Friday, January 28, 2011

Now for Something Completely Different

I have mentioned I am in interested in fiber arts, well, I decided to share with you something else. A while back I went to the Black Sheep Gathering and bought some raw alpaca from a small farm. The lady gave me an awesome price for two bags of lovely suri alpaca fleece. I suppose I will take a moment I will tell you about the two kinds of aplaca: most common is the Huacaya alpaca with fluffy locks. It has a little bit of crip (or curl), which gives it a tad bit of elasticity. Suri fiber has no crimp and just hangs down, it is very, very fine and likened to silk. Alpaca produce their finest fleece as babies with hair only a few microns across, as they get older the hair gets thicker and, thus, less soft.

Huacaya Alpaca at the Black Sheep Gathering

I think you can see the difference between to two alpaca here, one with a fluffy siffer looking hair, and one with long, draping locks.

Suri alpaca with its long fleece

 Well, it was totally raw which meant before I could spin it, I needed to card it. Luckily during the summer Wynona Studios opened up. It's a lovely little fiber studio in the heart of Oregon City that has looms, carders, wheels and more that the public can use for a small pass. JJ, Linda and Willson Baxter Bell Foster are the family members I've gotten to meet so face. I was able to borrow a drum carder for my fiber, yaay!

To my left is the drum carder, much faster than carding by hand.

To my right is what raw suri fleece looks like raw. See how the hair is literally in long locks? One *can* spin it from its raw form, but it will be more consistant in size and softer if i have all the fiber pointing the right direction.

To begin, I flufff up the fiber, pick out any seeds or grass, then place the fluff at the bottom of the smaller wheel and feed it in. as the small wheel pulls it in the big wheel comes 'round, grabs it and combs it all in the same direction.

Once the wheel is full out can pull it off in one big batt and it is ready to spin!

Ready to spin. All the fiber is pointing the same direction.

"Did somebody say, 'Cookie'?"

Same color: same stuff?

Now I get silly. The color of this stuff is really lovely. One bag is an oak color, the other is burguny. Only problem: the burgundy matches my own hair color. I swear, when it comes out of the carder it looks like the stuff i take out of my own hairbrush! Ew! Gross! Gross! Gross! Gross! Gross!

The nice ladies at the studio tried to assure me  it wasnt a problem. "Well, at least you know it will match your skin tone!" I had almost gotten over the gross factor when a lady came into the studio and and asked, "Is that your own hair you're using there?"

... no. It's not, it only looks like it.

But at least I know it would make a dashing beard!

It really doesn't bother me too much, because when I am done spinning it up it looks beautiful! This is my fingering weight yarn i got with my first batch:
Love it! So soft and silky! I'm planning on making a pair of lace gloves from it and entering them into the state fair.

My Vanity is kicking in, so I'll leave you with a not-so-gruesome picture of the lady behind the blog.
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Lady

Its Magic! (Actually, It's Just Science)

I dont know if you remeber me talking about hydrophane opal in my in my other post about opal, but I thought it might be fun to actually show you what happens. Check this out, its a cream colored opal, right?
Not a great picture of the fire, but its totally white. Well, for now anyway. I mentioned earlier that this kind of opal is very porous and will literally suck up water. Check out what happens when I put it in water for 3 minutes:

There goes the white color! Crazy, huh?

After five minutes for a piece this size it becomes completely clear: 

In some cases the fire will compeletly disappear, but if the fire is still visable an experienced cutter can take advantage of the transparent state of the opal to find the best way to cut the stone. Additionally, any cracks in the stone can be spotted before the stone is cut. Thus, offending material can be removed and a a more stable stone created.

oh, yes, and dont worry about my stone: it turned back to its regular color in about half an hour!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Raw Opal Pendant

I am back! My poor computer has had so many pictures uploaded to it lately it was threatening to commit suicide. Scary.

Anyway, my other opal success has been a raw opal pendant I fabricated. While looking through the opal rough  saw two pieces of crystal opal that called out to me in their raw form. I listened to the opal and sliced the ends off the top crystal and got two nice little pieces. I needed a third piece so i took off the matrix on the middle rock and sliced it in half. What you see at the bottom is that same stone in two. The piece on the bottom right might be able to turn into a cab, but we will see about that later.

So I had my three stones still in their rough shape. At first I was planning on a bezel setting for them, but then I realized it would be well nigh impossible to get a smooth bezel around the stones with their odd, rough shapes. So I built baskets for each on out of wire. This meant creating a ring of wire to go around each stone, then sauder on four prongs.  After that I made the backing of the pendant and had to sauder all three baskets on the pendant without melting the baskets or accidently ruining the prongs. I did both. luckily the damage wasnt too back and i was able to fix both quickly. Once everything was saudered together I had to clean the piece and shine the whole thing. With so many nooks and crannies, it is a task. Finally, everything was ready for the opals to be set.

The end product:

Is it possible for rocks to feel organic?

This may be one of my favorite pieces to date. The fire in these three pieces is really great, that middle stone have a large area of red fire, while the top stone has more pin fire. I think I may be a fan of this Ethiopian opal. This particular opal is from an area called "Welo." Each of the areas mined in Ethiopia seem to have very disticnt characteristics. From   Keep an eye on the opal market, this stuff is pretty new but I suspect this is going the be pretty hot stuff in a few years. It will be interesting to see how stable it is: I have heard some saying it is as stable as Australian, and others saying it is completely unstable!

