Sunday, December 18, 2011

Please show this necklace to someone awesome!

This necklace has been waiting for over a year for the right person to find it. I'm not worried about it never being bought--I'm worried that someone who isn't really right for it will buy it, or buy it as a gift for someone who doesn't want it. I can't stomach the thought of it wasting away on some indifferent person's dresser. It should be lit by firelight. It should be worn dancing. It should be bright on the collarbone of someone who loves it.

So if you know someone who loves this sort of thing, or whose friends love this sort of thing, please show it to them!  Thank you :)

Friday, December 16, 2011


Bracelet prototypeI made this bangle for myself a few days ago--I want to work on the finish to showcase the contrasting texture better, but I'm pretty satisfied with how it looks! I don't wear a lot of bracelets usually, but this one feels perfect, coordinating with both of the outfits I've worn it with so far.  And I'm really happy with the shiny but patina-preserving finish that I can get with my jewelry tumbler! You just put steel shot and soapy water into the machine and leave it tumbling, and it polishes and strengthens the metal. Neat!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finished commissioned Myst fanart

First, if you've never played Myst--or even if you have but it's been a while--watch the Myst intro cutscene.

Star Fissure commission
by ~rivenwanderer on deviantART

A fellow Myst fan commissioned me to make a sterling silver rendition of the Star Fissure, based on her excellent digital concept art. It was great to work closely with another artist and Myst fan, and I'm thrilled to say that she's going to incorporate this object into an art project of her own! I can't wait to see the project come full circle, and I'll be sure to show you guys when she's done.

Star Fissure commission detail
by ~rivenwanderer on deviantART

Friday, July 29, 2011

See you on Saturday!

Just a reminder that either today or tomorrow, depending on when you guys see this--Saturday the 30th--I'll be at the Boston Handmade Marketplace! It's in Union Square from 3pm to 7pm. Union Square is totally bus-able, or it would make a lovely bike ride. Hope to see some of you guys there :)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Exciting news!

I've been accepted as a new member of Boston Handmade, a group of local crafters who support each other in their endeavors. I've been a fan of their blog for ages, so I'm excited and nervous at the same time to join such awesome artists and entrepreneurs. I'll be writing articles for their blog soon!

ALSO, I'll be vending at Boston Handmade's Summer 2011 Somerville Marketplace, in Union Square. It's happening on July 30th, from 3pm to 7pm. Stop by and see me and my fellow local artists--I'll have shiny things, and there'll be live music!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Etsy shop announcement!

Hey, remember these shiny pendants? They're now up in the "Gleaming Gears" section of my shop.

I've also listed some copper necklaces with handmade silk cords in the "Ancient Steampunk" section. Two of this style of pendant sold at ISC, and two sold to a coworker, but there are still four left for the shop :)

I'm definitely happy with my lightbox. From now on, I'm going to take nice-looking photos as soon as I finish things, so there's not so much lag between when I make things and when they go online.

IMG_20110531_123714.jpgMost of my bench time right now has been focused on some custom orders, but I'm also thinking about new jewelry designs. I'm playing with ways to use some of the great gemstones in my stash as well as some of my silver scrap.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What makes me tick: Myst

(This is the first post in what I hope will be a series about my influences, inspiration, and the artists I admire!)

Replica of Gehn's Crest
by ~rivenwanderer on deviantART

This isn't jewelry, though it has some similarities with the wearable things I make. It's a six-inch disc made for a contest on DeviantArt. I joined a group over there that's all about the computer game Myst and its sequels. And I couldn't resist pulling out all the stops and spending my weekend recreating one of the elaborate designs from Riven, my favorite game.

When I first played Myst as a kid, I was dazzled by the revolutionary (for its time) graphics, and by the concept of books that could literally transport you to new places. It was a concept much like the Wood between the Worlds from the Narnia books my mother read to me growing up. And the linking books in Myst provided me with a way to imagine writing my own worlds, and then travelling to them. My sketchbooks filled with doodles of islands, forests, and buildings.

