. All the veggies were roughly chopped and spread out on a roasting pan. Fortunately, I had an extra carrot, since raw carrot slices are my favourite healthy snack (I won't go into the unhealthy snacks just now).

Then, a drizzle of olive oil, plenty of garlic chunks, rosemary, thyme, sage, ground black pepper and a little salt were sprinkled. I just walk over to the herb planter and see which ones need a quick pruning. Since my rosemary bush is intent on taking over the world, I eat a lot of rosemary.

Into the preheated oven it goes!

Then, when everything is soft and ready, into the stock pan it went, along with chicken stock. Everything was pureed and minor adjustments were made, adding a little more stock if necessary and correcting salt and pepper. Perfect!

I love the bright, sunny colour. My last soup adventure had both broccoli and carrots, so, while very tasty, it looked like brownish, greenish sludge.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

A complaint and an apology

Not necessarily in that order.

First, the apology. I am sorry I haven't updated (again) and that I missed the blogroll (a first). I am sorry if you jumped over here expecting my latest project and just saw an old post.

Now, the complaint. My internet provider has been offline for a week. I am trying to sneak this post before they realize they are actually providing the service I pay for and shut it off again. The excuse is that they are "upgrading". I would rather have the old infrastructure, that was slow on occasion but would actually allow users to connect.

Over the week, I was surprised at how internet dependent I have become. Apart from friends, chats and forums I post in (but which are mainly entertainment), I actually do a lot online. I even had trouble complaining to the provider, since I had always looked their number up on their website.

I missed several of my favourite recipes. Hint: don't really on memory while baking. That missing 1/4 of a cup of butter makes a lot of difference. I had to go to the bank agency to make payments. I couldn't load credits on my cellphone at any time.

On a more serious note, I was worried about my customers at Etsy. Even though I was checking email daily, I didn't like not being able to respond as fast.

Expect some nicer, longer, more interesting posts, with photos, as soon as my 'net access is regular once more!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Here are the answers to last week's challenge treasury (

1- Zeus, the thuderer
2- Hera, his wife, goddess of matrinomy. The peacock and pomegranates are her symbols, which was a little catch, so I will give half points to anyone who named Persephone (Hades gave her a pomegranate to eat because it was a symbol of marriage ;-D)
3- Poseidon was lord of the seas and creator of the horse. He inspired Odysseus to use the wooden horse ruse against the Trojans and sent the earthquakes which weakened the city walls.
4- Dionysus, god of wine and revelry, was represented by ivy leaves and grapes, just like this charming bracelet.
5- The moon was sacred to , the virgin huntress.
6- Apollo, her brother, was the sun god and drove its chariot through the skies.
7- Hermes was the messenger of the Olympus, with wings on his sandals and helmet for extra speed.
8- Athena, goddess of wisdom, had the owl as her symbol, which is still used today to represent learning and knowledge.
9- Ares was the hot tempered god of war.
10- Aphrodite, lady of roses, represented love, beauty and sensuality.
11- Her husband was Hephastus, the blacksmith
12- Demeter was the protector of the harvest and bringer of plenty, represented by wheat sheaves.
13- Hestia was the goddess of the hearth and domesticity. Originally an Olympian, her place, however, was eventually given to Dionysus.
14- Persephone, Demeter's daughter, brings spring to the world, when she returns from the underworld to her mother. Spring flowers, naturally, are her traditional symbol, although she is also often associated with the pomegranate, which she ate in the underworld, binding her to spend half of the year as Hades' wife.
15- While some sources consider Pan no more than a natural spirit, he is considered a god by the oldest sources (such as the Pythian ode) and his mythology is actually older than the Olympians (despite some sources saying he is the son of either Zeus, Hermes or Dionysus - maybe we should get him Amaury's show?). And, of course, his death is the symbol of the passing of the gods, so, of course, he had to be included.
16- Hades was the god of the underworld, dead souls and riches. He was not an evil god, but a strict judge and, therefor, feared. He is represented by the scales (for judging souls) and gold.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Challenge Treausury

Good morning, everyone!

