Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tales From Enameling Class: Back To School!

The new semester of enameling began today! This time around, we have 11 people. That may not sound like a lot, but it's a large crowd for enameling. The group includes four newbies. On one hand, I'm pleased that so many people are interested in this art. But the spoiled only child in me is like, "Damn it, I don't want to have to wait in line for the kiln!"

It always takes a while to get going when a new semester kicks off, but I made a lot of progress on my cat-themed Christmas ornaments. I brought in four ornaments, one of each design, and managed to apply a white base coat to all. I then got about 75 percent done on my "cat wearing a Santa hat" piece:

The Santa cat will be getting an extra coat of enamel, plus black tabby stripes. As for the others, the angel cat will have a wreath painted onto the white robe, the gingerbread cat will have a colorful button design and I'll probably put some kind of holiday decor on the cat in the stocking. I was originally going to write, "Meowy Christmas" on the angel's robe, but I'm not sure if there's enough room. I don't want to have a lot of empty white space, though, so I think the wreath will look nice -- and will be appropriately festive.

It's difficult to tell in these photos, but I added some additional white enamel to the Santa hat brim and pompom. This way, they'll have that "fluffy" look that the furry white area has on real Santa hats. I'm probably going to leave the cat faces blank; I like the idea of the ornaments being a little abstract. Besides, there are already a lot of colors and textures and I don't want the ornaments to look too cluttered.

It felt so good to be back in the classroom! These ornaments are taking longer to do than I anticipated so I'll be staying late to get in some studio time. What's also exciting is that the Y is holding a craft fair at the end of November. It's going to be a three-day-long event and I'm planning to sign up. I definitely intend to sell these pieces there.

Meantime, check out the rest of my handmade wire wrapped and enamel jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Wire wrapped jewelry designs: brass wire wrapped snake rings

What an exciting weekend! Our dear friends Scott and Chris FINALLY became engaged after being together for about four years. The surprise proposal/engagement party was wonderful and Scott did a great job in picking out Chris' ring.

This put me in the mood to make a couple of new rings for my collection. Not engagement rings, but coil rings made from 14 gauge brass wire. I had a customer who'd asked me to use this thick, chunky wire and I have a lot left over -- and so I designed these funky snake-shaped wire wrapped rings:

I call them my "wild snake ring" and "dancing snake ring." I haven't used much of this 14 gauge wire, mainly because it's a little difficult to work with. Yes, it's wire, but it's VERY thick -- and it takes a lot of effort to twist it around the ring mandrel and manipulate it into shapes. I'm getting the hang of it, though -- even if I do have a couple of blisters on my fingers. I'm wondering if I should bring the metal to my jewelry class and anneal it with a torch. Then it will be easier to work with. I'm just worried that heating it will destroy the shine. I guess I can play around with it and see what happens.

Speaking of which, tomorrow is enameling! Hooray! I'm so excited to see my teacher and classmates. There are a few of us who return each semester so I'm assuming that the rest of the "regulars" will be there. I'll finally be able to get to work on my Christmas ornaments and am looking forward to doing that.

As soon as I get some ornaments enameled, I'll post, but you can see the rest of my jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Copper wire wrapped bangle bracelet with green AB crystals

I liked my copper wire wrapped bracelet with gold beads so much, I made a couple more bangles using copper. One didn't turn out so well. I made it using flat, coin-shaped lapis lazuli beads and while the blue and copper looked pretty, these particular beads just didn't work well for this style bracelet. They're large and flat and don't stay in place... which means that they keep falling onto their sides and leaving a large, unattractive gap in the design. I've used other coin-shaped crystals, but they were thicker and smaller and just looked better. Live and learn!

On the other hand, I'm really pleased with these square green aurora borealis (AB) crystals:

Green and copper just go so well together. These crystals are also unique because the AB prism has a purple tint. That probably sounds like a clashing combo, but the squares are beautiful when the light hits. Real auroras have shades of greens and purples, so it's a natural mix! I have yet to see a real aurora, so this is as close as I'm going to get for now, LOL.

I found yet another unfinished enamel project so I'm working on that. It'll take me a while, but I'll post photos when I've completed it. Be sure to check out the rest of my handmade wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Copper wire wrapped bangle bracelet with gold yellow crystals

First up, a little bit a good news: I went ahead and signed up for a beginner painting class! This one features painting with acrylics and is a mini-class (only six sessions) which begins in November. I figure it'll be a good way to try it out. I'm really looking forward to it.

