29 July 2009

Another Lapidary Day

Wednesday is now lapidary day, I hereby declare, at least until I finish some of the pieces I started last year. Here are six of the seven pieces that I finished today. From left to right: two pieces of Gaspeite (I may have to keep the bottom one; it is SO beautiful and even has some crystal quartz running through it); Nacozari (Mexico) turquoise (top) and No. 8 turquoise (bottom); and Kingman turquoise (top; I may also keep this piece!) and Bacamite (bottom). I also finished a small Lepidolite pendant, but girl child ran away with it... I guess that one stays here, too. Next week I hope to finish two chrysoprase pieces, a green aventurine drop, the fossil coral repair/reshape, and the red Sonora Sunrise pendant. They need a few extra steps and will totally be worth it.

One Small Step

We have had some intense electrical storms the past two days -- this afternoon I got to drive the kids up the mountain through a totally cool 360-degree lightning show -- so I wisely kept the computer off and have been occupying my time with various mosaic-related tasks and experiments. Basic tasks (power tools again - RAWR): drill holes through Hardibacker for hangers, and sand edges for a more finished look. But my most pressing task is to figure out how to make my own word tiles. The Sculpey tiles I made a few weeks ago worked okay but were fairly labor-intensive and probably are not durable enough for outdoor or heavy use. I'll save that technique for ceramics or Precious Metal Clay, which will be kiln-fired and thus truly durable.

So here's my current, affordable and time-efficient idea: print (or hand-write, for a really personal look) some words on paper, glue the paper to the back of a clear glass tile or shard with a clear-drying clue, shellac the paper side (once completely dry) to make it waterproof, and use the tile as I would any other glass fragment in my mosaic. Seems way too simple to really work, doesn't it? Well, I'll put these rough trials to the test later this week. The cool part is that I can make any words I want, on any paper I want, any time I want, essentially for free. Come to think of it, this technique might also work for photos, pressed flowers and leaves, fabric scraps, bugs...

My other main experiment tonight: making hand-wrought copper hooks for my key holders. I used 12-gauge copper wire from my dad's workbench (I'll replace it, I promise) and my metal hammer and bench block. This was a definite success; pictures at 11 (tomorrow, if my lapidary day doesn't wear me out). (What a life, huh?)

26 July 2009

Mosaics for Home Decor: Keyholders (in progress)

I now have an amazing selection of stained glass to work with and can finally *make* mosaics! These two pieces will be keyholders (they're finished except for key hooks, which I might make myself out of copper), and I think I'll do the same for the other small pieces I have in progress. All use Creekmore-Durham glass/copper focal pieces and stained glass; I'm trying to figure out whether and how to frame them simply so that they look a bit more finished. I started the heart piece (at right) today and hope to finish the background and grouting this week. For the really small glass pieces I used Superglue instead of Versa-Flex, and it worked well when I "drew" the spiral pattern in glue right on the Hardibacker and then laid on the pieces. How shall I grout this piece? I'm considering using the dark blue I got for the New Moon sign; it will blend in the blue background and really make the heart and spiral pop. Or should I use alabaster for a totally different look? We shall see.

22 July 2009

A Lapidary Day

I spent a good part of the day at the Two Cranes lapidary workshop today, where I expanded my skillset to include use of the lapidary saw and diamond-bit drill. I guess if I can use a table saw (YEAH I rock... but my 68-year-old mom who taught me rocks even more), a lapidary saw isn't much of a stretch, and in fact it was quite simple. Then I moved to the grinding wheels for shaping the pieces I'd cut; the hardness of the gemstones I was working with (pictured above; I'll detail them in a moment) varied quite widely, so some needed a good bit of time on the roughest wheel whereas others just needed a quick zip there to take off edges before moving to the next two wheels.

So, what I worked on today, from left: a repair on an agate pillar whose top had broken off; next row (top to bottom): a stunning red piece of Sonora Sunrise, and a piece of fossil coral that had lost an edge and needed reshaping to a single-hole pendant; next row: lepidolite, Calico Lake onyx (the tiny piece, much more interesting than this lame camera-phone pic shows), and Bacamite (the big piece on the bottom, a chrysocolla-cuprite blend from the local Kelly mine area); and green aventurine (the hardest to grind). (The stone way on the right is a piece of turquoise in matrix that keeps breaking apart as I work it, so I'll let that one go.) The next step on these will be sanding, to remove scratches and prepare for final polish. I have eight or so other stones at the sanding/polishing stage also and hope to finish everything in two weeks (finding a full day for anything is nearly impossible, but this is SO worth it!). I love how meditative lapidary is, and of course Conne and Dean are wonderful company.

Tomorrow: mosaics! A local friend *gave* me a huge load of glass left over from her stained glass work, which she has given up due to chronic illness. Thank you so much, Aleta; you have no idea (well, you probably do!) how much it means for me to be able to jump into this new venture with both feet. So a New Moon Gallery sign will surely begin taking shape this weekend... all these wonderful things in my life. I am SO grateful.

18 July 2009

Smithsonite Necklaces (Part 1)

Here's the Smithsonite I mentioned earlier, done up freeform into another woven-bail pendant (28-gauge on 24-gauge sterling wire). Sorry for the less-than-optimal photo; I took it at home in poor lighting because I just had to share this tonight. Dean (of Two Cranes) generously gifted this to me recently, perhaps because my eyes bugged out when I saw the amazing crystallization in the piece's center. These calcite crystals often grow in, on, or around Smithsonite, sometimes forming rosettes such as that in this piece (not very well shown here). I'll put this 1.5-inch pendant (yes, it's small) on a necklace of apatite, seed pearls, and small Thai silver cornerless cubes, perhaps with some multi-strand sections but otherwise fairly simple.

