30 November 2010

Weaving Like A Mad Woman

All semester I have been super busy with homework for my art classes, so you would think that having finished up my one weaving project due right after the Thanksgiving break, I would just relax and enjoy the time off. Instead, I thought, "I could use this time to make two rag rugs on my loom before I start my final project for weaving class!" (My friends say I am an over-achiever, but I just want to try to make as many of the ideas I have in my head as I can while I am alive.) Of course, I had to take into account the blizzard on Tuesday, and being out of town from Wednesday through Friday. "I can still do this", I thought.

On Sunday night I finished up the last bit of my tapestry, and sat down with a scrap of paper to figure out the warp for two 30" x 48" rugs. I wanted to use the same warp for both, but different weft materials to see how the difference in fabric patterns affected the striped warp. Also, it takes a while to dress the loom, so I got two pieces for one warping job.

I went in to work on my project on Monday, and got all of the warp measured and tied on to the front of the loom, and the warps threaded through the reed and about half of it threaded through the heddles before I got hungry and went home to eat. I thought I would be able to go back in on Tuesday, but ended up staying home and watching the blizzard through my front window.

We packed up our skis on Wednesday and drove up to Sun Valley to visit our daughter for Thanksgiving (and to ski). We drove back on Friday afternoon, and I spent several hours on Saturday working on the loom. I left that day with the loom completely warped, and the twining done, so when I went in on Sunday, I spent the while day just weaving away! I took the two finished rugs off the loom by 9:45pm, and headed home satisfied with my work.

After all that rush, I went in to class on Monday morning to discover that the teacher was stuck in Salt Lake City and class was canceled, so I spent that class time tying the fringe on my rugs. I just have a bit more to do on the second one to finish it tonight, and then I will plan the plaid pattern for the scarf I will make for my final weaving project.

Stay tuned for my latest jewelry adventures coming up later this week. (I should have my newest ring done by then.)


23 November 2010

My First Attempt At Tapestry Weaving

As many of you know, I am taking an introduction to weaving class this semester. Our second project for the class was to weave a 12 inch by 12 inch tapestry. As usual, I chose a really challenging design, then wondered why as I struggled though it. I always do this to myself, but 9 times out of 10 I am happy in the end, even if the piece doesn't turn out exactly as I planned.

I decided to make the tapestry a pictorial sampler, using different techniques within the piece. I love the beautiful mountains here in Idaho, with the huge blue skies above them, and the quirky magpies who live there, so that was what I chose to depict in my piece.

The first step was to draw a full-size cartoon of the piece. I had a photo of a magpie who lived in the big tree next to our old house in Hailey, so I enlarged it, then traced around it to get the shape just right. Then I drew in the mountains and sky behind him, and planned the different techniques I would try in the different areas of the piece.

As the work progressed, I realized what a task I had set for myself! It was tricky knowing where to cross the weft threads and where to leave a slit between, and because we wove the tapestries on our floor looms, it was impossible to secure the cartoon behind the piece in progress, so some of the proportions ended up being off. Also, because there were so many color changes, there were a huge number of tails to sew in at the end. Overall, though, I am tickled with how it turned out.

I found free plans for building your own tapestry loom online, so I plan on making one for myself over the Winter break, because even though tapestry weaving is time consuming and tedious (why am I always drawn to crafts that are like that?), the result is worth it! ...and it will keep me happily busy until I can get or make a floor loom of my own.

Thanks for stopping in!

21 November 2010

Rings Are The Thing!

As I said in my last post, my metals and jewelry class is my favorite (no surprise there!), and our latest project was to make a ring. I knew I wanted to do a ring with a bezel setting, but that technique is not taught until the second semester. I was determined to go ahead with my idea, however, and so I looked up articles on how to do a bezel setting online, and went for it on my own.

I did several practice rings before starting my ring to turn in. My first ring was a copper band with a design stamped on it. I am still pretty new at soldering, and I figured it would be cheaper to screw up on copper, rather than my silver sheet.

After I finished that one, and started to get an idea of designs, I did a couple of silver stamped bands for my daughters. Once I had done those (and melted one of my attempts), I felt I was ready to take the plunge, and started on my silver ring. I bought a number of cool, vintage glass millefiori cabochons earlier in the year, and decided to set one in my ring. I cut a simple flower shape, and bezel set the cab in the center. The first time I soldered the bezel on it soldered on perfectly (I thought), but popped off when I put it in the pickling solution. The second time it stayed on, and I burnished the bezel down over the cabochon. There were a few gaps that I could not get to go down, so my teacher showed me the trick of getting them to sit flush with a rounded steel tool and a rawhide mallet. Then I filed and sanded all the tool marks off, and viola! a beautiful new ring!

I wanted to practice setting some more, and I loved the flower ring design, so I did my usual thing, and made two more rings in the same design, but in different metals - one in copper and one in brass. They are so cute! My final project in that class is my choice, so I have been working on a tribal-style necklace design, using a big, beautiful onyx cabochon a friend gave me. There are only a couple of weeks of classes after the break, so I will have to be ready to go on this piece as soon as the break is over. I will, of course, post pictures of it when it is done.

