Friday random

I really have to pick up the camera more. I’ve been really lazy these days and not working on art and artistic things…as evidenced by the hopeless lack of posts.

But work in the garden for the Art in the Garden weekend is continuing. I’ve planted a sedum collection in a pot and I have dreams of a living wreath or living wall…but it’ll take time because all these sedums have been stolen divided and shared and have come from family and friends.

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Clover is using this amazing product called Sculpey baking clay to make a weird and wild taxonomy of fairies for a Cabinet of Curiosity display for her art history of museums course. Here, with Morgan inspecting, (as usual), she’s just placing her fairies into the shadow box she’ll use for the project. That clay was super fun for her to work with and there’s a little left over. I think I might have a go.

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I’ve been putting in a bit of time in the new jewellery studio. It’s working really well on the bench in the sun. The only slight drawback is that I can’t see the flame of my torch in the sunlight.

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And, as with almost any new art discipline almost anyone takes up, it’s going to be hours and hours of solid practice before I get good at it.

Chloe turned 22 this week and I was determined to make her a special birthday ring. So, after about three tries, (all of which ended up in the scrap silver for lost wax molding jar), I finally succeeded!

I made her a ring with a piece of beach glass she found in Mexico.

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She loves it. :D I’m so happy.

Sharing with Nancy and the random bunch.

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The sun sets on our fourth day of vacation

My what full and fantastic days we’re having!

I joined Fernando this morning for beach yoga and had the most wonderful stretch, even if not my calibre of Vinyasa yoga. It’s so worth it for that morning stretch, isn’t it?

Then Fernando invited me to come back for some painting. Of course I jumped at the chance to paint…are you kidding me? Dragged Chloe along too because I love her unique style.

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Fernando showed a canvas he made previously and asked us to copy it. He passed around a gessoed canvas on a bit of cardboard and we all set to with acrylics.

Resort life is just lovely. One gets sort of stuck with a bunch of holidayers and sooner or later you’re bound to say hello.

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So we all dutifully painted a blue sky and some bright buildings and the wall and the church.

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We painted a cobblestone road and rooftops and flowers and the sea. Then I made everyone sign theirs…artist…so sue me! :D

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Chloe and I finished up ours with a few birds and C even put in a couple of sailboats. Don’t you love C’s free spirit style? I love it to smithereens. I’m so keeping both these paintings and framing them together; a most wonderful reminder of this time…of us…here, now, in this tropical sunshine.

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But then, do you know what Fernando did? He invited us back in the afternoon to string beads! Wretched man!

So back we went with the twin poppets and their mom and a couple other twenty-something girlies for some fun with beads.

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Fernando wowed us with this ring-bracelet design!

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C and I both chose sea beads…that is beads which reminded us of the ocean.
By the time C decided she had enough, her bracelet was long enough for her ankle but too long at two wraps and too short at three wraps for her wrist, so ankle it was.

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But you should have seen me. I was so proud of mine! I loved that bracelet. I loved the seaweed and sea foam and shells and water and spray and ancient Aztec turquoise, and every salty, briny thing I strung into it.

I lifted it up to the sea and said, “Look here ocean, I made a piece of you that I can carry with me always!”

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Just then the sea gave me a heart shaped rock – a true affirmation of love…and…just as I bent over to pick it up, my bracelet broke and most of the beads tumbled into the sea.

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And the sea claimed it as its own. Glass returning home. Tumbled in the sea. Salty hands rolling and turning, carrying and cradling, caressing and loving those beads till they are no more.

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Beach tote from old paintings

So, I guess I don’t have enough to do with organising the house for Eugenia to take over while I’m in Mexico, and besides, I’m not leaving till this afternoon and I needed an excuse to spend more time with my flowers, I decided to make myself a beach tote to take to Mexico with me.