Riven was an experience like Myst ten times over; a world much bigger, grittier, and realer than any fantasy world I'd seen before. Every surface showed the effects of weather, time, and wear; every puzzle existed for a logical reason; every aspect of the ecosystem fit together perfectly; every building bore the mark of its builder. I spent a wonder-filled week playing the game. Then, I wanted to know how it was done; I wanted to create real-feeling worlds like it. I pored over the "making of" video and learned to make my own computer graphics. In the end, I drifted away from 3D modeling, but the lessons about giving objects depth, texture, and a life of their own have stayed with me.

In making things out of metal, my aim is always to create something that feels like a real artifact from an imaginary world. Something that transports the wearer the way that Myst and Riven transported me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Regaining my sea legs

Amethyst and gear pendant

Looking at my blog archives, it's been over a month since I worked on a project that required much complex soldering. Now I'm working on a commission that involves a bunch of tiny, multi-step soldering, and it's been great getting back into things. I do love the cold metalwork techniques I use, like sawing, filing, and especially texturing/hammering. But I think I love soldering even more.

I love the nerve-wracking moments where I'm holding my breath to line the solder chips up juuuuust right. The torching, where I first gently heat up the metal, then bring the flame close and fast while praying the little delicate bits of silver and gear will get hot enough to meld with the solder, but not melt into a puddle. The hiss of plunging the newly-soldered piece into the quenching bowl. Turning the newly-fabricated thing over in my hands, tugging at it to be sure the pieces have truly joined. I even love smelling the vinegar working away at cleaning something I've just soldered together, and I normally hate vinegar!

There are a few things about soldering that I can tell I've gotten rusty at over the last month without it. I overheated the back of this little prototype pendant, so there's an unsightly blob of silver on the reverse side. I'll be keeping this pendant for myself for that reason--it's wearable, but not up to my standards for selling. I think that a teeny bit of practice will get my heat control back to its normal form, and I can't wait to do more and more soldering! Yay playing with fire!

EDIT: Some folks didn't realize how tiny the pendant is. Here's a shot with a ruler in it for scale:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My International Steampunk City demo

Photo courtesy of Susan Paykin
At ISC, for the first time EVER, I made a pendant from start to finish as a demo for all passersby to watch. I cheated a tiny bit by drilling one hole in the middle of the copper at home, but otherwise, I did all the sawing, filing, texturing, and oxidizing right there on the Waltham common. I sat in a folding chair and used a short four-legged stool as my work surface, with a bench pin clamped to its edge and my adorable little anvil on top of it.

I was really worried that it would rain again on Sunday, but the weather luckily cooperated throughout the demo. It was a little windy, but no rain, thank goodness!

I had a bunch of opportunities to talk to a wide variety of people--some of them steampunk fans (in costume or in regular clothes), some slightly-confused Waltham residents, some curious folks from all around the Boston area who stopped by to check out the spectacle. I realized that I wasn't going to show a fixed group of people the entire process of making a pendant, but would be giving them snippets of progress on the project throughout the afternoon as they wandered the common, taking in the sights (including a blacksmith's shop, high-wheeled bicycles, and a parade!).

Photo courtesy of
Dan Kissam
My spiel was something like this: "Hi! I'm a steampunk jewelry artist, and I'm giving a demo in this lovely weather. Here's an example of a finished pendant I've made. Here's how this one's coming along. The pendant I'm making this afternoon is going to have this Waltham Watch Company watch movement as its focal!" (This spiel would, of course, be modified if I realized that the other person had no idea that there was a festival that weekend, or even what "steampunk" was supposed to mean.) Then I'd talk about the step I was working on, and point out how the finished example was constructed.

