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!