jewelry, metalsmithing, self care

18g earrings back in. Reconsidering metalsmithing. Procrastination or overwork (I’m not sure which).

Not much of note has happened in my life, recently. I did, last night, put in my 18 gauge earrings, which are basically circles of surgical steel wire. Because they’re so thin, they tend to deform rather than accept the (tiny) bead that is supposed to help them close. I realized last night that I didn’t actually need the bead for something this small, and just threaded them in and pinched them so that they wouldn’t fall out. I should have about six weeks before I know for a fact that I can increase the gauge. So I can go up to 16g on the 25th of August, or later; assuming I don’t take the 18g rings out, until then.

A long time ago, I did think it was OK to “gauge up” early (given that I’ve gone up and down in gauge ever since I was first pierced), but at this point I’m more reserved about it. For some reason, the piercings aren’t at the same level of looseness or tightness all the time…sometimes a scar will tighten for no foreseeable reason. When that happens, the piercing is fragile and vulnerable to microtears, which can lead to oozing or bleeding. That can further damage the piercing, if shards of dried fluid are pulled through when the ring is loosened. The last time that happened to me, I realized I had to take the larger wire out and put in a thinner one, so I wouldn’t inadvertently heal in a deformation. Then I had to wait for the piercing to heal sufficiently.

I’ve read to treat an expanded piercing just like a new one, but I think (at this point) that these two states aren’t exactly the same. If I had, for example, soaked the piercing in salt water twice a day before attempting to loosen the ring (as is recommended for fresh piercings, though that’s not medical advice), I wouldn’t have dragged dried blood through a tender site (which caused the pain that caused me to realize I had a microtear. I’m still not sure, however, whether it tore before and I didn’t notice it, or whether it tore when I felt the pain). Having had the piercings the first time was not really similar to letting them shrink down, and then re-opening them later. Had I not started at 14g (and then never gone above that), gauging up really might have been more similar to having a new piercing.

Also, the piercings I’m talking about are just basic earlobe piercings, not cartilage or body-type things. Because it’s easy for employers here to discriminate in hiring based on the number of piercings they can see on a person…there are reasons not to have too many.

Yesterday, I had the chance to wear earrings with standard posts, again: they were basically studs shaped like flowers. I had the misfortune of almost losing one…which meant that I had to pick up an earnut off the floor, then wash my hands, then wash my ear, then wash the earring…though the positive thing is, I realized I wasn’t too attached to it.

In contrast…my biggest hesitation about expanding my piercings has had to do with commitment. As for why it is that I keep taking my larger-gauge jewelry out, I think it has been because I wanted to wear the jewelry I had made before, which mostly has earwires between 22g and 18g. I also haven’t wanted my piercings to migrate because of using too fine a gauge in too large a piercing (though I’m not sure that would even happen). There’s nothing else I can think of which would be a reason.

It would probably be an easier decision for me if I were not a beadworker. To make jewelry for large-gauge piercings, I would basically need to move into metalsmithing. It’s not like it would be difficult, at least to make something like a ring, or a tunnel or plug (if I could find safe silicone o-rings). However…if I were to make anything more major, I’d be dealing with forging, and I’m not sure I have a torch strong enough to work with thick, solid metal.

I also only have the ability right now to work in silver, brass, or copper; most of the large-gauge jewelry I have, in contrast, is surgical steel. Moving into that means moving into blacksmithing. The addition of iron makes the process of forging…different. And I don’t know how to do it.

However, there are at least two or three local places that I know of (Silvera Jewelry School, the Richmond Art Center, and The Crucible), in which I could use more powerful torches than I have access to, here. I would basically have to drop into a lab, though.

Or, I could just resign myself (for now), to buying earrings, and using beadwork skills for necklaces and bracelets or anklets.

Not that I’ve made much jewelry at all, recently; I’ve been focused on lace. It is trying to devote time to this, however, where I have other things to be doing (for now), which are more important: like preparing for job interviews or searching for openings or building my LinkedIn account. However…the difficulty I’m having in taking time out for myself, somewhat indicates to me that I need to do it. I opted to write here tonight, instead of working on the lace…because for some reason (having been an English major) it seems less of a waste of time to write a blog post than it is to knot lace.

