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.
I have a couple of truly unbelievable items in my kiln right now and since it is hard to photograph things that are glowing hot I thought I would show you these earrings inspired by ocean waves lapping the beach. They are fine silver box earrings with argentium sterling silver wires and cultured pearls. You can see them in person at the Art on the Promenade this weekend in East Peoria. The fair is a new one and is being held from 10 to 5 both days at the new Target complex. I believe there will be about 40 artists there and I feel honored to be among such fantastic company so come check the fair out and see all of the new stuff going on in that part of East Peoria. The new clock tower building looks almost finished.
Many of you have seen and admired the butterflies I have been making. A customer wondered if I could make a dragonfly and certainly they are beautiful insects that capture our imagination. I have made three so far. The photo above is the largest of the three. I am very pleased with the result. This is a super busy time for me what with my son being home for the summer and art fair season being in full swing. I have made so many pieces that have sold before I had a moment to photograph them! I took a few shots this morning. Below is another butterfly with a sleek body and head.
I recently had some photos taken by a professional photographer, Kevin May, who lives here in Peoria. I was overawed at his setup and enjoyed a chance to see how he went about everything. Hopefully I can use some of what I learned to take better photos for this blog.
This ring is fine silver with a purple CZ set in a tube. I learned quite a bit from creating the tube setting from metal clay. The stone sits ever so slightly off from level post firing. I do not believe the angle of the stone is all that noticeable but I am after all a perfectionist. I have no good ideas about how to prevent another stone from shifting during firing. The setting involves two metal clay tubes of different diameter. After both tubes were perfected I sanded the bottom edges into a slight curve so that they would sit nicely onto the curved ring band. The inner tube acts as a seat for the stone and the outer stone captures the stone. I sanded the top edge of the outer tube to bevel it so that after firing I could press it down a bit to create a neat look.
The ring size shrank quite a bit so I sanded out the edges of the box to make them flush with the inner band, which is a design change and which gained the ring over a whole size. I was shooting for size 7 so I had cut the sides as a size 9 and then after drying and sanding smooth they were about a size 9.25 so I was very happy with this but post firing they fitted my sizing mandrel as a size 5. Metal clay shrinks in strange ways sometimes when you build boxes. After sanding flush the ring is a 6. The shape of the ring would make it difficult to beat on a mandrel to make it any larger but in theory the ring could be stretched but I do not plan to try. I am thinking about using ring plugs more often since I have had several rings shrink well past the size I had planned.
This photo is also taken by Kevin May. I have created a series of 4 pieces with a seasonal theme. This piece is winter and depicts a naked tree in a stark winter nighttime landscape. I applied patina to the night sky and some of the solution may have crept under the stones which makes them look cloudy. I am not sure how to remove the residue without damaging the patina. So this piece is not ready for sale until I work out how the stones can look sparkly and the background can look dark at the same time.
I have many more photos to work with now and am quite excited to post them over the coming weeks. If any of you are interested in Kevin’s photography here is his blog. He is quite well rounded, having done a lot of work for Caterpillar and also landscapes and macro photography.
Here is my third entry for the Four a Month Flickr group. This butterfly is less naturalistic, with a floral pattern. The last butterfly piece is a pair or earrings. The photo for those will be posted tomorrow. Then I will begin posting photos of the 4 seasons pieces. It does feel strange today to post photos of summertime creatures with snow on the ground here. We have had a very mild winter and I am thankful for that. Happy Valentine’s day everyone!
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!
Here are two pieces out of many that I have finished recently. I am busy as a bee getting ready for the Washington Fine Arts Fair this weekend. Above is a smaller diameter viking knit bracelet I have been developing. I make quite a number of these in copper due to the very low cost of the copper wire and then when I am certain how many feet of what gauge wire I want to use I make them in silver. This bracelet has metal clay based caps and toggle clasp. The hand lampworked glass bead is by Ellen Dooley and includes fine silver dots strung on the surface. Below is a butterfly pendant I made a couple of weeks ago or so and had not had time to photograph until now. It came out with a lovely patina very reminiscent of a monarch butterfly and I am so pleased. A few people have seen it and the response has been very positive. Butterflies really capture people’s imagination. I hope to get time to work on more butterfly related projects. Still on my bench today are a floral and leaf pendant and an Egyptian hieroglyphics pendant entitled Cracked Tablet. There is a decent chance that both of those could be with me at Washington. I hope to see many of you there!