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Now I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and finally got around to it. I have a collection of old paintings. Either ones I’ve painted which I no longer love, or thrift shop finds, (because I get some idea or other in my head). In this case, because, as usual I have very little idea of what I’m doing or how it’s going to turn out, I used two thrift shop finds and leather straps from a thrift shop purse, (which was bought for the straps and purse was recycled.)

Total cost: seriously under $10.

Ran the paintings past C and we both liked a West Coast mountain one and a rich Mexican colours one. A sort of yin-yang balance.

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I’m sure you all know that my sewing skills are very limited by now, but a basic tote pattern is easy as pie and there are loads of how-tos out there. I winged it somewhat. No paper pattern, very few straight lines, and my wonderful little Bernina sewing machine chugged away straining a little to get thru the thicker parts of the canvas, but I managed.

C and I took turns sewing the handles back on by hand. The wonderful thing about re-purposing leather is that someone probably already made convenient holes in it for you. :D

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And, so here you are, our wonderful new beach tote is all ready.

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I’m glad I used cheap thrift store paintings because all paintings aren’t made the same and all canvas isn’t the same either.

The thick, chalky “Mexican” side is sturdier canvas and a better quality of paint and didn’t peel or crack, (although some of the heavy bits did break off), but the “West Coast” side was probably painted with thin acrylics and maybe not a great quality, and in the turning right side out, a lot of the paint powdered and fell off.

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Not that that bothers us in the slightest. We love the well used/aged/loved to death look, and want this tote to show its wear and tear.

Next stop: THE BEACH! :D

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Ok, one more shot of those amazing flowers before we go. :D

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Trying the lost wax method of silversmithing…it’s a long one.

So this has been a very interesting experiment in yet another thing I knew absolutely nothing about.

This two day process isn’t as easy or as straight forward as all that and I can tell you right now that I’ve had a more epic fail than success with it, but the success is so astounding, (to my little butterfly brain anyway), that I’m not giving up. No way! I will find a way to make this work. :D

I’ll try to describe it to you here although I can only tell you the basics.

Day one:

To make a silver cast I used organic matter, two sea shells and a branch, plus a wax ring form, understanding that all of this will be destroyed in the process.

The first step in the process is to fill the bottom of a rubber cup with a bit of wax. I did this by heating up the little sharp tool and touching the aqua wax buds till they melted.

Then the organic pieces are glued to a piece of wax stick with a tiny bit of yellow sticky wax, (peeking out of the upper left hand corner), using the same heated tool. Then they are weighed to determine the quantity of silver needed.

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Then a small part of the aqua wax is melted and the organic pieces stood up inside it.

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Here you see the organic pieces, the outside metal cylinder and a small lamp for heating the tools in.

It’s very important to keep the organic pieces away from the sides and well below the top of the metal cylinder and they mustn’t be touching each other. This is a bit of a juggling act.

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Then the pieces are sprayed with an alcohol coating to prevent bubbles from settling. Remember, the trick is to force molten silver into a mould and it’ll go into any bubble spaces.

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The metal cylinders are fitted into the rubber bowl around the organic bits and wax.

A white powder, called an investment, is mixed with water in a rubber bowl to the thickness of something like pancake batter…remembering to not mix in air and create bubbles, and the mixture is slowly poured down the side of the cylinder. Here Walt is demonstrating.

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The cylinders are filled to the top, or at least a 1/2 inch over the organic bits and the cylinders are tapped all around to dislodge any air bubbles.

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And now we wait overnight or so for the investment to harden.

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Day two:

This is a good way to use up all your silver scraps. The silver is measured out to the amount needed for each mould. Oh yeah, did I mention that one needs to keep a journal of this? One does. :D

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This is the machine which will deliver the molten metal into the mould. It winds up clockwise and is held by a pin and, at the right moment, the pin is released and the metal is forced into the mould thru a centrifugal force.

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This is the bucket of water for the finished cylinder and for any emergencies.

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The crucible which will hold the silver is heated to make the melting easier.