I have plenty of time to work on my jewelry until then, though. I've been trying to make a few different pieces each week. People often ask how long it takes me to make something and it really depends. Some of the more complex necklaces can take a couple of weeks to complete, especially if the pendant is enamel. A bracelet, on the other hand, generally takes me only an hour or two.

Earlier this week I made this copper wire wrapped bracelet with gold yellow crystals:

I usually use silver wire for my bracelets, but the copper is warm and rich-looking. I'll have to use it more often! I also like the way the copper with the golden beads. I wasn't so sure about using yellow crystals because I thought they might blend together a little too well with the copper, but I think the color combo works.

Though I've been making these bangle bracelets for a long time, I've been trying to improve the clasp. Whenever I take out my older bracelets, I cringe because the clasps are so flimsy. I now double wrap the ends so the clasps are firmly in place and don't pop out when you wear the bracelet. I want to give my customers the highest quality products I can, and so I'm always refining my techniques.

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I've also been working on my photography. I am NOT a good photographer. I don't pretend to be. But taking pictures is part of my business. I've been trying to take photos with better backgrounds, lighting, etc. -- and I think I'm seeing some results. I've gotten some good tips from my dad who actually is a really talented photographer. Perhaps I should take a photography class in the future?

Meantime, please check out my handmade jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mediterranean-inspired silver wire wrapped necklace with blue enamel pendant and turquoise crystals

The new semester for my enameling class starts in just a few days so I've been trying to finish some incomplete projects. For the past couple of days, I've been working on this Mediterranean-inspired silver wire wrapped and enamel necklace:

I made this blue and turquoise pendant using a technique called sgraffito. Basically, you put down one layer of enamel. Then, when you sift on a second layer, you use something sharp, like a toothpick, to swirl a design into the fine glass powder. When you eventually heat the second layer of enamel in the kiln, the design pops and you can clearly see the two colors.

This technique works best if you use dark and light colors so you can see the contrast. I've done a few sgraffito pieces in red and black, but when I tried to do red and yellow, it didn't work as well. The contrast just wasn't sharp enough. I really like these blues, though (surprise, surprise, right?). One woman in my class said that it reminded her of Mediterranean jewelry, which was a huge compliment since I adored the pieces I saw in Greece.

I'll let you in on a little secret: I'd originally used the copper square to make a champleve pendant, but it didn't turn out well ... and so I covered it with new enamel and went for a different concept. That's the beauty of this type of art! That's also why this piece is so thick; I had to use several layers of enamel, more so than usual, to cover the depressions that I'd etched for champleve. Still, I like the thickness; it gives the pendant more depth and makes it look even more like a Greek tile. My husband even asked if it's made of stone, so it's definitely sturdy.

I really need to go through the rest of my enameling bag and see what else I find. Meantime, check out the rest of my jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wire Wrapped Jewelry Designs Photo Gallery: Jewelry For Fall 2014

Happy Fall! This is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year. I love the cool, crisp days, colorful leaves and celebrating the various holidays with my friends and family. It's been beautiful this week in NYC and I've enjoyed taking evening walks around our neighborhood. The leaves haven't started changing, but there has been a slight chill in the air -- and you can feel a shift in the energy that flows after those long, hot summer days.

Anyway, enough with my attempts to wax poetic about the weather. Here are a few of my wire wrapped and enamel jewelry designs that remind me of fall. Many have fall colors or look like typical fall-related things like Halloween cats or rust-hued leaves. You can see the rest of my pieces at Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations. Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Making Wire Wrapped Jewelry: Designing Custom Orders

Some possible clients have asked about how I work with requests for custom orders. It really depends from order to order, but for the most part, it's something that I really enjoy.

Though I'm always coming up with new jewelry designs, I obviously can't think of everything! Many times my customers have great ideas for pieces and I'm happy to make them come to "life." Most simply ask me to tweak one of my already-existing designs. For instance, one woman asked me to add specific colored Swarovski crystals to a few of my pairs of earrings (pictured below). Another had me lengthen a couple of my bracelets so I could turn them into anklets. Then there are some clients who request that I make one of my pieces, say a ring, in silver instead of copper or gold instead of silver, etc.