We had a cold snap over the weekend down here, which was the perfect excuse to snuggle down under the covers, with some tea and a book. The rich images of Greek mythology and tragedies (Agamemnon, Elektra, Hecuba, etc) inspired me to create an Etsy treasury.

But there is a twist to this treasury. Just like the Sphinx, it proposes a riddle: each item represents an Olympian god or someone associated with them. Can you identify all of them? Answers in the comments, please, and I will let you all know the correct answers in a few days.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autumn Cleaning

I have been feeling a distinct lack of space in my apartment lately. My pots and pans no longer fit my kitchen cabinets. Jewelry making supplies were slowly spreading out. My books no longer fit the bookshelves (but that is pretty much status quo around here).

Since cluttered spaces make my mind feel cluttered and restless, I started looking for alternatives: handover some of the additional pots, move some other kitchen things to be able to organize the tools and so on. But it all boiled down to moving some things I use less often to the hall closet (a long story all by itself) or to the shelves up near the ceiling in my bedroom. Of course, neither of these spaces were empty, so I still needed to look things over, reorganize and prioritize my things.

So Abba started playing, to keep my mood up, the dust rags and wood polish were close at hand and I ventured into the dark corners of my bright and cheery home. Old papers were sorted through and a lot of them were recycled. A can of white paint, left over from when I moved in, was thrown out. But most of what was in there were bits and pieces of my life. Some I had outgrown, some I had forgotten, others were best forgotten.

For example, painting supplies. I haven't painted in 10 years. I admit to having no talent for it and I have, since, found other artistic activities. But there were old canvas, half finished projects and paint tubes. I really liked black and white back then, judging form the colour of the paint. Or maybe they were left over when I used up the other colours.

I wanted to hang on to these. They were part of me! I remember the enthusiasm I had for painting, the feeling when a canvas came out just how I wanted and the hours of frustration when they didn't. But this is something past. I don't need old supplies to show it. So I let it go. The unused canvases were donated, along with the good brushes. The half painted ones, the old tubes and unusable supplies were thrown out. I need the present more than I need the past.

I also found tons of old technology: 35mm cameras, ZIP drives (remember those?), a Walkman, an external CD burner which had been so expensive and a whopping 4x speed. Nothing that I had used in, oh, the last 8 years. Nothing I would use today, for sure. And nothing of any value (sentimental or monetary) or use. But they certainly cost a pretty penny in their time, which reinforces my thinking on technology: avoid fads, avoid first generation, buy quality and research what you need.

Coming across my old flute and music was a bittersweet moment. I love music, specially classical music. I had been a pretty good musician, too, but I stopped playing when I started college. Despite resolutions, I didn't take it up when I graduated, after I moved or when I got a new job. I am not ready to let go of this yet, even if, rationally, I should. I looked through my music, my books and notebooks, I cleaned the flute, checked the pads and lovingly packed it up. It is a cherished item. Someday, I will hand everything over to an aspiring musician. Not right now, though. I did make a resolution to take singing classes once again.

Memento of old relationships, gifts from loved ones that didn't quite fit my needs (I am not a cut glass kind of girl, but how could I say that to a caring relative?), knick knacks and junk. Everything was looked over. Some of it was thrown out or recycled. Many things are being donated or passed on (I do know who will love the cut glass vase and use it).

Those dusty items, together, show how I have grown and changed over the last decade. They were all once important enough to be saved, most had been useful at one point, some were kept for their memories but put away where the memories couldn't be seen. This process was tiring, emotional, sometimes disappointing, at others heartlifting. I remember old projects, ambitions and dreams. Some are gone, replaced by different views, others were just waiting to be revived.

And, best of all, I have more space for my present and my future. I can invest in what I do now, instead of being tied down by what I did then.