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Heat proof tools are at the ready.

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The metal cylinders, with rubber bottoms removed, have been fired in a kiln to burn and destroy the organic matter leaving a mould.

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Now they are removed one at a time and placed into the machine.

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The silver scraps plus some fresh silver nibs are heated till they melt and are a red hot liquid. This is one of the most beautiful sights.

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Here it is puddling already, I know, not a terrific shot. It’s really hard to get the molten silver to pose for a portrait.

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When everything is red hot and glowing, the pin is released and the machine spins the silver into the mould.

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Then the cylinder is removed. Here you can see the molten silver in the space left after the rubber bottom was taken out.

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The cylinder is plunged into the bucket where it fizzles and spits and generally does its best Vesuvius impression.

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The water turns milky white with the melting investment and the silver pieces are released.

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Here in the first cylinder you can see my branch…which broke into three pieces…and the shell which failed to break down in the kiln process, and so failed to act as a mould.

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The process was repeated with the remaining two cylinders with epic fails each time.

Oh well, the silver isn’t lost and can easily be reused, and a lesson well learned so all good.

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Not willing to give up on my branch, I took it to the jeweller’s desk and placed it on a fire brick.

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Made a jump ring, fired up the torch and soldered the broken pieces back on, and threw it in the pickle for 20 minutes.

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Then, three hours later, it was time to go home.

So here is a rough silver branch. Unfiled, unpolished, (that’s all to be done still), but I think it’s rather spectacular.

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I love how this process made a one-of-a-kind silver branch complete with lichen and moss. I love the delicate simplicity of it, I love that I made this…with Walt’s generous help. I can’t wait to try this again.

So there you have it. If you ever wondered how this is done, it happens something like this. Pretty cool, isn’t it? Hope this has made some sense, and at least given you a small idea. :D

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Something old, something new, something borrowed and blue skies

Does anyone feel like spring cleaning? Oh boy, oh boy, do I ever. I feel like sorting everything out and giving so much away.

So today I started with some stored boxes of material. I don’t know why I keep all this material. I suppose I always plan on that quilt…you know, the one we all plan to make one day.

In the boxes I found a pile of beautiful vintage napkins and brand new French linen tea towels.

Lovely surprise. It’s amazing the stuff I stash away. :D

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So first a pile of material I no longer love.

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I think I’ll put it on Craigslist.

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Clover found a large amount of glazed chintz and fell in love with it and is trying to persuade me to change all the fabrics in the living room.

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Morgan found the keeping it box.

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Then Morgan found the give away pile. She’s so helpful. :D

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Then a pile of bright, cheery cottons. I’ve decided to use them to make long ropes of bunting and hang them across the garden for Art in the Garden. Wouldn’t that look so lovely and festive? And, after all, I made all that heart bunting, so how hard can triangles be?

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I know they’re all so different, but, to me, somehow they all work together.

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While C was dreaming of a life with glazed chintz, I remembered that I bought Robert a wonderful leather jacket at a car boot sale…

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…and remembered that I forgot to tell Robbie about it, so I requisitioned C to model it for a few photos.

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Lol, he loved it…and the photos made him laugh.

And for something borrowed, I borrowed Walt’s silversmithing supplies at his lapidary club to learn how to do the lost wax method of casting silver. Nothing to write home about yet, and I have to wait till next week to see how it all turns out, but I’m so excited for this. I’m making two silver sea shells, a branch with lichen on it and a ring form.

Not sure what I’ll end up making with the finished silver pieces, (except for the ring…which will be…er…a ring), but I’m so excited! I’m thinking a pendant out of the branch, but not sure what else.

Hope it all works out!

PS. Sent some of the photos to R who sent back “Ooooh , we could make steam punk switches for medusa…. like little medusa heads !!!!” (Medusa being his new amazing bespoke car he’s building with twin Jag engines and a five foot long bonnet) Lol, he’s always thinking. :D

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This was going to be hello from Sunday night post…

…but it just go to be too late.

