Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Time for the snow to go . . .

. . . or is it? We've had a few mild days recently which have prompted me to remove the snow "effect" from my blog. In fact, it's 60 degrees here in Central Illinois this afternoon and the sun is shining. In honor of the spring bulbs which will soon be poking their little heads up out of the dirt I've created a necklace which is listed in my Etsy shop.
Like the St. Paddy's day widget above? I would love for it to fit in one of the sidebars but I've already spent way too much time looking for one. For those of you less lazy there are whole St. Patrick's Day themes out there for your blog.

How do you celebrate? Or do you? We like to do the corned beef and cabbage thing, homemade Irish soda bread (without the currants or raisins!) and green beer. And, whoa, I might have to put the snow back since I'm remembering many midwestern St. Pat's celebrations IN THE SNOW!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Jewelry Challenge - Project 4

This is my version of Project 4 of Deryn Mentock's jewelry challenge based on Mary Hettmansperger's book, Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet. I have been collecting watch parts for several years and have recently started incorporating them in my jewelry. For this project I didn't use the Liver of Sulphur nor did I stitch -- I riveted. The background piece is heat-treated German silver, the front piece is hammered sterling.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Payin' It Forward

For anyone out there who doesn't know, "Paying it Forward" is a movement to do something nice for another without expectation of any payback. When my husband and I were traveling last New Year's Eve we were driving on the Illinois Toll Road system and stopped at the last toll booth to pay our dollar. Much to our surprise, the toll collector said "The person in front of you paid your toll. Happy New Year!" How cool is that?

Recently I noticed an item listed on as a "PIF." Upon reading the listing I saw that the item was offered at a nominal price, a much lower cost than you would expect to pay for this item typically. All that was asked of the buyer is that he or she then take the opportunity to "Pay it Forward" as well, thus hopefully creating a chain of random acts of kindness.

Upon searcing the Etsy site for "PIFs," I found MANY such offerings and decided to participate. I listed a batch of earrings at $.20 per pair to cover the cost of the Etsy listing fee. Those earrings were gone like a shot! Today I'm in the process of posting more - here's a photo of what I've done so far

One of my buyers purchased a pair of the pearl PIF earrings for her sister then emailed me that she would like to PIF by sending me one of her fused glass pendants. Karma!

The only change is that this time I've had to raise the price slightly to cover Etsy's and Paypal's fees. Etsy charges a listing fee and also takes a commission on each sale; Paypal charges a percentage of the entire transaction, taxes and shipping included, plus a $.30 fee per transaction. I've stated in the listings that my gift is my time and materials. Sound good? Check out Etsy -- search on PIF to see what's out there!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Prize

Here's a quick photo of the One World, One Heart prize I'm sending out:

Contents include pearls, blister pearls, seed beads, Swarovski crystal, jasper, ceramic, Czech glass, aventurine, hematite, Bali silver, horn, porcelain, lampwork, Green Girl pewter and my handmade copper bezel. Thanks to all who participated!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And the winner is . . .

Cindy at Congrats, Cindy, you are going to receive the mystery packet of beads and one of my handmade bezels. I'll post a photo of the "prize" just as soon as I can take one!

Cindy's comment on my One World, One Heart post was number 151, chosen by:

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:151
Timestamp: 2009-02-12 10:23:20 UTC

Thanks to everyone involved!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One World, One Heart UPDATE

Well, new and old friends, the end is near. Comments on my previous OWOH post will be accepted only until 12:00 a.m., that's midnight, on Wednesday, February 11, 2009. And that's midnight in the USA, central time zone (think Chicago). The winner of the fabulous mystery prize will be chosen by use of a random number generator on Thursday, February 12th. The winner will be notified as close to immediately as possible and will be given three days to respond with a mailing address. If there is no response within the three days a new winner will be chosen. Still need to leave a comment? Leave it on that post only please or you won't be included in the drawing.

And now on to another topic. Our lovely friend and caretaker of our Florida home, Andrew, has sent photos to show us how our landscaping is behaving in our absence. There are definitely some turf problems. I say "turf" with a smirk on my face since those pokey green things that stick up from the dirt are about as far from grass as a Milky Way is from real chocolate.

