Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Silver wire wrapped statement hoop earrings with antiqued beads

I got a call from a friend the other day, who said he'd found a box full of old costume jewelry in an attic. Naturally, he thought of me and figures I can take the pieces apart and use the various elements.

My first instinct was to say, "No, thanks," because I've been making more and more of my own focals and pendants. But then I thought, well, I still buy ready-made beads and it isn't like I've never re-used parts from another piece of jewelry.

<> A few months ago, I got a message from a customer who asked if I could make her a pair of statement hoop earrings. She'd had a favorite pair which she'd damaged and wanted me to create something similar. I get this type of request often and told her if it would be helpful if she sent a photo of the old pair. She did, and I got to work.

The earrings were a pretty simple hoop design with a series of silver beads in the center. The problem was, I don't own many silver beads. I just don't work with them that often. I prefer using colorful crystals so I literally only have one bag of silver pieces.

Still, I wanted to see if I could make these earrings without having to order extra materials. I found the bag of antique-style heads I'd purchased years ago. I actually think these might have been the very first beads I bought when I got into jewelry making in 2010. I took out a few that I thought would work for these earrings, but many of the beads didn't have a matching twin. The beads would look similar, but were noticeably different -- which just doesn't work for earrings.

I managed to find a few matching pairs, but still didn't have enough beads to make the pattern she liked. I then remembered the beaded necklace my aunt and uncle had given me a few years ago. This was a beautiful necklace with blue crystals and little silver spacer beads. I haven't worn the necklace in a long time and well... I cut it and took off the silver bits. They're encouraging of my jewelry career, so I knew they'd understand. Sure enough, they just laughed when I later told them.

I ended up creating the following earrings and hoped the customer would like them. They didn't really look like her old pair, but they were a similar style. It would suck if I'd destroyed my necklace for nothing!

Happily, the woman loved the earrings and sent me thank-you note saying how she was "obsessed" with my design and liked it better than the original. She then went on to explain that the earrings she'd damaged were part of the collection of a well-known reality star-turned-designer -- and that she thought I could compete with said designer. I guess this is a compliment? I'm not really into imitating popular items, though. I much prefer doing my own thing.

These earrings are pretty, though, and have a very classic look. I'm glad I wasn't able to find the exact beads so I could at least add SOME originality to them.

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Wire wrapped pendant necklace with fused blue dichroic glass and wire spiral; "Rhapsody In Blue" necklace

I really love working with glass, but one thing I've learned is that it's really difficult to make custom pieces. Dichroic glass is gorgeous, but it's prismatic, so it has more than one color. Also, those colors are quite complex, so when you fire two pieces -- even if they're made from the same sheet of glass -- you just never know what you're going to get. One piece might be bright blue, while another looks more purple or even gray. This is probably a different case when you're using a professional-level kiln and can spend hours letting a piece heat, but I have to work with my little microwave kiln. It's a great tool, but it does have some limitations.

Right now, I'm working on a necklace and ring for a friend. It's a double pendant, where one square is purple and the other is yellow. She wants a matching ring that's half and half, but I've had a hell of a time finding the perfect purple. I've made several attempts and am still not 100 percent satisfied. She likes at least one of the rings I've created, but I still want to find the right color.

It's much easier for me to simply fire the glass and see what I get. Most of the time, I like the end result! I really love this blue square that has a swirl of turquoise and navy. It reminds me of a tropical ocean.

I wanted to give it some extra "oomph," so I added the brass spiral. That's made from 16 gauge wire, which is quite thick and difficult to twist. I usually attach the backing and then wrap the extra wire around the bail before adding my design, but in this case, I made the backing and spiral from one piece of wire.

I call this necklace "Rhapsody In Blue" for obvious reasons, but I also name it that because I've been performing a Gershwin program on my flute. I wear a few different hats; in addition to designing jewelry, I write and am a musician. I haven't written in a while -- other than writing for this blog -- but I play flute at senior homes around the city. I really enjoy it and the seniors especially liked my Gershwin set. So when I saw this blue, I knew I had to give it that name.

What's interesting about my musical job is that it's beginning to merge with my jewelry work. One of the homes has vendor sales and I've been invited to sell my jewelry. We still haven't come up with a date, but I'm hoping that I can do it this spring. And at another home, the recreation director is seeing if I can teach a jewelry making class to the seniors. You just never know where an opportunity might arise!