Some observations for the next time I give a demo:
  • The project will take at least 3 times as long as it normally would if I were working alone in my studio, what with all the pausing for conversation and the somewhat unfamiliar workbench setup.
  • Sunscreen next time I do this outdoors!
  • More business cards on a stand of their own (so people don't need to stoop to take them)
  • This time, doing a demo on the common (away from my table in the Watch Factory) was the right call, but anytime my table is less distant from the main hustle and bustle, it'd be better to set up shop closer to my table with finished jewelry for people to look at.
  • Don't accidentally set up shop along the path of the ENSMB-led parade!
  • The purple parasol was a great conversation-starter, even though I'm not a parasol-maker. People were pretty amused by my story of bartering jewelry for it at Strowlercon.
  • Take a photo of the finished product! I sold the pendant immediately after I finished it, and I really wish I'd thought to snap a photo. But it was another piece in the same mode as these guys, which I'll be listing on Etsy as soon as I can get my act together.
After I finished the pendant, I packed everything up into my little shopping cart and walked back to the Watch Factory. I remember feeling an immense joy and gratitude. Joy from the lovely weather, the connections I made with interesting people, and the thrill that always accompanies making things with my hands. Gratitude towards so many people who helped me vend at the convention in big and small ways: Susannah, for putting up with my crazy whirlwind of preparation, being there with me every step of the way for the weekend, and watching the table while I was at the demo; Alex, for driving me and my stuff there; C for playing her fiddle on Saturday afternoon; Jer, for carrying my folding chair from the demo to the Watch Factory; Susannah's parents for driving us home. I really felt like, in spite of the stress and the hard work, that undercurrent of purple-tinted enthusiasm was still with me after all. Such a marvelous feeling!


Now if only I can recover from this cold quickly and build on this momentum!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why I sold off a pile of cool supplies for almost nothing

At almost the last possible minute, I decided to bring something unusual (for me) to International Steampunk City: a box of watch parts and other supplies to sell to steampunk fans on a pay-what-you-like-or-can basis (which worked out in the end to an average of 45 cents per thing--almost certainly less than I paid for most of the bits in the box). Read on for why it made sense for me to get rid of a huge swath of my carefully-accumulated stash.

Box of neat stuff!

The impetus for this destash was me realizing that some of my supplies were not quiiiiiite right for me.

In the time since I acquired them, I've been moving my jewelry away from assembling existing bits together in novel ways, and towards metalwork pieces that I fabricate myself, with watch parts incorporated the way one might incorporate gemstones or wire filligree.

An earlier necklace of mine
from my pre-metalsmithing days

A new necklace of mine,
available on

This distinction may only make sense in my head, but it's a big deal to me. This is the way of making jewelry that I find really exciting and fulfilling--and there's a narrower range of parts that I'm interested in incorporating this way. Life is too short for supplies that don't light you on fire with inspiration! Once I realized this, I knew I needed to move a lot of my stash out from my workshop as efficiently as possible. I wanted to free up both physical and mental space so that I can focus on the components that fill me with joy (and that touch of slightly-fearful awe that propels me to improve my craft to be worthy of my materials).

The deeper reason for bringing the box of supplies to the festival was that I wanted to connect with other makers and tinkerers. It's no secret that I like geeking out about making things! And what better outlet for unwanted parts than folks who are dying to get their hands on that sort of thing and build something cool with them? I was so happy to give people a chance to sift through a box of interesting stuff that I knew they could use.

I hope that some of the 30 or so folks who took supplies home with them will speak up in the comments section! Tell me about the projects you're thinking of, or link to pictures of any work-in-progress or finished contraptions. I know I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Indoor photography

I'm still trying to clean up my living room and studio after the chaos of last weekend's con... but I managed to clear off the secondary studio table and construct a primitive lightbox. A lightbox is something for diffusing and reflecting light for getting better macro photography. There are plenty of online tutorials for making them (the one I made was similar to this or this). I also started exploring some of the manual settings on my digital camera (it's a Canon Powershot A610).