The putting green aside, we're happy with most of the rest. In the following photos please note the bouganvillea that is eating the house as well as the two potted robellini palms by the pool that have never looked better. But the biggest surprise of all -- our recycling of the holiday pointsettia of 2007 -- has yielded wonderful results!

Looking forward to my spring break visit . . .

Monday, February 9, 2009

Before I forget . . .

. . I've added a few new items to my Etsy shop today. Have a look and then send the link to your friends!

It took a while but I finally got my act together and got out the camera and now I can talk about the casting class I'm taking. It is the lost wax casting method and for the many who have never heard of this, here's my story.

First you get a chunk of carving wax. The one I started with looked pretty much like this:

You can get carving wax in a variety of colors but these choices are not for esthetics -- each color has different properties of flexibility and melting temperatures. The purple one was recommended to me by my instructor as the best one for the items I planned to make. Next is a photo of what a carved item might look like.

Before it can be cast, however, there are couple more steps needed. The first is to take tiny tubes of wax (they come in a vast variety of diameters) and attach them to your carved piece much like the trunk (and possibly some branches) of a tree. That is the wax that will serve as the "sprue," the pathway the molten metal will travel to get to your mold. You'll see evidence of this in just a minute.

Here's what sprue wax looks like:
So after the sprue is attached to the carved piece the entire creation is attached to the bottom piece of a flask. There is a little raised bump in the bottom which will serve as the opening through which the molten metal will be poured. The rest of the flask is just like a small can with no top or bottom; the bottom piece snaps onto the "can" after you've attached your wax structure.

Next you have to mix and pour the "investment." Investment is a mixture of gypsum and silica in a white powder form. It looks alot like plaster of paris. It is mixed with distilled water at a specific ratio and has a very short working time. When it is mixed to the correct consistency it is poured into the open end of the flask completely encompassing the wax item. The flask is then set aside for a short time to enable the investment to set up. When the investment is set, the flask is put into a kiln for several hours during which the wax carving and sprue structure melts away. Where does it go? I don't know, I forgot to ask.

After the flask comes out of the kiln all the wax has been melted away and has left a cavity, or mold, of the carving and sprue inside the hardened investment. The flask is then turned upside down and positioned over a small hole on the top of a special kind of vacuum. Meanwhile the metal of choice is being melted in a crucible:

For our purposes we could use gold, sterling silver, argentium, bronze or brass. I chose to use a mix of copper and sterling silver known as Shibuichi. I didn't have to purchase the metal (a savings) because I had plenty of scrap to work with.

When the metal has melted completely, the vacuum is switched on and the metal is poured into the opening in what was the bottom of the flask but is now on top. The vacuum helps to suck the metal into all the open spaces in the investment mold. The flask is set aside to cool for a while. The still hot flask is picked up with long tongs and slowly lowered into a 5-gallon bucket of water. It sizzles and bubbles and the investment begins to break up and dissolve. After it is all dissolved, your hardened metal piece is left. Here's what my two pieces looked like: You can now easily see the structure of the wax button and sprue which have been filled with metal. Now comes the clean up. The sprue and button have to be removed from the piece. I did this with a jeweler's saw. Any little bits of unwanted metal can be filed or ground away and then the piece is polished. In this case I have also oxidized the pieces with Liver of Sulphur and here they are:

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results. We have four weeks of class left so stay tuned to see what else I come up with!

For a much more in depth explanation with really GREAT photos, check out this blog:

Monday, February 2, 2009

One World - One Heart


Lisa Swifka is hosting One World-One Heart on her blog for the third year. Active bloggers from the international community are invited to join in by offering a giveaway on their blogs in the spirit of friendship. Even if you don't currently have a blog you are still welcome to leave a comment for the giveaway. It's a wonderful opportunity to "meet" and connect with other bloggers.

I will be giving away a "mystery" collection of gemstone beads, Bali silver, pearls and one of my handmade mixed media bezels from my Etsy shop.

All you have to do is leave a comment ON THIS POST ONLY with your email address and a link to your blog. The winning name will be drawn from my very best hat on February 12th and notified via email. If you're not into the type of items I'm offering, check out all the links on Lisa's One World-One Heart blog and you may be surprised at what else you can find!

Please remember to add your comment to this post only by midnight on February 11th.