The books still don't fit the bookshelves. I doubt they ever will.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wedding rings

I never set out to make wedding rings. I work mainly in silver, I don't usually do solitaires or engagement type rings and I have set precious few diamonds in my career. Most wedding rings I see are gold or platinum and bought as a set with an engagement ring. Very little overlap between what I do and what I saw as wedding rings.
This ring is often used as a wedding ring

Slowly, however, a few people started buying some of my rings as engagement and wedding rings. The first time it happened, I only found out it was going to be used as a wedding band until afterwards, when the bride let me know that the ring had arrived, that she loved it and that she was using it for her wedding. Then, a couple contacted me for a custom set. I admit that I got a few butterflies in my stomach, since these are such special pieces.

This was the first wedding band I made - and didn't know it!

Over time, other couples have asked for custom rings or used some of the bands in my line. Each of them is special to me. Wedding rings have such special meanings and are a symbol of the union. I love the idea that the ring will be worn everyday and loved, will bring a smile to the owner and remind them of a special day and  very special person.

This is often used as a man's band, due to the texture and color
Some couples ask for custom projects, which reflect their unique views and tastes. The challenge often is in creating a pair of rings that suit two different people, yet reflects their union and work together as a pair.

Right now, I can't wait to start working on a pair of bands for a couple that is very close and dear to me. They want something very simple and understated, but still unique. Let's see what the three of us come up with.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It has been so long!

I haven't updated this blog in such a long time! I am sorry, but I had a good reason (excuses, excuses): my computer decided to no longer recognize a keyboard. While I could use the virtual keyboard for most things (like entering passwords), henpecking an entire post on that thing was out of the question. Everything seems to be behaving right now, but a new computer seems to be closer in my future than I would like.

I had a bad case of creative block over the last week or so. Just those days where nothing seems to look right. But I think I broke through it now. I finally set one of my favourite stones, a natural, untreated ametrine in a really amazing precision cut.

I love all the reflections and how both colours swirl together. Can you believe there are only 4 facets? And they are so crisp and perfect.

You can check it out on my Etsy shop!

Of course, this post took way too long, because the keyboard went kaput half away through. I really hate using the virtual keyboard. But, at least, it makes gaming impossible, so that has to be positive.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yom HaShoah

From sundown today to sundown tomorrow, the victims of the Holocaust are remembered: Yom HaShoah.

Please take a moment to think of the victims of the Holocaust and to reafirm "Never again".

Now, take another moment and think of all that is happening today, of all the innocent victims and what each of us can do, no matter how small, to stop it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A short post about stretching ourselves

I don't usually post twice in a day (or in a week...) but I wanted to talk about something else.

I am using Facebook.

Ok, that sounds pretty flat. I mean, isn't everyone on Facebook by now? Well, I wasn't and I didn't want to be. I admit that parts of me still don't want to be. It feels so chaotic and loud to me. I am also very private and the idea that everyone (or nearly everyone) will see what I write, when I update or who I am connected to is very uncomfortable. I know that privacy settings can be tweeked, but it is still unsettling to me in its concept. I am also continuously asking myself if my college friends should see this update or if my business colleagues have any care for that other information, as I tend to keep different aspects of my life very separate.

On the other hand, I do admit that, once I start filtering out everything that shows up on Facebook page, I like seeing what other people find interesting or are doing.  It has been an interesting experience, figuring it all out, finding people and looking through my friends' pages.

It is certainly out of my comfort zone and I am taking things slowly. I am focusing on people who share some of my interests, bloggers I read and mainly online acquaintances or friends. I am still very hesitant to add "real life" people and family. Perhaps, in time, I will add them as well.

And, to top it off, I created not only my profile but also 2 additional pages, one for each of my Etsy shops. The StonesFromBrazil page is still bare, but I am starting to be active as ContemporaryJewelry as well.

Would you please give me some FB love? I need a little push to keep active on FB!

(Uhm - did I do these links right?)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Broken heart - first piece in my Life series

As I said in my last post, I am working on a long term project on what marks our lives.  The first piece was done a while ago, long before I came up with this series, but it fits perfectly and so I decided it would be a part of it. I am, after all, the "artist" here so I can just say so. 