I still haven't figured out the best combination of settings, and I'm thinking of switching to a more neutral background--but as you can see, it's possible for me to take clear, adequately-lit photos with my camera and this lightbox. That means I can take Etsy photos without regard for the time of day or the weather! This makes the idea of working through my backlog of jewelry to list it a bit less intimidating.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

To all who stopped by at International Steampunk City

Thanks so much to those who stopped by my table and my metalworking demo. It was so great to meet such cool steampunk fans--I'm honored that some of you bought my jewelry, and I hope that my demo was informative. And welcome to any new readers just encountering my blog for the first time! Tomorrow, I'll make a more substantial post about the weekend, but I wanted to kind of jump up and down and wave and grin at everyone one more time before I fall over and catch up on sleep :)

OH! If you have any pictures of me, my table/demo, etc, please email them to me or put a link in the comments or something, OK?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Can I get there by Candlelight? (Finding me at International Steampunk City)

You can reach International Steampunk City from the Boston area by public transportation! Here's one way to get to my table via bus and a bit of walking:

View Larger Map

Once you get to the Watch Factory, there should be signs to point you towards the vendor area.

Final outfit for International Steampunk City!

Full shot of the costume

There are a bunch of neat little details in this costume that I'm really proud of.

The back:
Corset-style lacing on the back of the vest
I laced through safety pins with stretchy cord to give the vest a more fitted shape. The folded fabric looks kind of awkward in this photo, but it's not really so strange in person. The silk of the vest is reinforced underneath with strips of felt. The gears really are ones I "just happened to have lying around my workshop", which makes me feel almost like an authentic steampunk person or something :p

I embroidered a couple of swirly/gear designs on the front:
Detail of embroidery

Hope to see some of you at the convention! Look for my table in the back half of the vendor area in the Watch Factory. I'm also hoping to do a demo on the common on Sunday in the early afternoon, making a big, textured copper pendant using a Waltham Watch Company watch movement :)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Making purple frames

I'm going to write a bit about the process of making some jewelry display frames for my International Steampunk City table. At first I thought this would be a tutorial, but I kept improvising things and running out to CVS for a stapler and changing my mind about what fabric to use, so I realized it wouldn't be a great how-to. Instead, I'm just going to show some pictures I took, and talk about what I did and what was going through my head while I was working.

IMG_20110501_160812.jpgThe plan was to make some display stands similar to this tutorial, but using a coarsely-woven fabric instead of mesh for better visual contrast. I started with some pictures in frames from the local Goodwill. I removed the pictures from them and glued some shaky joints to shore them up. It was a nice sunny day and I'd just come home from brunch, so I decided to work outside in the back yard.

I wanted to mimic the faux-gold effect that some of the frames already had, but with purple, by painting a dark purple undercoat and then adding metallic purple highlights. I used the acrylic paint I had lying around from my mural-painting undergrad days. I like acrylic paint because it dries quickly, and in this case the fact that acrylic dries to a very dark color was desirable. As I got to work on the base coat, I noticed that the paint had a tendency to clump between the shapes on the frame, so I paid special attention to brushing those areas to avoid this.

IMG_20110501_161938.jpgWhile I was painting this undercoat, I thought a lot about purple. I realized that purple isn't just my favorite color--it's also a kind of metaphor or shorthand for my enthusiasm and excitement about things. It's why I'm so happy when I've recently redyed my hair and have random spots of purple on my arms. It's why I named this jewelry thing Purpleshiny--it's something I can always talk about with joy, and if there isn't that undercurrent of enthusiasm in what I'm doing, I'm Doing It Wrong. Lately, as I've been prepping for this show, I've felt a bit like my nearly-empty tube of purple acrylic paint--hoping that there's enough of me to go around, to make everything splendid. But there was enough purple paint for all of the frames, and I hope there's enough of my time, energy, and enthusiasm to get me ready for and through the show.

I also thought a bit about reuse and repurposing, which I do a lot of in my jewelry as well as in this project. Who am I to take watch parts and make them into some kind of earring? Who am I to take a frame someone else has already painted and paint over it? I don't know, but a part of me hopes that one day someone finds my repainted frames and says, "These will be perfect if I paint them green!"