I'll fill you in as these events happen (or don't because you never know). Meantime, check out my handmade wire wrapped, fused glass and enamel jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Revisiting a classic design: silver wire wrapped triple heart earrings with clear Swarovski crystal hearts

Last week marked six years since I had surgery on my broken ankle. While this is a milestone in of itself, it's also important in regards to my jewelry-making history. It was during the four months that I was out of work that I took up making jewelry as a way to pass the time. I just didn't expect to fall in love with it and for it to turn into a career.

My first few designs were pretty simple, but classic -- and many still sell. These wire wrapped triple heart earrings are a good example:


Anyone who's read this blog knows how much I love my Swarovski crystal hearts -- and if you haven't read this site, well, now you know this very important, scintillating bit of info on me. :-)

Anyway, I made these tiered earrings using hearts in two colors. It reminds me of something I might have owned as a kid in the '80s. But I liked the earrings and to my surprise, others did, too. I often try to make my jewelry more complex, but some people -- myself included -- like wearing minimalist and traditional pieces.

Well, I recently had a customer request that I make these using three clear Swarovski hearts instead of the colorful ones. I made her earrings and was surprised at how such a small change could enhance the earrings. Though there are no bright colors, the clear hears actually stand out more and are striking against a solid-colored top. They're so simple, but elegant. My other triple heart earrings are cute and fun, but this version looks a bit more upscale.

I'm so busy thinking of my next project and working on my next design that I sometimes forget about my old standbys. I need to revisit more of them and see how I can update my classic collection.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Handmade fused dichroic glass jewelry: dichroic party and a fused glass ring!

One of the greatest advantages of having my own kiln is I don't have to wait in line for a turn. I'm the only artist using it! I also don't have to wait for a once-a-week class, like I do with enameling. My kiln is available every day. I've had time to practice making fused dichroic glass pieces, and while I've had some disasters, I'm happy with most of them:

I call this pile of fused glass focals my "dichroic party." Most don't yet have backings, as I still have to decide what I want to do with them. However, a friend came up with an interesting idea and suggested that I turn some of the dichros into rings. I tried my hand at this -- pun intended, I guess, as that is my hand in the photo -- and came up with that purple and yellow dichroic ring.

The way I made it was to create a wire wrapped band with a spiral centerpiece. I then glued the glass onto the spiral. I like it, but my next ring will be made a bit stronger. For a heavier piece like this, the band needs to be wrapped two or three times. I feel like this ring needs a little more support -- though some people do like thin bands. I usually prefer simpler bands, but kept wishing there were more wire to balance out the glass.

Oh, well, this is why I'm putting in so much practice! I'm a lot better at making fused glass than I was a month ago, but it's still new for me. I'm having so much fun, though, and love this very "colorful" discipline.

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Handmade wire wrapped jewelry: wire wrapped triple daisy dangle earrings in blue and silver

I recently received a fun request from a customer: she found me on my kids' jewelery page, MayaGirl Creations and asked if I could make an adult-sized version of my double daisy dangle earrings. These earrings had large blue wire wrapped daisies hanging from smaller silver daisies. I made them based on the fact that my single daisy earrings had become so popular. So I was now going from one flower to three.

I gave her a choice of a silver-blue-silver combo or blue-silver-blue and she went for the latter. She also asked that the highest daisy be the smallest and the bottom flower, the largest -- and that all three fit into a 2 1/2 inch frame.

I've literally made thousands of these wire wrapped flowers -- seriously, I've had dreams of them -- but it took a couple of tries to get them to meet her requests. The small daisy kept coming out too big... which meant I had to make the other two even larger and then the earrings were too long. I finally solved my problem by adding only six petals on the smallest, while the other two have eight each.

I'm always tweaking my designs, but customers often beat me to the punch and come up with a good idea for my shop! These triple daisies make a great addition, especially for spring.

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fused glass jewelry: magic dichroic glass pendants!

When working with glass, the final product will often have a different color from when the glass was in its original state. The fired glass's color also depends on what type of base metal/glass is used. When making an enamel piece, blue glass powder won't look the same if it's placed on copper vs. silver or with a white vs. ecru enamel base. The same goes for dichroic glass.

Dichroic glass has even more surprises in store for the glass artist because dichros are multicolored to begin with. The glass has a prismatic effect and the colors shift as the light hits. The glass's hue also changes during the firing process -- sometimes even more than I'd anticipated.

With enamels, you have a pretty good idea how the color will turn out. Blue is almost always blue, though the final shade might be darker or lighter. Sometimes enamels will turn odd colors when fired on silver -- for instance, yellow becomes pink in this case -- but for the most part, you can predict what your piece will look like.