Heartbreak isn't only caused by love - it can be lost dreams, disappointments, sorrows, losses. All that matters is that something that is important to us is lost, either in reality or in our dreams. Everyone will have moments like these in live, where everything seems bleak and hopeless, where our efforts seem puny and when we feel we have just "lost" at life.

This heart was pounded out, quite literally. I worked it with a hammer until it reached its breaking point, creating the beautiful texture in the crack. It was a good way to work my way through what I was feeling at the time.

Life, of course, isn't all bleak, so the next piece is much more cheerful! It is already on my workbench, but I know I will tinker with it a lot before it is done.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Random thoughts and a scary idea

I spent Easter visiting my parents, out of state. While I love them very much and enjoy spending time with them (specially since the food is great!), I miss my own space, my books and my workbench. Yes, 5 days away from metalworking and I am going through major withdrawal symptoms.

So, to try to curb it, I started sketching new pieces. I know I said I design primarily in my head, but I have been trying to work more on paper: it is good to have a record of my evolving ideas, it is important to be able to communicate with clients before actually working on metal ("just trust me" doesn't inspire a lot of trust, does it?) and it helps to work out some proportions (mathematically, of course!). I also want to develop my style more and create more cohesive pieces.

On a parallel track, it has been a long time since I created a treasury. I was sorting through ideas in my head, to find a theme that was interesting, what kind of items I could include and how I was going to organize them visually, since, of course, I over think everything. I kept going around "circle of life", "milestones", "universal events" and all the things that mark our lives, for better or worse, and makes us who we are. And very clear images of what I wanted were coming up. All were metal jewelry, predictably.

So I linked both activities and decided on a long term project for myself: create pieces that represent those events, feelings and realizations that mark our lives. My parameters for this:

- Universal: I want to design and create pieces that will speak to everyone. Of course, my own experiences and thoughts will be important, but I must find a way to make them accessible to a wide audience
- This project does not have a deadline or a timeline. These pieces will be made over the coming years, so each can be throughly thought out, both in concept and design
- Each piece must be representative, the concept must be well thought out and defined

As I defined this challenge to myself, I realized that I had already done the first piece for this series some time ago. I will share it with you all on my next post.

Good night and sweet dreams!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eco practices

A while ago, I was told I should start to use environment friendly or green practices in my jewelry making. The topic is quite hot and it would be good for marketing my shop. Besides, the number of people searching for "green" or "eco-friendly" tags is growing, so it would get me more exposure.

My first reaction was "What makes you think I don't take environmentally conscious decisions?". The second was, "Should we only act responsibly because it brings in good marketing?".

As a matter of fact, I do think all my process through and make it as environmentally responsible as I can. Strictly speaking, I must say that producing a luxury product will never be 100% environmentally friendly (I am sure that the metal would be better in the earth and the energy to refine it and, eventually, recycle it, unspent). But I make sure I recycle every last scrap of metal, I group projects in order to minimize energy waste, I avoid harsh chemicals and use proper disposal procedures.

Now, why don't I mention this in my listings, shop description, etc? Because I see this as a necessary part of doing business, like paying taxes, using responsible sources and not cheating anyone. Those would hardly be interesting tags, would they? "100% of taxes paid on this item!". I don't respect the environment to make a buck, but because it is part of being a responsible and sustainable business.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A word of wisdom

Don't squeeze limes when your hands have a network of small cuts of them. It won't be pleasant at all.

On the other hand, I am now eating a bowl of warm, fragrant lime and mint risotto for dessert. It almost makes me forget the earlier pain.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My workspace

I admit I have serious bench and studio envy. I often come across pictures of other metalsmiths' workspace and they all seem so spacious, nice and full of fun tools. My workspace is... none of those.

I live in a small, one bedroom apartment. One bedroom, one living/dining room, one kitchen, one bathroom. Since the living/dining room is carpeted, guess where is left? Yup, my bench takes up a corner of my kitchen. This has some advantages: tiled floors, running water, good lightning. And one clear disadvantage: I don't want my food to be spiced up with silver fillings and a touch of jeweler's pickle, or to be flux fumed.