IMG_20110501_170925.jpgAnyway, then I mixed a very shiny batch of paint for a highlight/topcoat--it was a mixture of purple paint, silver paint, iridescent white paint, and two kinds of interference powder--one metallic and one iridescent. I used a mostly-dry brush to apply it glancingly to the frames, so that the highlight only touched the raised areas. This is a lot like an effect I used for clouds in several paintings in my dorm. My mural-painting past seems to have prepared me well!

Then came the part where I attached fabric to the frames. This meant I got to attack the backs of the frames with a stapler. I didn't get any pictures of that part, but it was really fun. I haven't wielded a stapler in several years, and I'd forgotten how satisfying the kaCHUNK of the staple going into the wood is. Also, I now know to only use frames made from soft wood in the future. One of the four frames was made from some kind of hard wood that staples and nails couldn't go into, so I used glue and tape instead. Seems like it might be less reliable, but I think it'll hold.

I'm so excited to have these frames to display jewelry! I know my copper pieces usually look best on a light background, and I'm glad I figured out a way to incorporate awesome purple colors while still using a light-colored fabric for the background. I still need to figure out a way to prop the frames upright, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mechanical Typewriter Giveaway

Mechanical typewriter giveaway

A few years ago, as I was first learning about the steampunk aesthetic (discovering great artists like Datamancer), I briefly became obsessed with turning a mechanical typewriter into a musical instrument. (Something more melodic and standalone than the Boston Typewriter Orchestra.) My plans ranged from using digital sensors and synthesizers to rigging up some kind of pulley and chime system. Suffice it to say, my interests and skills have since wandered in another direction, and I'm trying to let go of plans that clearly aren't meant for me.

Since I'll be surrounded by steampunk fans when I'm at International Steampunk City, I thought it would be a good place and time to try to find a new, loving home for this cool piece of machinery. So during the convention, I'm giving it away for free. It'll go to the first interested person with good intentions for the typewriter who shows up at my table and asks for it. My booth will be located in the Waltham Watch Factory building, right next to the festival's opening ceremonies and many exciting performances. I'm not going to let anyone put a claim on it ahead of time--just show up!

If you're interested in it, there are a few things you should know: First, the condition it's in. It's missing its ribbons (so you can't type with it right now), it's dusty inside and out, and some of the keys stick (but no parts are missing as far as I know). I suspect that Cambridge Typewriter could clean and repair it, but I claim no knowledge of typewriter mechanics, and it's possible it won't be simple to restore to perfect working condition. Second, it's pretty heavy. A cart or dolly of some kind would be ideal, but carrying it a short distance to a car (pausing frequently to set it down and rest) would probably work too. Please don't plan to walk miles and miles carrying it in your bare hands!

PS: While I was writing this post, I discovered that Cambridge Typewriter has an active blog about the machines and goings-on in the shop. Some of the typewriters pictured are absolutely stunning, like finely-restored vintage sportscars. I could really get into typewriter collecting if I had more space in my apartment!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A peek at my costuming for International Steampunk City

I took a break from metalwork this weekend to think about my costume for International Steampunk City. I hadn't really been planning to dress up much--just a skirt and stripey socks or something. But then I realized I could make some purple steampunk modifications to a men's vest I picked up at the Garment District a month or two ago. And a vision of an outfit sort of spiraled out from there. Here's a glimpse of how it's going--the most exciting modifications are still in the works.
I still have a night or two more to go on the outfit as a whole, but it's pretty exciting. And planning to dress up is changing how I'm thinking of vending, too. Rather than some kind of trial or ordeal, I'm starting to think of vending as a party I'm throwing in celebration of the almost-two-years I've been doing this metalsmithing stuff. With decorations, costumes, maybe even party favors :)

I don't do a lot of sewing and embroidery normally, but I'm figuring it out. I keep thinking of The Tailor of Gloucester as I stitch and monitor my supply of purple thread--hopefully my housemate's cat won't hide the last bits from me!

I'll definitely post photos of the finished costume, hopefully a few days from now.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bwahaha! A pile of shinies!


