Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lapidary tinkering

A couple of years ago my father gave me a big container of stones that he and his mother had collected on the shores of Lake Superior when he was a child.  They are mostly small round agates that have great banding and after picking through the top layer I pulled out one to try to shape on the JoolTool.  I don't have templates for stone shaping so I'm just playing around with possibilities at this point but I can see some potential in my first attempt.  Maybe another pass with each wheel to make things more uniform and I'll call it done.

It's surprising how much time and grinding it takes to shape material - I never thought it was a simple job but even taking the stone down a couple millimeters is time consuming.  

I also shaped these ammonites to give them flat backs and lighten them up.  I got them several months ago thinking about earrings but they had so much material on the back that they were too heavy for that.  Now that I've taken that material down, they aren't heavy at all and I can see a hint of light coming through the segments on the front - I love that.  So I guess that means maybe these will have to be set with an open back.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer work

This is a catching-up entry with several projects I made over the last six weeks but didn't get around to posting.  I think Instagram has kind of killed my blogging efforts - it's so easy to just post a picture and be done with it.  

This wand shaped lepidolite sat on my workbench for a long time while I thought about how to set it. It's not very easy to work with because it has flaky layers; I ended up using a flaw in the side to split it, giving it a flat back.  I really love how this came out.

Keychains galore.

Here's how they're made:

1. Pencil drawing affixed to
sterling ready for sawing
2. Sawing results
3. Soldering results
4. The final product

This set of moonstone post earrings go with a moonstone necklace I made last year.


And finally, lots of bottle tags for decanters, customized for the recipient.  


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vegan vanilla frosting

My sister's birthday is next week so I recreated the unicorn cake I made a couple of weeks ago with some adjustments.  No dairy, eggs or gluten.

She's a fan of rice krispie treats so I made the "cake" portion out of those, formed in cake pans.  They are easy to make dairy and gluten free by replacing the butter with Earth Balance spread.

Most of the recipes I found for dairy free or vegan frosting replaced butter with shortening.  There is no way that would fly, so I just replaced the butter in my regular recipe with Earth Balance.  This is not a one to one replacement - I barely needed any of the spread. 

Vegan Vanilla Frosting

  • 3 Tbsp vegan butter - I used Earth Balance Soy Free
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 Tbsp almond milk

I put everything in the mixer at once; there is so little vegan butter that it wasn't something I could cream like I would with regular butter.  This makes a nice, smooth frosting.

Then I recreated the unicorn cake the best I could.  The frosting consistency is very different and didn't get as fluffy as the regular buttercream, but it was still pretty good.

Happy (almost) Birthday, Sara!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ben at the workbench

Over the weekend Ben came out to the workbench with me.  He wanted to make a pendant for himself and sketched out the design to saw from copper.  This was his first time using the saw so I gave him a quick tutorial and led the blade onto the piece for him.

He's a natural!  He followed the instructions and was able to get through most of the piece without help, even understanding how to back off at the turns and let the blade lead.  I helped with a couple of the really sharp corners and he only broke two saw blades.  My first attempt at sawing resulted in broken blades galore and a fair amount of swearing, so I was really surprised at how easily he cut out his design.  

I don't really know what the point of this calligraphy-ish letter L is...something about an Anime character.  

After the initial sawing, he filed and sanded the edges of the pendant and then added a hole for a jump ring.

We tossed it in the tumbler for a few hours and then he used the buffer to do the final polish.  I added the leather cording for him so he could wear the finished product as a necklace.  

He was so excited about the process that he wanted to make a second pendant.  This one was for him to wear for his math test this week; a good luck charm.

His new plan for the summer is to clear a spot in the workspace to add a small desk where he can sit and work with me.  I do most of my jewelry work in the early mornings and since we are both morning people, this could work!  Now I need to find a small desk at a yard sale...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Unicorn cake

Our Easter meal was just for our little family of four so we didn't need a giant dessert. But I felt like making something creative and decided on a simple, small unicorn cake.

Simple, yes.  Quick?  No.  I don't make cakes as often as I used to and I'm out of practice...but I needed a few different colors of frosting and made the ears from chocolate so those elements took some time.

I used three layers of six inch cake to make a tallish stack.

I've seen some unicorn cakes with a horn made of fondant or chocolate, but I found this swirled lollipop for $1 at Walmart and never looked back.  

I used the Wilton ColorSwirl 3 Color Coupler to add the mane (I only used two colors).  It works great once it's all set up and ready to pipe, but getting the bags of frosting situated took some patience.  Next time I will load less frosting into each bag and refill if needed - I think that would make the pieces easier to fit together and less likely to come apart.

Once it was all assembled, I dusted the cake liberally with disco dust for some added flair.  I love that stuff - it really makes a difference, especially on a cake decorated like a magical creature.

I'll do this one again at some point - it was perfect for a smaller dessert and was pretty cute if I do say so myself.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Working toward zen

I've been working toward a more relaxed state of mind.  Focus on the positive, consider my blessings, embrace optimism.  It's definitely a journey and some days are better than others for me, but if I get off track I just try to refocus and start again.

I started taking yoga classes and find myself generally more aware of my breathing and my posture.  It's been a big change for me to try to slow down and be more mindful, but I like it.  Working at the jewelry bench also helps me with relaxation - the world just melts away when I get that time to create.

Last weekend I picked up an old request to make an ohm necklace.  When I was going through my notes for that pendant, I came across some tree of life images I had pulled together several months ago and then set aside. I decided to do both symbols by sawing out the designs and layering metals to allow for raised and recessed areas.

Sawing metal can be almost mesermizing for me.  Before I knew it, I had been at the workbench for several hours. I ended up with three pendants I'm really happy with.  One went to my sister (who is also my yoga teacher) for an early birthday gift and the other two have been listed in my Etsy shop.

Etsy listing for this necklace

Etsy listing for this necklace