So having a clear separation of areas is a must. If I am working, all food is put away. There is good natural airflow, but both sets of windows must be open at all times (this also draws fumes away from food areas). And nothing moves from one side of the kitchen to the other.

The surprise bonus, however, is that the gas range is a great additional heat supply for some soldering situations: nice, even heat from all sides! Add a few charcoal blocks and you have a natural little furnace. All fluxing must be done beforehand, of course.

I admit I splurged on my bench. It is a custom made, hardwood monster (it nearly didn't fit through my door!) that I designed to have all the things I find necessary: secondary benchpin to the side for sawing, drawers, apron, an under the top shelf, slots for files to one side and, best of all, the perfect height for me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A new Shop!

Fancy cut citrine

 My poor neglected blog... It has been over a week since I updated.

But I have good news! I have a new shop in Etsy: Stones From Brazil. This shop focuses on fair trade, hand cut, minimally treated gems from my homeland.

Unusual burgundy and lime bicolor
I started this shop for various reasons. First of all, I was dismayed by the difference between what local cutters and miners got for their gems and what the typical customer outside Brazil was paying. It wasn't good for neither cutter nor customer. I think that I can help both by paying a better price here and offering a better cost to you, my client. I am trying to keep overhead as low as possible to maximize benefits for both ends. Of course, Brazilian postal costs do not help (which is why I am shipping smaller gems in ordinary envelopes, without tracking).

Hot pink square cut tourmaline
The second reason was fair practices. I aim to offer untreated gems or gems with minimal treatment (heat or light oiling), but, most important of all, to divulge the treatments. And, if I don't know it, to state it. I want you to get what you think you are getting, not a well told story.

Finally, I just plain love gemstones. I love picking out a beauty from a large parcel of so-so stones. I love finding an unusual color, interesting inclusion or unique cut. What a perfect excuse to spend a lot more hours doing so! If you need something specific or unique, let me know and I will keep an eye out for it.

To top it off, I am having an opening sale with the coupon "GrandOpening"! Enjoy!

D. Pedro II opal from Piaui

Monday, March 21, 2011

Metalworking soundtrack

Once again, it is Aspiring Metalsmith blogroll time! Each month, we agree on a theme and each of us shows our own perspective on it. This month, we talk about what we listen to while working on the bench.

Like most, what I listen to depends on my mood and what type of work I am doing. Sometimes, it is relaxing and soothing. At others, it is driven and rythmic. And occasionally, it is just plain silly.

I am a lover of classical music, from Early Music to Contemporary Works (skipping the Romantic period, to the bafflement of my friends).

Sometimes, the music helps me to burn off excess energy and helps me set a pace. Gorecki is a good alternative:

And, since I am a metalsmith who loves to forge, Verdi's Anvil Choir is not only fun to listen and work to, but it is thematic as well!

My final confession, I love to sing. Opera, show tunes and good old pop - anything goes. Two singing favourites:

I admit my music selection is unusual, but I love it! I hope you enjoyed it some as well.

Check out the other blog entries for this month!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Japan Relief

There is a huge movement on Etsy to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan: artists in all media are donating items or part of the value of an item to the cause. Search Etsy for "Japan Relief" all sorts of gorgeous items that will help out as well.

This treasury is a great place to start:

I am donating 25% of the sales values of these items, but if you drop me a line saying you are buying for Japan, I will extend this to any item you get.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day

In honour of St Patrick's Day, here is my attempt at a blessing for metalsmiths everywhere:

    May your solder always flow
    May your silver never scale
    May the stones you stumble upon
    Be shiny and pretty

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Yeah, don't do that

My tip of the day: if you are a night owl with insomnia, don't head over to the bench at 7 in the morning because you can't sleep.

If you do decide to ignore that, make sure that the small piece of silver you are using for that fiddly, fancy form, tiny bezel is really silver, and not a small piece of sheet solder you rolled a long time ago and forgot about. That will not solder well and it will mess up the bezel.

I also recommend not forgetting that silver absorbs heat like crazy and that wire that was next to the destroyed bezel will be very, very hot even though it wasn't directly under the torch. Don't pick it up straight away with your bare fingers because it will burn.