I know I could be working on my course, but the internet has been in and out all day. Besides…I’m getting tired of these courses, especially since I realize now that Cataloging is difficult for me. I know I probably should be working on my current course (or checking work in my past courses), but the thing is, “should” is a word that I’ve been trying to work out of my system, since I realized how much it was damaging me as a youth. (I was a severe overachiever, although that may be why I’m in the position I am [in regard to career prospects, and my relative lack of development in non-academic areas], now.)

Yeah, maybe I do need to stop working as hard as I can, as much as I can, just because I have a commitment or because I always expect more of myself. It’s interesting to take a vacation and then get back to work, and realize how much you appreciated not having to do it…

I also want to get back to my JavaScript course. How badly I want to get back to it? I’m not sure at this point. But I also want to get back to just basic coding. I just need to find something to build a site around…and, for now, to find the time to keep educating myself via the one serious book I’ve recently purchased. The reason I haven’t gotten back to it…is largely because I’m anxious about installing new programs on my machine. It’s always a risk, and usually a risk I don’t like to take. I do have ways of checking things; the entire process is just stressful.

beading, craft, design, jewelry

Am I doing too much?

While I had thought I would not go the the recent bead show, my folks insisted. This is largely because after having visited General Bead, I started looking again at the Garden of Beadin’s website, to see what I was missing. Unfortunately, that website was not entirely functional for me (which is the reason I’m not linking it), so we went to the bead show to pick up a paper catalog, in person.

That…was a good thing. The paper catalog is much easier to navigate than the website, and it’s possible to buy things without submitting any sensitive information. I also happened to find a table run by the daughter of the person who runs the store, Beads On Main — the latter of which, I recognized from the old Oakland bead shows.

So…because I hadn’t been through the entire show yet, I didn’t realize that she was one of the only vendors there who focused on multiple-hole beads. If I had a clearer idea of the entire convention, like if I had been there for more than a couple of hours, I probably would have bought more from her. As it was, I was trying to conserve my funds (in case there was something which I really wanted, and couldn’t otherwise obtain).

For better or worse, I did end up purchasing three little cabochons…for which, I will need to either make metal or bead settings. I spent some time going through these undrilled things that I’ve collected over the years…what stands out to me is the fact that the cabochons I’ve bought which were from beading suppliers are less regular in their shoulders (and backs) than the ones I’ve bought from jewelry (that is, metalsmithing) suppliers.

The “shoulder” of a cabochon is the transition zone between the edge of the cabochon and top of the cabochon. In an ideal piece, the shoulder would be present, and the same height all the way around, making it easy to roll a bezel wire over the edge. I didn’t know this when I picked up a couple of fused dichroic glass cabs (probably more than a decade ago); and obviously, neither did those who made the cabs I’m talking about.

In some areas, the shoulders in these pieces are much higher than in others, meaning that these cabs require special (looped) settings. I wouldn’t have been able to tell this, however, without using a caliper to go all the way around the edges. With a caliper, the difference between professional-grade stone cutting, and everything else, is obvious.

I do know now, however, which cabs to prioritize for bead settings: the ones with low or no shoulder, and the ones with irregular shoulders. These can be used in bead-embroidered settings. The thing that’s stopping me from using them right now is the fact that bead embroidery implies the use of adhesive to hold the cab in place while it’s being sewn in.

I do have adhesive that I believe will work; the thing is, I hate to glue anything if I don’t have to. (This is largely because I was cautioned away from it in Metalsmithing classes; it requires more work than glue to set a stone securely.) Also, my two strongest adhesives (E-6000, and G-S Hypo Cement) are both toxic before they cure, which is a deterrent to my using them.

I also know that there are some cabs (like jaspers and agates) which would probably look nicer in metal, to preserve as much of the front display area as possible. The only drawback to working with metal is the fact that I have to use fire with it (innately hazardous), unless I go for cold connections and wire wrapping or wire weaving, which I’m not planning on doing. It’s way too easy to chip a stone, or break a wire.

It’s not the end of the world to break a wire, it’s just frustrating. Keeping the wire supple and un-kinked throughout the weaving process requires a dowel (or pen) and awl, at least. I’ve just done enough of it to know how it ends up looking, and how tough it can be. Using fire might actually be easier.

I’m also a relative newcomer to designing metal components. I’ve done it before, it’s just that it’s an entirely different workflow than working with beads, so I’m not used to it. There is a lot more room for innovative design when you’re cutting all the pieces out of metal sheet and wire, rather than fitting together small pre-made components.