Dean has been bargaining for Smithsonite from Magdalena's old-timers, who now seem inclined to pull out at least a few samples from their "back-room collections" that most people never see. Smithsonite is a source of pride, secrecy, and family lore around here; generations-old specimens from the nearby Kelly mine comprise an important part of the mineralogical collection and are sometimes called "copper smithsonite" because their turquoise-blue coloration comes from, yes, copper. Other forms are purple, yellow, pink, or green depending on the minerals that "contaminate" the zinc carbonate (ZnCO3) base. The piece at right (another gift from Dean) shows this gemstone's globular formation that typically grows as a sort of crust on base rock. On this piece, which makes me think of a rain cloud, I'll do a different kind of freeform wirewrap, perhaps with small crystal quartz briolettes to evoke, what else, rain.

16 July 2009


I do so enjoy making these earrings: cut wire, file ends, shape, HAMMER, adjust shape. I hammer out in back of the gallery, and as an experiment I left my metal bench block in the sun for a few hours to see how the sterling silver would hammer on a hot versus a cold block. I loved the results; the hammering went more quickly and the surface was a bit smoother, though I'm still going for a somewhat "roughed-up" look. Friend and gallery associate Nicole has a pair like these that inspired me; I went with a thinner-gauge wire (18-gauge instead of 12- or 14-gauge) so these would fit in more ears and be lighter. So that's all for now. Tomorrow, however, I will show a diminutive but fascinating piece of Smithsonite that I'm wirewrapping into a pendant. Not just any wirewrapping...

14 July 2009

 I've made two more of these nameless-jasper (the "African turquoise" I wrote of a while back) pendants with the sterling silver basket-weave bail and like how they turned out. I kept them simple -- no crystal quartz briolettes this time -- and am thinking of putting them on simple necklaces of mixed-size glass beads with some combination of bronzite, smoky quartz, and jade accents. On the second piece (at left) I might unwrap the bottom swirls a bit to loosen up the look; I like how the first one came out. It's all about experimentation, which is a good bit of the fun in making anything. For these woven bails I used 22-gauge and 28-gauge sterling wire, which is a good combination but does require a fair-sized hole through the focal bead. I'm also trying a spine of 24-gauge wire in a new, entirely different sort of piece and it's working well... more on that one in a few days.

12 July 2009

Sold! (Wow!)

Yesterday was a great day at the gallery for all three of us; Conne sold a beautiful turquoise necklace and some other pieces, Nicole sold lots of tie-dyes, and I sold a necklace AND a mosaic along with several pairs of earrings. A local woman bought this mosaic -- I finished this and another one (my second and third pieces, officially) on Thursday evening and, despite feeling shy about them, went ahead and put them up for sale. Many thanks to Sara Creekmore and David Durham for the beautiful glass; I have many more pieces like these and will put them to good use soon. I figured out a pretty cool process for making letter tiles without a kiln: I formed some Sculpey "boards" and gave them a wood texture by rolling a small twig over them, baked them, then carved the words into them with a Dremel. I used acrylic paint, which took a bit of a beating during grouting but was easy to touch up. Eventually I do want to do letter/word tiles in ceramic or precious metal clay, but this will work for now. A kiln is a long way off, logistically speaking; books for school and clothes for the kids do need to come first, for now.

Now that I've sold this piece, of course, I have a space to fill in my gallery. Ah, gee, that's too bad... ;-)

05 July 2009

"She Gathers Rain"

Okay, I'll be brave and show this: my first mosaic ever, made in Laura Robbins' Placitas, NM studio on May 16 of this year. My critique: the composition isn't great (I was rushed to finish it, and am definitely a novice), but it's an interesting start AND (most importantly) was just a blast to make. It was a good day for me overall -- a sort of rebalancing since May 16 now marks my college graduation (Penn 1988, summa cum laude thankyouverymuch), marriage anniversary (1998; it lasted 9.5 years, most of them very rough), and huge divorce case setback (2008; my relocation bid to take a GREAT job back in Philly was denied, leaving me with no income prospects beyond, say, Walmart). This day evened the score, so to speak.

The theme is actually an old one for me; the song "She Gathers Rain" by Collective Soul came out in 1995 just as I was breaking up with my then-boyfriend... now ex-husband... and the themes of cleansing and starting anew apply so much more now than they did then. (If I'd known then what I know now...) Rain imagery comes out often in my jewelry and takes up a good third of my mosaic sketchbook, so I consciously chose this theme for my first mosaic. I haven't finished any mosaics since then (materials shortage; bills come first, dangit), but I have several in progress. In fact, I am about to start shaping gemstone scraps for a "personal mandala" mosaic that also includes some beautiful glass pieces generously given to me by Sara Creekmore and David Durham, who live just up the mountain. This image shows the glass pieces (mortared into place on the Hardibacker), a sketch of what's to come (rain, water, reeds; kind of a circle of water thing), and the "fringe" of copper and glass beads. That last part... well, what did you expect?

04 July 2009

My next (ad)venture

... will be something along these lines:

I've had the idea to create gemstone mosaics for a while; the lightbulb went on above my head one day early this year while rooting through some of Dean and Conne's gemstone scraps for lapidary possibilities. I am getting pretty good at working stone, and I love mosaics... now I just need to find the time to put these two obsessions together. The ideas have been no problem; I've already filled up half of a notebook with sketches and notes. I also now have the Hardibacker, Versabond, and grout waiting down at my studio. I've started picking out turquoise and other scraps from a 5-gallon bucket Dean brought me one day, and am even marking some (Sharpies work well for this) for shaping at the lapidary wheels as I "sketch" out a pattern on an 8-by-8 inch piece of Hardibacker.

This, I know, will be very, very cool. I can't wait to get started, and to start posting pictures of the process.