02 December 2008

Celestial {sold!}

Turquoise and copper appeared on my workbench again recently and this time came together in a charm bracelet of sorts. The turquoise is from all over, mostly from China (the source of most commercial turquoise these days). It is stabilized (impregnated with resin, a common treatment for mid- to low-grade stones) but not dyed. The copper came from the local hardware store; it's so much cheaper there than at many jewelry suppliers for exactly the same stuff. I also used some handmade copper headpins from a favorite Etsy supplier and pure copper spacers I had found at the 2007 Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta. Copper wears nicely for most people (I wear it fairly often and haven't ever turned green), and this bracelet will darken a bit as it ages. Buffing would keep it bright, but I like the darker patina and would, at most, buff some highlights to enhance the contrast.

That's all for now... final projects for my fall quarter are coming due soon.

01 November 2008

Turquoise and copper, again {all sold!}

This Mexican turquoise bead from Two Cranes has a lovely green-tinged hue and rich brown matrix that work very well with copper. I kept the necklace simple, using more Mexican turquoise along with some rough copper spacers and a copper clasp that I scratched up a bit on purpose so it will darken up more quickly during wear.

I love turquoise with copper (obviously) and have sold several pieces that I've been tempted to keep but, well, when I sell one, I can buy stuff to make more. The piece at left is another Two Cranes Mexican turquoise pendant that I put on an adjustable leather cord finished with copper wire and some handmade copper headpins. This pendant has a more striking green hue which, to be honest, I couldn't figure out how to match, hence the leather rather than beaded necklace. Turquoise with leather and copper seems a quintessentially Southwestern combination, though, and I'm surprised that I don't see it more often. I have one piece made in this style that I've kept for myself (despite the frequent temptation this is actually a rare occurence), and the leather has worn very well for well over a year, darkening along with the copper as I wear it. I use a high-grade Greek leather, which surely makes a difference.

The necklace at right uses a Chinese turquoise pendant (not Two Cranes) with a beautiful "cascading" matrix. Turquoise matrix features so often look like water features, which is apropos given how the stone is created. I set this one on 16-gauge copper with wirewrapped leather and a front clasp that I shaped and hammered myself. I've used this clasp style in several pieces (including the aforementioned piece in my personal collection), but I later found (after conferring with the buyer) that it doesn't work well with a smaller, lighter stone: it pulls it off balance. I re-balanced this necklace for the buyer by adding some small copper-wrapped turquoise "charms" to the other side; she was pleased, especially when I threw in some matching earrings for free.

08 October 2008

A little lapidary: "A fragment of the starry firmament" {sold... alas...}

I have very little time for lapidary work or anything else now that I've started school full-time (an MS program in counseling, my answer to the question pondered earlier this year), but I do believe my limited time at Dean and Conne's workshop is well spent. Still in practice mode, I worked this freeform lapis lazuli piece from a scrap left over from a recent batch of beautiful Two Cranes beads. I made it expressly for wirewrapping, and the gold-fill wire was an obvious choice given the beautiful pyrite that emerged as I ground and then polished the stone. I kept the wirework simple (improvising as usual) because, really, the stone is what we all want to see. The pendant measures a little over 1.5 inches (33 mm) and is on a necklace of lapis chips and rounds with vermeil (sterling silver plated with 18-karat gold) spacers and beads.

(BTW, the quote in this entry's title comes from Pliny the Elder, referring, of course, to lapis lazuli. Such an apt description.)

23 September 2008

... And Four Minutes Later:

(Read the post below to find out what the heck I'm talking about.)

The Right Tools

Always have the right tools on hand for the job, my Dad tells me, or you're just wasting your time. I've taken this to heart with my jewelry business, though I've had to acquire my tools gradually as I built my business. Moving online added a new demand: taking good pictures, to showcase my creations in an appealing manner to customers who can't just pick them up and look them over, try them on, and so forth. So I have a decent digital camera (though it now has a scratched lens thanks to a recent mountain [mis-]adventure), and I have Photoshop to make my pictures clear, color-corrected, and Web-ready.

