I am busy preparing for the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival coming up this weekend and I noticed I had never photographed some rings I recently finished. Designing rings has turned out to be a joyous endeavor. I find that rings are much more three dimensional than other jewelry. I don’t just mean that they wrap around your finger. If you ignore the shank and just think about some item hovering over the top face of your finger the designs that come to mind are quite different than thinking of an element against the chest or dangling from the ear. It has been creatively invigorating to make rings in a way I never expected. There are so many possibilities for movement and so many tiny considerations that make a ring interesting. The kinds of questions that I ask when I sit down to start a new ring are: what shape should the shank be, how wide, should it have texture, should both sides of the shank have texture, should they be the same or not, should they match the top element. Of course I also have a theme in mind for the project like a leaf or a flower or a bowl shape. The idea can evoke a mood or a feeling. For the ring above I wanted something green, something that felt like walking in the forest. The idea I wanted to bring to the fore was about calmness and peace.
Here is my second entry for the Flickr Four a Month group. The photo above shows my fine silver butterfly. This butterfly, which could be a moth if you like, was inspired by the way butterfly wings reflect the light when you look at them at just the right angle. I used a crushed silk textured wallpaper sample to create the wings. I love the way the wings stand out from the body on this one. It feels as if the creature is fanning his wings and is about to take off.
Near the end of the year in 2011 sterling silver metal clay was introduced. I have been working with fine silver metal clay for some time now and love it. I wondered how the sterling version would behave so I purchased some. I have made just one piece with sterling PMC. The photo above shows the new ring “Zen Gazing Disc Ring”. The design was somewhat inspired by a ring I made a long time ago entitled “Portable Zen Rock Garden”. The differences between the two rings are vast. This new ring has a larger focal element. Sterling is stronger when work hardened than fine silver so I was able to make this ring shank quite thin. The original ring has a pleasing weighty feel however and there are certainly pros and cons to both fine silver and sterling. The sterling clay behaved for me the way I hoped it would, a lot like fine silver clay does. The only challenge I encountered making this ring regards shrinkage of the piece during firing. The stated shrinkage is higher than that of PMC3 and others have reported that rings lost about 3 sizes. I made this ring 3 sizes too large for my middle finger. After firing it does not fit on my middle or ring finger and it measures almost 4 sizes smaller than the dry piece had prior to firing. I will have to take this into account when I design future rings.
On another subject, I have joined a group on Flickr this year entitled Four a Month and it is moderated by the fantastic and creative Lora Hart. I am posting my first four pieces starting today and continuing over the next few days. The idea behind the group is that the four pieces we make and post each month will all have a theme or unifying element about them. Lora has allowed for a great deal of freedom regarding what can qualify as a foursome. For my first set I chose butterflies. Below you will find a monarch inspired butterfly in fine silver with a necklace bail in the body of the butterfly. I have made a couple of other butterflies like it in the last year and they have been extremely warmly received. I do adore everything butterflies stand for, metamorphosis, grace, beauty, flight, rising above ones limitations to name a few. One woman told me she believes butterflies are the embodiment of the spirits of our lost loved ones. All four of the butterflies are made and finished at this point. I am working with some new photography equipment and software and two of the four will require me to spend more time with this new equipment so that I can produce nice photos. The next four pieces will be based on the four seasons theme and I have already made those as well. After those I will be presenting a series of four pieces based on box structures. I have made three of the four and the remaining piece, a ring with a stone set in it, remains as greenware tidbits on my bench.
I just completed two new rings. The one pictured above is entitled Double Blossom and is part hand sculpted and part cut out and domed. The ring is entirely fine silver with a wire shank and all of the floral component made from metal clay. The original design was to use the domed element to nestle a pearl. As I was assembling the ring it did not look the way I wanted sitting on top of the little pad the wire shank was embedded in, the flower was too small on top of the pad. Perhaps I mean that the pad had too much visual weight. I also felt that embedding wire for the pearl to mount on was going to make the cupped flower sit high in an unattractive way and perhaps add further visual weight to the pad underneath. So, on the fly I sculpted the little pointed petals and eliminated the pearl from the design, giving the flower a simple and much smaller ball center. I love this ring a lot and would not be considering selling it except the shank is about a whole size too large for my index finger.
The ring below was begun in march. The shank was fired flat and shaped and then I got busy with other things and set it aside. I had at that time no firm design for the top of the ring and a long list of things I did know exactly how I wanted to make. So, in preparing for this Park Forest Art Fair I determined that making some rings would be warranted. I looked at my small pile of started projects and saw this shank. It had started to take on some patina from sitting in my studio unprotected and unloved while I made batch after batch of liver of sulfur solution. The shank looked lovely to be truthful! So as I prepared for this upcoming fair I let the idea of this shank and its unknown top element roll around in my head for a few days. I had just ordered some small nephrite jade stones and felt one would not be out of place in a chinese inspired work and that really got the the ideas flowing. I found a photo of some chinese dogwood blossoms and felt strongly attracted to them. As many of you know, I make a number of pieces with american dogwood blossoms as focal elements, in part because they were my Mother’s favorite flower. This blossom is very abstracted as it is all of one piece and has chinese calligraphy over its surface. The piece turned out well in my opinion. I got to use a little tip I saw Lora Hart mention recently when setting the stone. After I had used my bezel pusher I felt the very top edge of the bezel still had a tiny gap around the stone. She had mentioned using a chop stick to push very hard on the wire. This technique decreases the chance of harming a stone while finishing up the setting. It worked like a charm. Thank you Lora!