Right now the opal is mined by farmers, which means while the land isn't being torn up with big machines, few of the farmers have proper safety equiptment. There are a few people going to the mining areas teaching the farmers about mineing safety and providing hardhats tools. Hopefully the mining operations will remain small, but those opting to mine will be able to do so in a safe manner.

Where is your favorite opal from? Black opal from Austrailia? Fire opal from Mexico? Or do you like to keep it stateside with opal from Nevada?

More Opal-Just in Time for Valentines Day!

This weekend I made it to the gem show that was in town. I got two things that made me happy: rough opal and a strand of garnet nuggets. Not too much else to get excited about, though. So, opal: I spent maybe an hour and a half pawing through the rough opal. I only had $45 in cash i was allowing myself to spend, and i kept digging out great pieces of opal that would have cost half that. Oh, it was so hard to choose between all the pieces! I decided that for a beginner in cutting, more was better so I opted for cheaper pieces. This is what I walked away with (without spending all my money)

A couple pieces to work with. All but one piece came from Ethiopia. What is interesting about this opal is it is something called hydrophane opal. This sort of opal is particularly porus so it soaks up water and will even change color! White hydrophane opal will turn clear in water, and the pink opal from Mezezo turned deep brown! Some folks say that this sort of opal should be cut dry, which means you have to be extra careful about heat. I tried it both with water and without. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages.

 The first stone I tried to shape was this Mezezo opal. It had a strange shape with pits and cleaves, but it was enough of a heart shape I decided to cut it that way so as not to loose too much material. In the photograph of the rough stone you can see that dark dot: that was a drop of water that turned it dark!

I think it came out pretty good-although its a pretty thick piece so I fear it would be difficult to set. As I polished the piece I kept it  in my fingers rather than a dop stick so I could  gauge the tempature. I cut this piece without water, so overheating was a real danger. The heat seemed to sink to the center of the stone, so I didn't even notice until I started getting puckering on the backside! Oh no!  I had to go back and smooth out the back again. I finally decided to use just a little water to help with the heat, not much but enough to keep it a little cool. It is hard to do, though, because this sort of opal literally sucks up water!

 I am not one for hearts, but this is a pretty cute little stone. I was so proud of myself for cutting it I walked around with it a few days. :) The fire that this opal has is pretty impressive, the pictures do not do it justice! This would make a pretty sweet V-day gift for a rockhound or an opal lover.

I'll be back with more on my opals soon.

My New Shop on Etsy!

I finally did it! I opened my etsy shop this week at I hope you come on by, and show it off to your friends, too. I worked hard getting enough pieces to open-I still have more pieces to list! I didn't update my blog this week because i was trying to figure out the new place, but everything is under control now, so stop by here often again, I have lots of new posts coming up in the next few days. Should be exciting.

How do you like my banner? I'll try a couple designs, see what sticks. This one I was going for classy. Valentines day is coming up, so maybe I need to do a nice kitchy one full of hearts and roses. ;)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Items

Made some quick little items, nothing too fancy.

Copper hammered hearts

Pearl drop earrings

Chain earrings for a night on the town

Weathered beach agate with an orange sapphire

Another beach agate on a spinning bail.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Custom Piece from Grandmas Earrings

My friend gave me a pair of earrings from her grandma with screw backs. She liked the setting, but never wore screwbacks. Maybe I could fashion something else for her?

I knew she liked pendants, so I created something a little Navajo inspired with an hammered crescent. I cut off the earring backs and used the original settings. Sautering the bezels on was a little tough as they were some sort of base metal, so I didnt want to loose the silver coating. I did it, though!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A New Jeweler: Kaneesha

I've been working with my niece on creating jewelry. She would like to show the world her latest piece

Hi I'm Kaneesha and i am nine years old. Im learning jewlery from my aunt. This is the first piece that i have done with wax. What we did first was sawed  out the K with wax,then we sent it out and had someone cast it for us,and then we got it back and then we filed it a little more and shined it up with sand paper and decided to add a stone we set the stone together and then gave it a final polish. I love it alot i want to make another pendant for my grandma Jan!!

Spinning Trilobite Pendant

This is a lovely piece that I put together pretty quickly. I've never done this kind of mechanical work before, but the trilobite is set in a spinning silver bezel. I was quite afraid of cracking the trilobite-it is such a soft material. I would have felt bad destorying a fossil that managed to survive 7 million years, luckily my bench isnt that dangrous! The movement is not as smooth as I would like it, but it turns fairly well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Casting Success

It has been a whole year since I cast, and sadly my first cast failed. Thus, those waxes from my previous post are no more and need to be recarved. However, I have wanted to experiement with casting octopus tenticles. You see, I found one in the garbage at the Japanese resturant I worked and thought it had great texture. So I asked the sushi chefs to save the tip instead of throwing it out. I finally saved up enough to make a setting with.  After ruining my first casting, i had success casting the tenticle. It worked! So I built a small setting out of tenticles and had another successful casting. Thank goodness I did, because I didnt have enough extra to make another cast with! The piece has a long way to go, but I think it will look great when its done.

The basic idea

Detail on back

Revealing the silver under the pickle