But I've known I was missing one important element: a proper shooting environment. Lacking serious studio space and equipment, I improvised with deflected sunlight, but finally I found the perfect solution: a light tent made of special fabric that diffuses light evenly. You can see the difference it makes in these two shots, both un-Photoshopped, taken in the same window at around the same time of day:

I am ecstatic -- I was spending at least 10 to 20 minutes Photoshopping each picture, and this will cut that way down. The second photo just needs lightening up a bit, maybe some sharpening, and it'll be ready to post. And that leaves me more time to spend on my creations....

04 September 2008

More Sonora Sunrise Stones and Jewelry

As promised, here are some more pictures of the Sonora Sunrise stones I've just started working with, along with another finished necklace. The overview above shows most of what I have, and it is beautiful. First, the newly finished necklace of Sonora Sunrise, turquoise, cultured pearls, smoky quartz, and sterling silver:

I just picked up two mostly-red pendants from Dean and Conne; the red is cuprite, and it has awesome depth of hue and texture. I haven't decided what to do with these yet, but I'd better decide soon because red is another HOT color for this fall and winter.

Here are three of Dean and Conne's scraps that I ground and polished myself into freeform stones for wirewrapping:

I'm thinking of putting this ethereal pendant on a necklace of turquoise, onyx, pearls, and coral:

That's all for now.

Purple! Sugilite and Tourmaline, a New Twist on Earthtones

As I ramp up jewelry production again, I've been looking around the Web for fall fashion trends, particularly colors, and was just thrilled to see that purple is HOT this year. This being my favorite color, I have plenty on hand in the form of amethyst (of course), sugilite, charoite, and various glass and crystal beads. I also just got in some tourmaline, another addition to my top-five favorite gemstones (a list that probably numbers in the double digits by now; I'm aware that doesn't make sense) and have created this earthy necklace of tourmaline with pearls, sterling silver, and an exquisite sugilite pendant. I used these large tourmaline chips because their rough texture emphasizes the pendant's earthy nature; I think fancy faceted tourmaline beads might have overshadowed the sugilite a bit, or contrasted too much in style. I love tourmaline's color range and drew upon the full spectrum here to pull out this pendant's more subtle hues while emphasizing the sugilite's inimitable royal purple.

The closeup image shows the gorgeous color -- all natural -- in this handcut slide pendant, which also has some interesting tonal variations in the matrix, even a hint of fire red. (To bring this streak out I was tempted to use natural red coral rather than the tourmaline, but I guess I'm not that bold... I like to think of my choices as generally practical, and wearable.) Discovered in 1944 by Japanese geologist Ken-Ichi Sugi and now found in quantity only in one deep South African mine, sugilite is thought to facilitate healing by dissipating negative energy and enhancing creativity. This stone is rare and expensive, but I'll keep seeking it out because it's gorgeous and it's purple. I see it a lot in modern Native American jewelry, especially as inlay, and love the contrast it makes with more "traditional" stones such as turquoise, lapis, and spiny oyster. Larger pieces such as cabochons display sugilite in all its glory. I hope to find more slide pendants like the one I used for this necklace; I see endless possibilities for this stone, and of course I love working with purple.

05 August 2008

Another Before-and-After: Ocean Treasures {sold!}

Hey, these are fun! Here's another mess of elements turned into something beautiful, and again it took me about a month not just because my inspiration runs so deep that it takes a long time to come back up but because I get busy with other stuff. Conne Gibson so generously gave me this beautiful starfish pendant made by Green Girl Studios, so of course I started dreaming of the ocean. One of my favorite places on earth is Big Sur, on California's central coast, and as I replayed in my mind my many road trips up there I recalled the blues and greens of the ocean, the dusky lavender and pale greys of the mist over the surf.... God I miss going there.

So I was once again inspired to pull together many small, seemingly disconnected treasures from my stash -- fish, birds, shells, and pearls; hand-dyed silk ribbon from last year's Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta; apatite and Swarovski crystal and a few luminous chunks of fluorite -- to evoke a tidepool home for this lovely starfish. I may be far from the ocean these days, but a girl can dream, and the dreams will always inspire new creation.

04 August 2008

On the Workbench: An August Fancy

Looking at a strand of tiny multicolored tourmaline chips, I thought of making a simple lariat-style necklace, just with the chips, a few accent beads, and a simple loop closure. Then I thought about adding some pearls, and found the perfect strand at my friendly neighbors' workshop. Then came the idea to use vermeil (gold electroplated over sterling silver) instead of sterling silver, to enhance the warmth of the tourmaline and golden-green pearls.