A couple of clients have actually e-mailed me sketches of the pieces they had in mind. This was the case with the ring that's pictured. The woman lost an antique and asked me to replicate it; she then drew me a picture to show what it had looked like.

Then there are customers who give me a lot of freedom. One recently had me make wire wrapped lapis lazuli earrings with a note, "I'm not picky about what they look like, so just do something pretty." Another asked me to make a gold-colored bracelet with black and red beads, but was open to the actual design of it.

There are some instances when I can't honor a person's request -- and I will be very honest with them. One woman asked me to make her a vest from copper wire. I don't know anything about making clothes -- in copper or any other material! Not to mention, I probably would've have had to charge her about $1000 for materials and labor. Perhaps she would've been willing to pay this which would've been great for me, but I didn't think I could do a good job and wasn't about to rip her off. I found a couple of chainmaille artists on Etsy and sent her the links.

In general, I'm very flexible. Plus, it's fun coming up with new ideas and doing a collaboration. I do my best to keep the costs down and let customers know if a certain material won't be worth using. I do list the new design once it's made unless a customer specifically asks me to make a one-of-a-kind piece.

So if you're interested in hitting me up for an idea, simply click on the "custom order" link on my Etsy pages: Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations. Meantime, check out some of the custom-made pieces I've done:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another Kind Of Art: From Jewelry Making To Painting

I've always loved looking at and creating art, but I've never done much painting. When I was a kid, I'd draw for hours or would make things out of construction paper and clay... but I just wasn't into painting. I'm not sure why; perhaps because I was afraid of making a mess? It was easy to pick up magic markers or bits of dried clay, but I feared what would be said if I accidentally got paint on the walls.

I took an art class in junior high but after that, stopped doing anything "crafty" for a long time. Instead, I put all of my energy into music and writing -- and that's the way it was, really, until about four years ago when I jumped onto the jewelry making train.

A few times I've gone to places like Make Meaning in New York City where you can paint a ceramic bowl. I've always enjoyed this, though the paints aren't very high quality.

These days, I do enameling which in some ways is similar to painting. You use a brush to apply the colors to a canvas of sorts and you arrange everything to create a design or picture. Still, while there are some similarities, it's not quite the same. With enameling, you have to be very precise and can't really mix colors. You can layer them, but you can't experiment with hues like you can with paint.

Well, last night I got to try my hand at painting once again at Paint Along New York -- and I absolutely loved it!

Each PANY features a different painting which students copy and interpret. The painting we did is called "She Creates" and was made with acrylics. Here is my version of it:

The instructor lead us through some basics, such as how to do the outline of the woman's face and how to apply the colors. I usually draw profiles from the forehead down so it felt a little weird for me to do it her way, which was from the neck up. Still, I followed along because I wanted my painting to be good enough so that I wouldn't embarrass myself.

The great thing about this particular picture is that we were given a lot of freedom when it came to doing the colorful "leaves" that surround the woman. Our instructor encouraged us to experiment with color combinations or to even stick with just blues and greens, or reds and yellows. She also suggested we play around with brush strokes. I wanted mine to be very colorful so I used the entire palette -- and because I have to use such tiny, precise strokes in enameling, I whipped that brush right across the canvas!

Oddly enough, I had the most difficult time doing the lips. I like the color, but it took me a long time to adjust them so they weren't too thick or too thin. Pouty lips are beautiful, but I didn't want hers to be so pouty that she'd look as if she'd been punched in the mouth. I'm not 100 percent thrilled with them, but they'll have to do.

What was really nice was that the instructor admired my brush strokes and asked if I'm an artist! I explained that I do enameling. I don't know if she was just saying this to be kind, but I'm still glowing from the compliment.

The best part was seeing everyone's work at the end of class. Though we'd all done the same painting and our ladies looked somewhat alike, there were differences in each student's version. Some used smaller strokes to make the leaves. Some gave her a thinner face. Some had women who looked more realistic, while others had figures that were abstract.

I'd definitely like to take another class at PANY and am even thinking about trying my hand at some original paintings. These wouldn't be something I'd sell; they'd simply be done for fun. Most of the creative things I do are for profit and I need to make some things that are just for me.