These don't have much story to go with them, but they look so awesome that I don't care. Heeheehee. So that's TEN pendants, most with gemstones and a couple without. There's amber, turquoise, garnet, malachite, labradorite, and carnelian in here. I'm contemplating doing a couple more with larger amethysts in the middle, too.

Hmm, I should make improving my light box (for taking nice photos in the basement studio) a priority after ISC. When I've just completed something, I'm so full of amazement at what I've done, so proud that I've managed to wrestle some scraps of metal into the shape and finish that I wanted, that I'm eager to take photos. It's like, I don't know, taking pictures of your favorite kitten or something--so much fun you can't even fathom not wanting to do it. When I save up new pieces to take a ton of pictures on a sunny day, that's when it feels like a chore. Good to know!

Oh, and ISC had some kind of website problem. Their website is now here: International Steampunk City Waltham.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Victorian jewel beetle wings

I recently read about the restoration of this Victorian dress, which is covered with real beetle wings. It grabbed my interest because I've been using beetle wings in my jewelry for quite some time--looking at my Flickr log, since at least March of 2008. I love their brilliant, iridescent colors, and their feather-lightness makes them perfect for earrings. So it was really cool to learn a bit about an important piece of fashion history that also incorporated the same kind of beetle wings over a hundred years ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A new continent


I started out online in Myst fandom. And for me, it wasn't just about the games and books--it was about worldbuilding. Imagining Ages of my own; filling journals with detailed plans and maps and sketches; rendering them in Terragen or Blender. Making islands in my head and on my computer. I haven't actively worked on digital worlds in a long time, maybe because working as a programmer makes me want my hobbies to take me away from the screen. But I still love the idea of making worlds, and try to work it into my metalwork whenever I can.

Yesterday, I tried out my new crucible by melting down scrap and pouring it onto salt to make a textured silver blob; tonight, I sawed that blob in half, so that the interesting half can be soldered onto something. Something maplike, probably. I don't know exactly what it'll be; the sharpie doodles on the copper in the picture are just the visual equivalent of thinking out loud. But the silver reminds me of a continent rising out of the water, and it makes me so very happy to be building islands again.

Oh, and I'm also feeling nicely productive about making more of those shiny gear pendants for International Steampunk City! I'm waiting on a polishing attachment to come in the mail before proceeding, but I'm done with all the soldering for all of these:


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Gears and malachite


After that huge, ornate no-solder compass pendant, I felt like doing something in the opposite direction last night--something smallish and simple, very glossy, involving soldering. So I put this together from some bits I had lying around the bench. Maybe it would be good for someone with a more minimalist-leaning love of steampunk at ISC.

I realized that I'd unwittingly echoed one of my very first metalwork pieces, which also features a brass gear, malachite, and soldering:

I made that pendant on the right during the same class where I made my Hello World ring. The intensive weekend introduction to metalsmithing I took at CCAE in the summer of 2009 was really the start of all this. Seeing that it was possible to solder gears onto metal was pretty exciting! But unlike my Hello World ring, this pendant isn't something I wear proudly to remember the start of my metalsmithing adventures--it neither feels like something that goes with my current wardrobe, nor like a good representative of my techniques. I'm probably going to take it apart and recycle the silver, so I thought I'd take this picture and write a bit about it in order to have a record of my second-ever piece of metalsmithing.

Monday, April 04, 2011

New finished pendant: Copper clockwork compass

Copper clockwork compass

I'm really proud of this one. Yes, it's kind of enormous (the piece in the center is an inch in diameter), and maybe the cutouts don't show up as much as overlays in a contrasting color would've--but now I know with certainty that I can make a complex, interesting piece to hold a watch movement without soldering. My current torch doesn't have the output to heat pieces this big, and while I want to upgrade to something hotter someday, I'm so glad that I can showcase these little mechanisms right now, in time to make things for International Steampunk City. And if I wind up giving a demo at ISC in a space where I can't use a torch, I'll probably make something like this.