I’m thinking that my major challenge will be figuring out how to integrate beadwork and metalsmithing. I know it can work, I’ve done it before. I haven’t, however, seen too many other people doing it, likely because the skills are things you actually need classes or apprenticeships to learn. I do know of places where people can learn, and I’ve seen beadworkers using torches…but handheld butane torches are pretty much not comparable to acetylene (which is what I used in class). I haven’t yet tried propane.

Anyhow…since that time, a class I’m taking has kicked in, and I’ve been dealing with work stuff. A lot of the time since the weekend, I’ve just been studying about situations I’d need to deal with if I were a Librarian. This is compounded by the fact that I did take a Civil Service test for the latter position, and didn’t score too poorly on it…I really need to keep applying, though.

Right now…I have also gotten a book on basic beadweaving stitches, which includes St. Petersburg and Chenille stitches. I am not practiced on either of the latter, so I’ve been wanting to get into it. Why I haven’t, I’m not sure, except for the fact that I’m fatigued…I guess from work, the job search, the research for the job, and this class.

When I put it like that, it looks reasonable…

ceramics, planning

One more dream…

…and that is the thought of making my own ceramic beads.  I caught wind of a group of artists running some site with multiple kilns, nearby; I can’t remember the name of it, though.  I might be able to find them on a search…or by looking back through my bookmarks.  Originally I noted them for M’s benefit, but M wasn’t interested.  I might be able to gain this group’s help if I wanted to experiment with ceramic beads and glazes.

Before I get into the latter part of this, I want to be clear:  at this point, this is all stuff I’m just going through in my head.  I am in no way here intending to ask for money!  I’m just trying to think things through in writing.

If the start-up costs of making ceramic beads weren’t so high (this is majorly for the kiln — kilns start out being expensive and only get more expensive), I’d really be more gung-ho about working this out myself.  I’m thinking that the costs of overhead may ramp up, though.  So we are slowly collecting tools useful for jewelry and wirework, depending on classes and projects.  What I can see which would be useful, which we don’t yet have, are:

  • Flat-nose pliers (easy buy — $7-$40)
  • Tumbler ($100-$200)
  • Large-flame torch — probably Butane, at this point ($50-$60) — but this can upgrade and easily get much more expensive, if I get more serious
  • Bracelet, ring, and ear cuff mandrels ($30-$50, $25, $40)
  • Liver of Sulfur (inexpensive)

These would allow me to move into territory like filigree; polish and work-harden metal, and patinate metals.

If I obtained a small kiln useful for PMC and enameling (I think there are some which are like this), I would have the equipment to create enameled jewelry and Metal Clay pieces.  If I combined filigree with enamel, there we have Cloisonne.

Of course, there are likely other hidden costs and other hidden routes that I’m presently unaware of because I haven’t been involved in the actual work, yet.  (Or, as in the case of — for example — a flex-shaft machine [good for rotary cutting, polishing, drilling, etc.], I have a workable substitute [Dremel] which will do until my commitment is proven.  Same thing with the torch setup.)  One of the reasons I’m even going over this is because in one of my classes, we’re supposed to make a business plan, and that involves predicting costs.  Predicting costs involves thinking about the future.  (Of course, though, I have a tendency to live in the future…)  So in a way, I’m kind of doing part of my homework now!  :D

But!  If I am successful at my jewelry, and I’m still then inclined in the direction of knotting, I may one day be able to purchase a ceramics kiln, with which I’d be able to make ceramic components.  I don’t have to use all these myself — I could sell a lot of ceramic beads, I’m thinking.  This is because there is a general lack of large-holed beads on the market which are suitable for knotted designs.

But why do that if you can do everything else?  Wouldn’t enameled or Cloisonne beads really draw more attention?  Or fine-silver small-scale sculptures?  And if I had an enameling kiln, I could very well eventually make and sinter (heat-treat so they don’t explode) my own lampwork glass beads, thus evading the issue of needing to make beads out of ceramic (though of course, I’d really need to take care of my lungs, at that point [meaning, respirator]…my friend A has pointed out that a lot of stained-glass workers contract illnesses from chemical exposure; hot glass [and especially hot colored glass] isn’t anything to take casually).  But even though I could do lampwork…is that really what I want to do?  Will working with PMC/Art Clay and polymer clay satisfy the need to make things with my hands, in that way?

Hey, so it’s almost 1 AM where I’m at, and I should really get going!