And then, as my dear girl tore through my studio dragging a stray piece of yarn that just happened to match what I'd laid out so far on my design board, the last piece came to me (well, I had to chase after it, "it" being a lovely strand of hand-dyed silk I just couldn't release to my child's play): and so I have another fiber piece in the works. I do have some vermeil, but I'm not sure what kind of focus to give this piece... so now I'll just do what I do best: sit with all the elements (yes, laid out on my workbench) and think of how best to present them: lariat, as originally planned, or loose multistrand? Single pendant or focal bead, or multiple foci? Clasp in back or in front, if any? Yes, I'll post pictures as I go along. It might take a year, though; I'm easily (and usually necessarily) distracted.

03 August 2008

Assembling, Part 7: A Primeval Treasure {sold!}

(Yes, I skipped documenting the other steps, 7 being an entirely arbitrary number, because I think it would make for rather tedious reading and uninspiring photography... and really I just lost myself in making this and suddenly realized it was done.) And so here is the finished creation from the previous entry, a necklace drawn from the mess -- uh, elements -- pictured on my workbench. It all sat there for, oh, a month or so (yes, really; anyone who knows me, however, won't be surprised that I could work around it all) as I mulled it all over. Finally, after trying a few multi-strand ideas, I decided to keep it fairly simple at a single strand so as not to "lose" the ammonite (a fossilized marine creature akin to the squid) in a mess of beads, so out went the pearls. To emphasize the earthtones, I added Tsavorite (green) garnet faceted rondelles, which also have a wonderful texture and just enough glitter to hold their own alongside the vibrant amber and lustrous Labradorite.

 Labradorite is my new top-five-favorite gemstone; I picked up these good-quality blue-tinged beads at New Mexico Bead and Fetish a long time ago and, though they inspired me, I couldn't find the right combination (since I do love mixing gemstones) till now. I'm pleased with how well the whole thing came together, with the gemstones accenting and drawing out the ammonite's rich tones, and I look forward to debuting this piece. It will not remain in my personal collection: the ammonite pendant is actually half of a whole piece, the other half of which I gave to someone I once loved with all my heart. Having found my affections to be misplaced, I will release this piece to the universe as part of my healing. May its new bearer treasure it always, and may its other half someday find its way to someone who will appropriately treasure it also.

27 June 2008

Assembling, Part 1

I keep trying to come up with some method for creating necklaces... okay, so "method" and "creative" don't always work so well together; perhaps it could be better described as a productive tension. Anyway, I've had this ammonite since last winter and yesterday my lovely friend Conne drilled it for me, so now it's ready for a necklace. I immediately thought of some amber I've had for a while, and then -- oh, labradorite! Tsavorite (an earthy green) garnet! Bronzite! And some earthy-green pearls I got from Conne a few months ago!

I can feel I'm not in production mode at the moment, so I'll just play. I'm wondering whether to use silver or gold; I do want to wire-wrap the ammonite a bit to enhance (but not overpower) its natural beauty, but otherwise the piece will probably be fairly organic, with only slight metal accents. More pictures as this piece comes together.

14 June 2008

Presenting: Sonora Sunrise {sold!}

Anyone who loves gemstones will surely swoon over one of the industry's latest introductions, "Sonora Sunrise," a shockingly beautiful blend of chrysocolla and cuprite out of, you guessed it, Sonora, Mexico. I first laid eyes on this heavenly blend of firey red and electric teal at the workshop of Dean Crane and Conne Gibson, who had picked up a good bit of rough at February's Tucson gem show. Living a mere mile or so from these gifted AND friendly lapidarists, I wander into their shop every so often and never leave empty-handed. Or anything less than happily overwhelmed with gemstoney goodness. Sonora Sunrise is slowly making its way into high-end jewelry such as bolas, pendants, and brooches, but of what I've seen so far, Dean and Conne's large slide pendants and cabs most dramatically showcase this stone's beauty. They sell their pendants so quickly at shows that they can't even get pictures of them.