Well, dichroic glass continues to surprise me. You can shift the glass downward at a 45 degree angle to get an idea of how a fired dichro will appear, but this is not foolproof. This afternoon, I made two new pieces using some interesting patterned dichroic glass. On one piece, I used a black base and layered it with clear butterfly-print and pink mirrored glass. The end result? The clear glass came out dark blue, while the pink glass turned into shiny gold. I like it, but so weird!

I used a clear base for the second piece and fired that with some yellow dichro... and that turned out to be turquoise with deeper blue undertones. Not at all like the colors I chose.

This makes it difficult to repeat or design custom pieces since I can never be sure of how my glass will appear in the end. It's certainly an adventure working with it, though. I kind of like the fact that I can still be surprised.

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

Fused glass jewelry: striped dichroic glass pendants

One of my favorite things about making my own fused glass jewelry is that I'm actually wearing my stuff! I'll admit it -- I'm TERRIBLE at advertising my work in person because I rarely wear jewelry I've made. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of my pieces and love many of them, but I tend to make things that are more to my customers' tastes. I've always loved dichroic glass, though, and made a point to purchase glass pendants at craft fairs that were made by other artists.

Now that I'm creating my own glass art, I'm able to make as many designs as I'd like. I really loved a simple, but colorful striped pendant that I'd made. It came out better than I'd expected and I liked how it looked with my pink T-shirt. Here I am wearing it last weekend:

Keep in mind that it was about 70 degrees that day and the next day was in the 30s. Yeah, that's how our crazy weather has been in New York. I wore the same pendant to a fundraiser that was held the next day, but I paired it with a long-sleeved blue top. It got a lot of compliments and I decided to keep it for myself and not sell it. Since it was cold, though, I slipped a sweater over my top before heading home.

Well, when I got home and took off my sweater, I could not find the pendant. The cord was still around my neck, but the pendant was gone. I shook out my sweater, my coat, my top... everything I wore that day, but no pendant. I was pretty bummed and am still hoping it turns up somewhere.

I didn't stay upset for too long; I simply got out my glass and made another striped pendant. This one also turned out pretty well. However, when I went to attach the bail to the back of it, I squeezed the Krazy Glue too hard and spilled glue all over my piece. I tried to remove it, but I couldn't get all of it off, even with acetone, and the pendant's face was damaged. Another striped piece down the drain!

I was now on a mission to make -- and keep -- a glass piece. I made several striped pieces, being very careful not to overfire them or break them, or do anything stupid in the process. Here they are!

I think the one on the left is my favorite of this bunch. I haven't yet decided if I'll keep it; I'll wear it and see if I like how it looks with a few outfits. I'm happy with these guys, though.

Sometimes it's embarrassing to share these stories of my jewelry-making mishaps ... but like any other job, there are ups and downs, especially when you're working with glass and fire. I can get very frustrated when I make mistakes, but I do try to learn from them. I am getting better and making glass jewelry, which is my ultimate goal. But expect to hear about more disasters along the way.

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

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fused glass jewelry: Dichroic glass pendant "Fire And Ice"

I've been making fused glass jewelry for about a month -- and while I've had quite a few failures, I've happily had many more successes. There are quite a few pieces that I genuinely like and would wear myself. One of my favorites is my "Fire And Ice" pendant:

Dichroic glass is so much fun to work with because there are hundreds of different patterns available. I usually order a bag of scrap pieces, so I never know what I'll end up with. I enjoy the surprise! I'm also never sure what the jewelry will look like when it's fired in my microwave kiln. Dichroic glass changes color in the light, anyway, but it often turns out to be a completely different hue when fused. I've used blue dichroic glass which came out pink or pink glass that came out yellow. Using this kind of glass is always an adventure.

Because of this, I'm always pleased when a piece turns out better than I'd expected -- like my "Fire And Ice" pendant. I made a simple design by sandwiching blue tie-dyed glass between shiny yellow dichros. The blue ended up being a deeper color than I'd anticipated and the yellows are shinier with hints of oranges and reds. They reminded me of flames, which is my reason for giving the pendant this rather obvious name.

I recently sold this glass pendant to my good friend, Nancy. She's purchased a lot of my handmade jewellery over the years because she enjoys supporting small businesses. She wore several of my pieces on the recent cruise with took together and I got a kick out of seeing her in my jewelry designs. She was ready for something new and chose "Fire And Ice."