Thanks for stopping in, and letting me share my work with you!

Coming Up For Air

This semester has been super busy, and I have only been able to look as far ahead as the next assignment due. I didn't even realize that we had the whole of Thanksgiving week off until a few days ago, when I looked ahead to see what was due next. What a welcome surprise! I thought we only had a 4-day weekend like when I was working at a regular job. Of course, I still have school projects to finish up, but I have been enjoying waking up without the alarm.

So what have I been up to all this time? Well, let's see. I had another portfolio critique for drawing class. We did some really fun drawings for this last portfolio, and I was pleased with how they all came out.

I finished my rug in weaving class and started on a tapestry piece, which is due the Monday after the break, so I will be going in to the weaving studio a couple of more times over the break to finish that up.

Our final project in Creative Process class will be a book, and I have been brainstorming ideas for that.

I saved my favorite for last - metals and jewelry class. Our second project in that class was to make a ring. I made several practice bands, and played with stamping and different textures before making my final ring to submit. I will save the details for a separate post. :)

More soon! I just have to organize my photos for the next post. :)

26 September 2010

Canning Nature's Bounty

I love it when Fall rolls around, and the trees spill over with fruit. When I lived in Hailey, We had several fruit trees in our yard, plus apricots and plums from the neighbors, so I had plenty of free fruit, but this is my first harvest season in Pocatello, and we have a teeny tiny yard. The only tree on the whole property is a crabapple tree by the curb. It was filled with such lovely red apples that I had to make something with them! I had read that crabapple jelly was easy to make, so I picked a bunch and tried it out. True to what I'd read, it was super easy to make, and was the most beautiful shade of pink! I knew my daughter, Grace, would absolutely love it, so when she decided to come to visit for the weekend,I knew we would make some.

As Grace and I were picking the crabapples yesterday morning, we laughed and talked. She mentioned how the crabapples reminded her of rosehips. Then later that afternoon, we drove to the spring to fill our water jugs, and growing right next to the spring was a clump of wild rose bushes covered with ripe hips! We were on a bit of a schedule, so we only picked a few cups, but we decided to go back today to pick more. This time, we took bags with us and picked a couple of quarts or so to make jelly with. I had never made rosehip jelly before either, but I have been canning long enough to know what to look for in a recipe. I found this rosehip jelly recipe, and modified it to suit my needs.

Grace and I planned to make a bunch of smaller jars of the rosehip jelly to give as holiday gifts. Both of the jellies have such unique, beautiful colors! The jars look like glowing jewels!

So far this year, I have done pretty well with gleaning fruit from trees in this neighborhood, even though living in a new town. I am hoping to find some apples in the next few weeks to can up quarts of apple pie filling for the winter. I love canning, and had fun teaching my daughter this wonderful way to save the bounty of nature.

Happy Autumn!

21 September 2010

Portfolio Time

I can hardly believe how quickly the semester is going at school! Our first portfolio for drawing class is due on Thursday. I spent several hours over the past couple of days getting my drawings together, and I took my camera to the studio with me last night, and took pictures of most of the pictures I will be submitting. Drawing 2 is a lot more fun than Drawing 1, as the teacher gives more choice in our drawings, and also free choice in what medium we use for many of the drawings, so I have been playing with pastels and graphite, in addition to the usual charcoal.

The apple drawings were drawn from the same apple. The first drawing was a homework assignment to draw an apple from life. The next class, we took the same apple and changed its form somehow (I cut mine into flowers), and drew it again.

We did several drawings working with cross contour and negative space, and the final drawing (which I don't have a picture of yet, as I am still working on it) combines both techniques.

I am going to have to buy more fixative for my drawings after doing this lot. :)
And now, back to work on my brooch design for metals class. See you later!

08 September 2010

Summer has come and gone...

...and I didn't write a thing in my blog! The first weeks of Summer I had some excuse. I took 12 credits of Summer classes, and all I had time for during those six weeks was homework and sleep (with a meal or two thrown in for good measure). I guess the overload of writing and thinking made me not want to even think about writing for the rest of the time. So now that I have settled into the first couple of weeks of my Fall classes, I thought I should tend to my poor neglected blog.

I will have to look through my jewelry journal to see what you all missed while I was slacking. Luckily, I date my journal entries, and take pictures of pieces as I make them, so I should be able to catch you all up on my doings.

Hope you all had a great Summer! See you again very soon!

26 June 2010

More Variations On A Theme

My favorite way to explore a design that I like is to make a series of variations on that design. I usually become single-minded (read obsessed) when I do this, and will crank out 3 or 4 variations in a matter of days. One design that I played with a while back was a tribal-style hoop with rolo chain wrapped onto the bottom and gemstones wrapped onto the other side of the chain. I did several of these hoops in silver, and had been wanting to try the design again for a while.

When my husband and I went to Oregon last month, I took advantage of being in there and went to my favorite bead store: Harlequin Beads.I had some 14K gold-filled wire at home that I wanted to use, so I bought some gold rolo chain with the idea of returning to this design for more exploration.