I took some nicer pictures of the Open Box with Flower Necklace today. The previous shot that I posted was done in a rush and I was not completely satisfied with the quality of the photo. Today I took this necklace down to the Peoria Art Guild to submit it for the member’s show they will be having starting next week. The show has an opening reception on the 8th and runs through sometime in August.
I have been doing quite a bit with viking knit over the past few days and I am almost ready to order a whole lot of sterling wire to make a new style of viking knit bracelet and possibly a larger piece.
This is my 15th ring of the year for the ring a week challenge on Flickr. I am quite behind at the moment but after this weekend I get a bit of a chance to catch up. This ring was inspired by the events that surround the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan. The ring has had lots of time to rest at every stage of creation. It finally came together yesterday when I had a chance to rivet the pieces together. I love it dearly. It contains a bead that was hand lampworked by Ellen Dooley. The rest of the ring is fine silver. It is quite comfortable to wear and fits a size 7 nicely. In this shot perhaps you cannot see the deeply fluted exterior of the bowl the bead nestles into. It was inspired by the birdbaths and fountains I see in my walks and trips around town here. The interior of the bowl is textured with my own fingerprints as I loved the look, it reminds me of ripples on water. The bead cap has a dot pattern that I have used quite a bit and I chose it as it reminds me of foam on waves. The shank is the earth.
Leaf and Twig Box in greenware state
I am finishing up my preparations for the Peoria Heights Art Fair this Saturday. The pendant pictured above is unfired and almost ready to go into the kiln. It gets to take that trip solo as I already fired a whole batch of other things two days ago when this piece was just two leafy pieces. The hole with the wire jutting up through it is going to be the seat of a lovely pearl. This piece sees my metal clay stash diminished to about 5 grams. I made the bail and its stem from clay that had been cut away from other projects and saved. I keep this package of clay that is labeled “used” and if I need something that is textured but not a lot else is done with it then it usually works just the same as brand new clay.
I suspect this box will be ready late enough at night that I might not be able to show you pictures before tomorrow morning. I hope to see some of you tomorrow at Tower Park. Keep your fingers crossed for weather like we are having right now!
Fine silver and pearl Lily Ring
I have so enjoyed the two lily pad rings I made that I am continuing to explore making more flower and pearl rings. This ring began as a piece to attach to the heart of the previous ring. The flower looked too big to suit. After playing around with a number of ideas I settled on a more simple idea, that of the calix of the flower being the attachment point for the ring shank. I had previously made the little disk at the base of the flower for another purpose and it happened to be sitting on my bench when I began piecing together this ring. it looked perfect for the job of supporting the flower. The construction of the ring is from a series of items. There is heavy gauge fine silver wire for the shank which is embedded into a slightly cone shaped piece of silver clay. After the embed clay dries, the fluted disk is attached to the top of the embed pad. The attachment is reinforced and perfected. Then the flower, which was already dried on a form, has a hole drilled in the base. A short length of 20 gauge fine silver wire is bent over at one end. This wire is sandwiched between the flower and the disk and then travels up through the drilled hole. A bit of syringe clay is used to anchor the whole affair together. The joins are reinforced and perfected (in these sorts of tight spaces this is a very dainty task). After the assembled ring is fired and the finish work is done a pearl is attached to the 20 gauge wire. The patina on the petals and underside of the flower echos tones in the pearl.
I am preparing for an art fair in Elmhurst Illinois this weekend, the Art in the Park fair at Wilder Park, and am busy as can be finishing up a whole bevy of pieces. I have another ring to post here on this blog shortly. This next ring is not a part of the flower and pearl series. It is a ring that I made ages ago and was not quite satisfied. I will tell more about that when I post it in a little while.
I have decided to embark on making one ring a week for the entire year of 2011. There is a flickr group devoted to the Ring a Week project. If you are not familiar with this idea, last year a group of jewelers committed to making one ring a day all year. This group was called Ring a Day (or RAD for short) and has gained quite a bit of notice, Lark is publishing a book highlighting the works and the SNAG conference is (or already did I am not sure) having an exhibit of some of the rings from this project. I felt this was way more than I could do last year but one a week seems doable. I have only a little experience making rings so the challenge will be an avenue for growth, both as an artist and as inspiration for other work. Not to mention how much inspiration one can derive from looking at all the rings other people post. I posted my first piece to the group and already there are three pages on flickr of rings people have made this week!
Santa rewarded me with a new camera and I have spent the last few days learning about using it. I have spent some time researching macro photography and product photography as my first photos were not acceptable. I feel sure I have so much more to learn but here is my first photo using the new camera. The ring below is posted on flickr and is fine silver. The shank was made using wire on a finger shaped mandrel. I adore this shape for a ring shank. It is sort of like a cushioned square with one side being slightly narrower than the opposite side. The effect is that it is easier to put on, more comfortable to wear and has less tendency to slide sideways.