At this point, I decided to leave the bench before I burned the house down or had to go to emergency room. I suppose I should find a picture to go with this post, but it wouldn't be pretty at all.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The one that got away

I think most metalsmiths share this same dilemma. We love working with metal, designing and creating pieces, choosing the right design for a stone (or the right stone for a design), we labour over them, holding them close to our hearts. And then... either we have an ever growing collection and an ever dwindling bank account, labelling ourselves as hobbyists, or we try to make some money out of this, perhaps even a living. Which means letting go of our creations.

Sometimes, selling or giving away a piece feels right, as though it is going to its rightful owners. Stock pieces are always easier, since we have made that same design several times and we know we can always make it again someday. At other times, not so much. Perhaps it is that special stone that sings to us or a piece that is significant. However, it is the nature of our trade.

There are, however, pieces that I regret selling or giving away (although I would never say it to the person who got it!). For me, it was the very first ring I ever made and the first time I worked with metal. Yes, I was foolish enough to sell that one, at the very first show I did. It was an interesting forged ring, but, even more, it was when I found out just how much I loved working with metal and experimenting with shapes and hammers. I just hope it is loved, where ever it is now.

I also recently put a pretty emotional piece up for sale. You can read the story here. I confess I am glad it hasn't sold yet. But I hope that it will, someday, and it will be worn and loved. As an artist, I have to let go of my work. I also must recognize that the most emotional pieces are also the ones with the most expression.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Words may not break my bones...

... but stones might just break the bank.

I admit I have a stone addiction. I am fascinated by all sorts of gems, from smooth cabs to sparkly faceted and, specially, interesting phenomenal gems, which have rare "special effects". I learn as much as I can about gemology, with help from some very knowledgeable people from GemologyOnline and many dealers who have become friends over time.

Since I am an engineer, I love the physics and mathematics that go into precision cutting. In this technique, the cutter considers all aspects of a stone to cut it to the precise angles and patterns that maximize the effect. Many precision cutters develop their own patterns and some are very creative, like the Liquid Flower cut below.

Liquid Flower cut by Osiris Gems (smoky Quartz and Amethyst)
Concave cut tourmaline by Richard Homer
Fancy cut sphene by Gene Flenigan
Modified Trillion Rose Quartz by Peter Torraca

Gem carvers not only facet or polish a stone, but they also include three dimensional carvings, which change as the light moves. I searched for a long time until I found this Munsteiner amethyst and it is one of my pride and joys.
3.3ct Munsteiner Amethyst
And then there is a whole range of faceted stones - spinels, tourmalines, garnets, zircons, tanzanite, sunset quartz and a lot more. Here is a taste...

Inclusions are also interesting - small bits of "something" that get trapped inside the crystal as it is forming.  They  are very unique, reflecting the creation of that particular stone is forming, and visually impacting.

Fluorite crystal in quartz
Lepidocrite in quartz
"Pink Fire" covallite quartz (it flashes neon pink in sunlight)
Sunstone with copper schiller

These are tenebrescent hackmanites. If they are kept in the dark, they become a pale pink, blue or lavender. As they are exposed to sunlight, however, they slowly darken. This is completely reversible, so after a few hours in the dark, they are pale again.

And that is far from all... there are plenty more of all of these, as well as cabs and phenomenal stones, which will have to wait for a different post.

Yes, I am addicted and I have no plans to be cured any time soon. There are too many beautiful gems still out there!

This month the aspiring metalsmiths are bringing out their stones. For many, collecting stones has become an addiction. Come take a look at their favorites and what makes them so special.

Autumn Bradley -
Clarity @ Scrollwork Designs -
Stacy Low -
Chrissi Lynn Designs -
Sylvia Anderson -
Jessica @ Abella Blue -
Contemporary Jewelry by Beatriz Fortes -
Esmeralda -
Steph Stargell -
Pennee -
Silver Pearl Jewelry and Metalworks -
ArtistiKat -
Claire -