The first set of the hoops I made were paired with faceted green onyx beads. It was my first choice of stones to use because of their rich green color, which looked fantastic against the gold wire. I also wrapped tiny round gold beads in the spaces between the gemstones, to give the wire work more of a granulated look. This pair has already been sold in my Etsy shop.

For the second variation, I used faceted amethysts along the edges of the hoops, and spaced them closer together to give the hoops more color.

After I finished the second pair of earrings, I started thinking about wrapping more than just beads around the edge of the hoop. By creating another wire aperture, and wrapping it on the outside edge, I was able to create a more structural piece. I love the way turquoise looks when set in gold, and I wanted to play some more with those yummy green onyx beads, so I used both in the third variation. I made the hoop frames smaller, so the finished earrings would not be too long or too heavy. They turned out beautifully!

I will have to wait until I make my next supply order to buy more chain and wire, so I am done with this series for now. You can be sure that I will be making more of this design in the future!


14 June 2010

A Good Point

I have always loved making things, so most of the things on my "to learn" list are learning how to make different things. One that has been on the list since I was a child was learning how to make stone tools. Pretty random, I know, but I grew up in a university town, so grade school field trips to the Museum of Natural History were de rigeur, and the Native American exhibits were well stocked with magnificent specimens of stone awls, arrow heads, adzes, et cetera.

My father grew up in Wyoming, and when I was twelve years old we went to visit my grandmother there. She had an old grinding stone (a big basin-shaped stone used by the native people for grinding grains, dried fruits and meats, and the like), which she had found while digging in her garden, and when my father took us out to the family sheep ranch in the Big Horn mountains, I actually found a couple of broken arrow heads myself hidden amongst the sagebrush and rocks. I was thrilled! Making stone tools moved back up to a higher spot on my list for a while. I would look for likely pieces of flint near my home, and try different methods of hitting them with a rock to shape them. And while I found that making precision pieces like the ones I'd seen and found was not easy, I did manage a few rough flakes that were quite sharp, and could be used for cutting sticks and grasses. I kept wishing there was somewhere to take a class to learn this skill.

Fast forward to today. I signed up for a basic Anthropology class during the Summer session here at Idaho State University, and when we got to the chapters on stone tool technology, and the professor told us that there is actually an Anthropology class where we could learn stone tool making. I know that I will soon be signing up for that class!

This past weekend, my husband and I drove to Oregon to go to my younger daughter's graduation, and we stopped in a restaurant in John Day for brunch. The restaurant had a mixed western/outdoorsy theme, with old sinew-tied wooden snow shoes and wooden skis hanging on the wall next to Western prints and fishing lure guides, but what caught my eye was a display on the half wall between sections of the dining room. There I saw the most amazingly beautiful, contemporary obsidian knives with antler handles. They were exquisite! I asked our waitress about them, and she told me that they had been made by a local man who had worked for the forest service for years. She also told me that when she was a young girl, this man had come to her school and given demonstrations. Sadly, he passed away last year, so I could not look him up to pick his brain. I did take some pictures of his beautiful work, though, so I could share it with you.

Rest assured that you will be seeing a post from me again in the next year or two with examples of my attempts at this wonderful art!


30 May 2010

The Latest Jewels

As promised in my last post, I took pictures of some of my latest projects and purchases to share with all of you. I have several pieces in the works right now, and have mentioned a few of them in my posts on my jewelry page on FaceBook, so I thought I would start with those.

I started making a Mercury-themed pendant, inspired by a pair of mercury head dime earrings a friend had made. When I was a little girl, I found a Mercury head dime buried in the garden, and thought it was the coolest thing! So I bought a few of them recently to make into jewelry. The pendant I am working on will be in the shape of a caduceus, the winged staff carried by the god, Mercury. It is a short herald's staff entwined by two serpents in the form of a double helix, and is sometimes surmounted by wings. This staff was first borne by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It was also called the wand of Hermes when he superseded Iris in much later myths. The long wires at the bottom of this piece in the works will become the serpents, and I will add more wires at the top to construct the wings.

Next I took pictures of the gorgeous topaz and citrine briolettes I bought from a vendor in Thailand. The smallest is 19.50 carats, and the largest is over 65 carats! I made the smaller (19.50 carat) blue topaz briolette into a necklace the other day before I headed out to my classes, so I would have a necklace to match the earrings I was wearing. Later, I realized that it looked like the necklace that Howl wears in the movie Howl's Moving Castle, which is a favorite of mine. I already have a pair of green tourmaline earrings that look like Howl's, so now I have the set! (I am such a dork!) The citrine briolettes I am keeping to make earrings for myself, and I will make the others into pieces to sell.

And finally, I have sold all of the seahorse earrings in my Etsy shop, so I decided to make another pair to list there. This time, I am using gold-filled wire to make them, and pairing the gold with blazing orange-red fire opals and matching briolettes of cubic zirconia. I finished the first seahorse this morning, and plan on completing the other one this afternoon, so I can list them tomorrow. I will probably make another pair with seed beads, too, as I really like the color the beads give them.

I also have several custom projects in the works, but those will have to wait for another post.
Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy your weekend!