I was sorry to let the pendant go, but I know Nancy will wear it well. And I can still borrow it! That's one advantage of selling to a friend.

I've made dozens of fused glass pendants at this point. Hopefully, all will find good homes. You can check them out, as well as the rest of my handmade wire wrapped and enamel jewelry at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Silver wire wrapped copper daisy anklet with blue enamel accents

I haven't posted about many enamel projects lately, as you may have noticed. I'm still at my enameling class every week -- I love my teacher and classmates -- but I've been in an experimental phase. I've been playing around with different enameling techniques and not all of my pieces have turned out so well.

I attempted to make a cuff bracelet so I could enamel something that isn't flat. Boy was that a mess! The enamel just wouldn't stay in place, even with the addition of Klyr-Fire (a clear, but sticky liquid used to keep enamel and cloissoinne wire in place). So I ditched the bracelet.

Now that I'm learning to make fused glass pieces, I next tried to create an enamel pendant that looked as if it were made of fused glass. I used large glass blobs that you can add to enamel to create texture and piled them on. At first, the piece turned out nicely, but I went overboard in adding the glass fragments... and I had another mess.

I then finally got something right! My teacher suggested that I add enamel to one of my wire wrapped jewellery designs. I didn't even realize you could do this; I figured the enamel would fall through the cracks since most of my designs are "spiraled." But I made one of my spiral daisies, added some blue enamel to the center... and what do you know? The glass stayed in place. Even better, I loved how it looked when I fired my piece.

I made several more daisies and turned them into a new version of my wire wrapped daisy anklet. I used copper because you can only enamel fine silver -- which is much more expensive. I originally planned to use a different color enamel in each flower center, but decided to stick with just one color instead: Prussian Blue, which is a deep, rich transparent enamel.

You might notice that the copper has a pinkish hue. This is what happens to the metal after it's fired and then cleaned in pickle solution. I wanted my jumprings and chain to match, so I also fired and pickled them.

I'm very pleased with the final result -- and I learned a great way to combine enamel and wire wrapping. This is relatively easy to do, too. I'm going to try some other color enamels with the copper. I think a pink would look pretty, especially since the copper turns that pinkish shade in the process.

Please check out the rest of my work at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Wire wrapped jewellery: wire wrapped pendants made of fused dichroic glass

Now that I'm getting the hang of making fused glass pendants, I'm combining my dichroic glass art and wire wrapped jewelry skills. It seemed like a natural fit to combine the beautiful colors of the glass with the shimmer of wire and crystals.

My main problem in wrapping these pendants is that no holes are drilled through them. When I order ready-made focals, like lava stones, they have a hole drilled right through the center. I can then loop a necklace bail through the stone and wrap it, and the wire is very secure. But when you make your own pendants, it's up to you to add that hole. When making an enameled piece, I simply drill the hole into the metal before adding the glass power. With fused glass, though, it isn't that simple.

Some people add a bit of fiber paper between the glass so the material fuses around the paper and forms a hole. This doesn't work so well in a microwave kiln where the glass heats very quickly. I tried this and ended up with a melted blob. You can also use a diamond drill, which is strong enough to drill through the glass. However, there's always the danger of cracking the glass if you're not careful.

For my pendants, I'm skipping these steps and am going back to basics -- as in kindergarten basic. I'm just using glue. The microwave kiln kit came with a few glue-able necklace bails, which I attached with Krazy Glue. Once I used up all four, I've been making my own attachable bails. I make a little spiral with a hook on top and then glue it to the back of my pendant. That's all there is to it.

Part of me feels like I'm "cheating" by using glue, but you can't solder glass and this method works for me. And, hey, my enameling teacher liked my spiral bails, so I've got her approval. Plus, that Krazy Glue is super strong. Believe it or not, I've never used it before... and once it dries, wow. At first, I kept getting it on my fingers and the only way to take it off is with acetone (nail polish remover).

Anyway, once my bails have been glued and set, I can wire wrap the pendants. I usually use just one piece of wire for a pendant, but here, I have to first wrap the wire around the top loop to secure it. I can then create my design and add crystals, etc. I'm learning not to go overboard with the dichroic glass because the glass stands out on its own. It doesn't need too much embellishment. I've been adding more crystals and wire wraps to the plain pendants, but I've been trying to keep the wrap around the edges on the colorful ones. Some pendants don't need any wrap at all; I just leave them be.

My handmade jewellery is always a work in progress and fused glass is still pretty new to me. Keep checking in to see my latest pieces! And check out my collections at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.