Copper clockwork compass

This design and the textures make me think of an airship navigator with a mysterious device to help her steer even when storms and fog are obscuring everything. It's definitely a statement piece--it says "why yes, I do know where I'm going, thank you very much". I have more ideas for variations on this theme--earrings, smaller pendants, pendants in different shapes, different things as centerpieces, etc. I can't wait to make them :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011


WIP compass pendant
(This is a compass-themed pendant I'm working on. Seems fitting for a post about the directions I want to take my work!)

So, for the longest time, I've been thinking of the things I make in terms of setting. I imagine other worlds--anything from a glimpse of a place that's a little different, a past that never, was, to a fully-mapped-out fictional universe. And I imagine my pieces as artifacts of those worlds--as products of the culture, geography, and mythology of the place. Almost as though they were exhibits in a museum about the worlds I've imagined.

But things are shifting around a bunch in my head. I'm starting to also think about my pieces in terms of character. Still a product of imaginary places, but designed with people in mind--both the real people who end up buying and wearing my jewelry, and imaginary awesome characters living in fictional worlds. People with cloaks and walking sticks; people on quests; people with secrets and maps and destinies.

How will this shift in perspective change the way I work? I'm not sure yet--but my hope is that I'll make pieces that feel more wearable and are easier for people to connect with, to imagine themselves wearing on their own quests. But even if it doesn't change any outward facets of my jewelry, it's changing my process. It's making me more excited about getting things made and in the hands of cool people, and I'm finding more time to go into the basement studio and do stuff. I'm getting inspired by characters I find in books and visual art. So--more finished pieces ahead! And more exciting ideas popping into my head. (Are people interested in seeing more pictures from my sketchbook?)

If you're an artist, how has the way you think about your art changed over time?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Update on those earrings

Here's how one of those pairs of earrings I was working on last night turned out:

Thursday, March 31, 2011


I got a box of tools and sheet metal in the mail!

First, I want to show off this adorably tiny vise. Shown with a Sharpie next to it for scale:
Isn't it so cute? I'm not entirely sure what it'll be good for yet, but it was about $5 and seems like it'll come in handy at some point--maybe for very small-scale fold-forming, or just as a "third hand" for holding things I'm working on once in a while.

I got a melting crucible that looks something like this:

I've tried salt casting before, and there are several other kinds of freeform casting that I'm also interested in trying and incorporating into jewelry. This crucible will help me play with molten silver more safely. And since silver prices keep going up, I'm really liking the idea of being able to recycle every bit of sterling scrap into more art.

The other tool I'm really excited about is this soldering tripod.
The tripod supports a mesh, which supports the piece of jewelry, and you can point your torch at it from above or below. Notice how there are 4 pieces on the screen? This tripod means that I can solder groups of pieces in batches rather than one at a time--really good for simple things that benefit from a miniature production-line approach (like a few pairs of earrings that I want to be identical).

Here's how the earrings I started are shaping up so far, prior to patina, polishing, and adding earwires:
I'm making them with the International Steampunk City festival in mind.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interdisciplinary metalsmithing

Something that I love about metalsmithing is that it's possible to incorporate many other crafts into it. My friend Danielle uses metalwork to showcase her handmade glass beads; I use my sewing skills to make silk necklace cords; and my favorite art blogger, Daily Art Muse, keeps posting really great combinations of metal and other materials (like leather!). My newest idea is to etch copper plates, pull prints from them using my pasta press, and then turn the copper plates into jewelry. I've enjoyed printmaking in the past, both with my pasta press and with linoleum blocks, and I'm really happy to have found a way to tie it into my metalworking.

I've taken the first step this weekend by trying out electrolytic copper etching. It seems to have worked well on my test pieces; now I just need to perfect an image transfer process (or come up with some designs I can make on metal by hand). I've had a lot of fun researching the history of etching on Wikipedia--and I learned a lot about how one can turn an etched plate into ink on a page. Much better to look to old handmade processes than reinvent the wheel!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New pendant, and the process of making it

Last weekend, I designed and made a new pendant:

New pendant design

I also photographed most of the steps involved and the tools I used. I've put them together into a slideshow! I hope you enjoy this insight into my process.