The night after I bought the piece in that necklace, I actually dreamed about the stone so, of course, I had to have more. I have a larger one for a necklace for my mom (she bought the stone, in the picture to the right, before it was even finished) and a midsize piece that will become a necklace for my travel showcase (along with the piece above) for shopping around to galleries. Dean and Conne said they totally sold out of their Sonora Sunrise pendants at the recent Bead & Button show but will be getting more rough soon, and not a moment too soon because I MUST have more. I have four or five pieces on my workbench now, and several more in production, so I'll be adding to the currently slim online inventory of finished Sonora Sunrise soon. I'll post more pictures of this beautiful stone soon.

26 May 2008

Tears of the ages

The merry month of May has been far crueler to me this year than April ever could be*, but I now have something beautiful to hold onto: my first lapidary pieces. Two Cranes' Dean and Conne have warmly welcomed me into their workshop, where I'm finding amazing solace in the repetitive, mechanical, yet creative work of shaping and polishing stone. These pieces are from some scraps of aurichalcite that Dean got from a local rock shop; although most aurichalcite appears as tiny, almost hair-like crystals on matrix, many specimens from the Kelly Mine just south of Magdalena, NM, have a botyroidal formation that looks like a solidified thick bubbly blue stew on one side (the crust) and is strikingly striated on the other. (Sorry; couldn't resist the alliteration.) I have more scraps of this and other stones in various stages of grinding and will continue to immerse myself in this new avocation as I figure out what on earth to do next.

(* a T.S. Eliot reference for the non-poetically inclined)

16 April 2008

Bangled up in blue

Here's an interesting wirewrapping technique I adapted from a tutorial I can't find now (I would like to reference it, of course): using 24-gauge sterling wire on a core of 16-gauge half-hard sterling wire, I wrapped high-grade lapis heishe and fancy Balinese silver rondelles around the edge of the bangle. This makes the bracelet sturdy enough to keep its shape, and it goes on and comes off easily with the integral hammered S-hook clasp. I've made several of these now, including one in mookaite and sterling, one in "African Jade" (actually a grossular garnet) and sterling, and one in black onyx and copper.

29 March 2008


One night, feeling the urge to try something new, I threw some sterling silver findings and just-finished jewelry in a stinky solution of Liver of Sulfur (an oxidizing agent), stirred it around for a while, pulled the mess out and rinsed it off, and stared at the dull grey pieces wondering what on earth I was thinking.... But then I started polishing and came up with this:

Now that's some cool transformation. It's entirely absorbing and meditative, too, to polish the pieces by hand... although I suspect that a Dremel or some such mechanized tool would speed along production of multiple pieces.

15 February 2008

A Modern Odyssey {sold!}

Perhaps in response to this long bleak winter, I've been drawn to bright colors lately... this bracelet (see more views in my Etsy shop) started out as a sober study in black and white and then, as I started rooting through some African trade beads I got last year, just exploded into living color! I will definitely make more of these, though they're sure to be one of a kind and I am already imagining many different color and texture combinations. My main challenge with this style is finding beads that fit onto leather cord... I'm trying to keep an organic feel to the pieces and leather is a natural starting point.

13 January 2008

Studio Makeover!

Well, it took a while, but I finally got my jewelry work area spruced up, turning it from this:

to this:

Yay me!! Now I can get back into creative production mode! I have many ideas brewing and finally have the space to work them out.... It helps to be able to find my tools and materials, too....

06 January 2008

I'm back

Welcome to my revamped jewelry blog -- I'm going through a divorce and have had to change my business name (since "Sanchez" was my married name), so I figured I'd make a fresh start here and on my Etsy shop.

I have only been working sporadically on my jewelry in the past few months; stress has shorted out my creativity, I suppose. Also, just before the divorce got nasty I was getting the knack for (and completely addicted to) stone grinding and polishing -- and then my ex took away the Dremel set he'd given me for my birthday. (Yep, he sucks.)

But I can feel the creative energy stirring; although I seem to spend most of my time at the workbench staring at the materials, once in a while something cool starts to assemble itself right in front of my eyes... so I know it's just a matter of time before something like this dragonfly necklace (of bone, three varieties of garnet, handmade glass, and other treasures from my stash), which I made last summer, appears on that black velvet workpad.