So if you're ever in Manhattan and need a little break, sign up for a class at PANY. Meanwhile, check out my handmade wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Silver wire wrapped pink marble stone with spiral designs and Swarovski crystal pearls

Tonight, a group of us are celebrating my friend's birthday. She and I have known each other for years but have only recently grown close -- and she's someone whom I really admire. She's a mom of three, runs her own daycare business and is a talented writer. She and I, plus another woman meet up about once a month to read and critique each other's essays, writing clips, etc. This has given us an opportunity to learn more about each other and to become better friends.

She also has great style! She's one of those people who always looks put together, even when she's dressed very casually. Of course, she wears eye-catching jewelry. She's one of my few friends who doesn't have pierced ears, but she almost always wears a pair of cool clip-ons and a funky necklace. I'm constantly asking her about her jewelry and where she got it. She enjoys shopping at craft fairs so many of her pieces are handmade and different from what you see in a department store.

She wanted to do something creative for her birthday so we've signed up for a class at Paint Along New York. For each class a particular painting is chosen and students have to copy the artwork to the best of their abilities. The idea is to experience the different ways in which everyone interprets the piece. I haven't done that much painting, but I'm curious to see how my enameling experience will come in handy. I'll let you know!

Since my friend is having this artsy party, I felt it was appropriate to give her an "artsy" gift -- and I made her a bracelet and one of my wire wrapped stone pendants. I wanted to make something that looks old-fashioned and traditional but has a modern twist, and is unique enough to suit her bold personality. I found the perfect oval pink marble stone as my base and came up with this:

I twisted the 20 gauge silver-plated wire into a series of spirals and swirls and adorned the design with a couple of beige Swarovski crystal pearls. I originally looped the wire back around and had more spirals up top, but felt as if that were overdoing the design -- and so I ended up going with the more simple and traditional look.

I really hope she likes it! I'm a bit nervous to give it to her because she has such particular taste in jewelry, but I think she'll at least appreciate the work that went into it. And now I'm off to paint!

Check out my jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Silver Wire Wrapped Bangle Bracelet With Blue, Turquoise And Purple Crystals

I wasn't kidding about being on a wire wrapped bracelet kick! This morning I made another one, only this has tri-colored crystals in blue, turquoise and purple:

What I like about these diamond-shaped crystals is that a really interesting looking "frame" is formed around them when I bend the wire to make the bracelet. The crystals are the main focus, but the wire has a unique design, as well. I also like this combination of the blues with the purple. I used only one turquoise crystal and put that one in center because I felt as if that color is the brightest; I wanted to have that pop of light, but also keep the other colored beads balanced.

As I make more of these bracelets, I'm getting better at doing the clasps. Frankly, my older bracelets were a mess. The ends of the wires poked out all over the place and the clasps weren't as secure as they should be. I feel much more confident in my designs and my bangles' durability -- but I do spend a lot of time practicing!

Check out the rest of my handmade wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Classic Silver Wire Wrapped Bangle Bracelet With Blue And Turquoise Square Crystals

Lately I've been selling a lot of bangle bracelets... and so I've decided to make a few more.

I'd started this wire wrapped bracelet for a customer -- and then realized that she wanted a similar-looking, but not quite the same bangle. I then looked through my bracelet listings and realized I've never actually made one that has blue and turquoise beads. Surprising, given how much I love the combination! I've done several bracelets in blue, light blue and indigo or blue and green, but for some reason, I'd skipped this rather obvious color pattern.

Well, since I was already halfway through with the bracelet, I finished it and really like the result:

It's difficult to tell from these photos, but the darker blue beads are AB (aurora borealis) crystals. Two sides of the crystal are made of a shimmery prism material that sparkles when the light hits. It's a really beautiful effect. I have AB crystals in many different colors, but I especially like them in blue. It reminds me of the sunlight hitting the ocean.

This was a bracelet that sold almost as soon as I listed it yesterday. I love when that happens! Since I seem to be on a "bracelet kick," I'm off to make some more. Meantime, check out my handmade wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Enameled Jewelry: Hooray For Champleve!

One of the enameling techniques which I learned last year was champleve. I've written about this before, but basically, you engrave or etch a depression into a thick piece of metal and then fill that space with enamel so that the glass and metal are even. The effect is quite beautiful and allows you to display the metal, which often gets hidden when enameling.

Well, I always get very excited when I see enameling techniques used outside of my class. This weekend, my husband and I visited The Cloisters which are by 190th street, but are part of The Metropolitan Museum Of Art. Believe it or not, this was my first time there, even though I've lived in or near the city for almost my entire life. I enjoyed walking around, but was especially happy when I saw some Medieval champleve pieces on display. Of course, I went into full dork mode as I called to Jon, "Look, look, look!" Him: "OK, that's nice." Me: "You don't understand. It's champleve! I know how to do this!"

Yeah, I do know HOW to do champleve, but I wouldn't call myself "skilled." These pieces were amazing and filled with so many intricate details. The designs were so precise, you could barely tell the metal from the glass; the materials wove together perfectly.

I could've stood there staring at the champleve all day, but we wanted to tour the grounds and make sure we got to see all of the exhibits. Still, I'm proud that I know how to do such an old technique -- even if I have a long way to go before I can make such an incredible piece.

Check out my wire wrapped and enamel jewellery at Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations. And check out my novel, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, on Amazon.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Craft Fair Rejection: Moving On

Now that I've had a chance to adjust to the news and enjoy my weekend, I'm feeling much better about my rejection from the craft fair. Don't get me wrong; I'm not happy about it, but I'm also not as upset as I was a couple of days ago when I first got the news.

My friends have been very supportive. A couple wrote me with notices for craft fairs in their neighborhoods, which I appreciate, but I'm not going to travel to New Jersey. Also, many had some funny things to say, which I'm not going to repeat on this blog. You can use your imagination! They got me laughing, though, which always helps when you're feeling down.

On Saturday, I shipped out a few orders and the post office happens to be right next to the park where the fair will take place. I know this is a little silly, but I was nervous about going near that park. I didn't want the reminder of being a "loser." But as I approached the location, I was like, "Wait a minute. I'm going here to drop off ORDERS. This is a good thing!" Plus, that park is right near our favorite indie movie theater and is across from the restaurant where I had my 40th birthday party. I have many good memories associated with living in my neighborhood and I can't let one rejection ruin that for me.

Plus, I'm already making plans to be in a different fair. I'm going to sign up for the Baldwin Street Fair, which is just 25 minutes from me by train. I go to Baldwin often because two of my closest friends live there. I figure I can do the fair and then maybe see my friends for dinner afterward. I was actually supposed to do the Baldwin fair last spring, but it was rained out. So now is my chance to check it out and see if it's an event worth doing again.

I've never taken rejection very well, but I'm trying not to take it personally. All I can do is move on, put it in the past and continue to build my business on my own terms.

Check out my jewellery at Naomi's Designs or MayaGirl Creations.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Silver wire wrapped star earrings with Swarovski crystals

One of the new items I've made are these cute, silver wire wrapped star earrings with Swarovski crystals and squiggles. I wanted to make something that's pretty and playful, and this is what I came up with:

So far, I've made these three sets ... though when I saw a larger version of the blue stars, I realized that the crystals are different colors! One earring is dark blue and light blue and the other is blue and purple. Oops! Right now, I'm listing them as a choice where people can order one set of colors or the other... but I plan to make another pair with correct color combos.

My favorites so far are the hot pink stars. I wore these last week to a friend's birthday party and they got a lot of attention! One friend couldn't understand how I could bend the wire into such precise shapes; it isn't hard with some practice. The earrings are a bit longer than what I usually wear, but they're extremely lightweight.

I'm not sure if I'm going to list these on my kids' line. I think they might be too long for younger jewelry wearers. But they're a lot of fun to make and I'm going to experiment with some more crystal patterns.

Check out my jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Black diamond enamel pendant with abstract triangle design

Going through my bags of jewelry supplies can sometimes be like digging for buried treasure. I try to keep my stuff organized, but I have so many beads, spools of wire, etc. that things often get lost in the shuffle -- such as this enamel pendant that I found at the bottom of the bag where I keep my supplies for class.

I made this black diamond pendant last spring. I'd been working on a major project all semester (which has yet to be completed) and needed a break. And so I came up with this little abstract piece. The large necklace I'd been designing is turquoise and blue, and I was sick of looking at those colored enamels. This is why this pendant is black, red and yellow. I wanted to work with a completely different color scheme!

I didn't have any fine silver cloisonne wire on hand, so I improvised and used fine silver bezel wire instead. Bezel wire is similar, but is thicker so it can support a stone. I simply cut the wire in half down the center and it worked just as well.

Only two and a half more weeks until class! I'm eager to return and start some new projects, so keep checking back in. Meantime, you can see the rest of my wire wrapped and enamel jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.