I blame it on the Oscars, and on a rather sombre Saturday, but, this weekend just sort of got away from me.

My 100yr old friend Norman passed away last week. A rather expected but nevertheless very sad thing. But I must say, how wonderful to have such a long, healthy and happy life, and the end of which you are home, pain free and surrounded by your children and friends. Saturday was his funeral and so C and I took the day to support his daughter, our friend Jane.

Sunday I had a long morning in bed and then a little shopping and we settled into TV. The Wizard of Oz and red carpet and Oscars. We loved every minute of it, since it’s ever so rare that we watch TV to begin with, and then we end up thinking that we should spend more time in the family room/library, it’s such a lovely place.

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C and I bought some chips and some fizzy drinks, and C made her world famous guacamole. Morgan cuddled up beside us and I turned on the “happiness light.” (That’s that star shaped thing with the colourful fairy lights in it.) Do you all have a happiness light in your rooms? Robert first started me doing that and I love designating a light to that role.

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A couple of weeks ago I bought some scarves at a charity shop and they cost $1 each as long as one bought five. In among the tacky and sparkly things I found two hand made wool scarves including a long cream coloured one hand painted with the solar system and a large moon done in blue. There are two little bits of hand lettering, one which says “size is nothing to the universe” and the other says, “Love surrounds the Earth”. (We think, because the second bit of writing is a bit difficult to read…but we like that)

So Now I am the owner of a lovely long scarf, more like a shawl really, and it has a few worn spots and holes in it.

Now you all know I love age and vintage and character, and I’m even perfectly happy to have the scarf show its age, but I worried that it might get more worn and possibly the holes would enlarge if I left it alone.

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I got out my embroidery threads and my box of unfinished projects. I really like embroidery and cross stitch, but that’s just it, I like the stitching aspect and not so much the finished product and displaying it in my home aspect. Not sure what that is about, but think I really should just do something with all these things. My friend N made an amazing footstool with bits of embroidery. Here, I’ll get the link for you. Anyone else come across or done any other fab ideas? I’d love know.

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I’ve been in love with the Japanese art of Kintsugi forever, and so I wanted to do something like that on my new scarf. Also I like the concept of Sashiko, little stitches, and wanted to use that on my shawl as well, and so I chose a soft silver thread to mend with, but I wanted to keep the holes, as weird as that sounds, because, after all, the scarf has had a life previous to the one with me, and I wanted to honour that past life to some degree.

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I got some soft and dissolve-able interfacing and cut out some circles, like planets, and ironed them on between sheets of parchment paper.

Then I threaded my needle and started the sewing.

Now, I’ve never done anything like this before and had very little idea of what I was doing, but that’s never stopped me before, and besides, how hard can it really be?

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The Oscars were fun, weren’t they? I got terribly worn out by the constant thumpy, thumpy background music noise on that “E” channel with that violet haired Osbourne woman and that other one, Gulliana someone, and so we switched it to the Canadian channel sans thumpy, thumpy noise and that was so much better.

I also hate that pretensions “WHO are you wearing?” question and would love to see more people, like Ellen Page did, say things like, “I found this in my grandmother’s attic!” or maybe, shock and horror, wear the same gown a second time!

But I loved the whole whoop and spectacle of it. I love the acceptance speeches, and was especially impressed by Mathew Macconaughey’s and Jared Leto’s, (we need more young men who seemed to have been brought up right by their mamas), and loved Ellen DeGeneres and her goofy antics and crashing Twitter. So funny. I hear the pizza boy got a huge tip. :D

So this morning, in the day light, I reviewed my stitching and actually really love it. I love the fragility of the silver thread, and I love the handmade quality of the stitching…I mean, SO not professional! Lol. And I love that the scarf will go on with me and be a lovely, useful object which I saved.

Two more small holes and a larger tear to go. I think I might mend the tear with a bird shape. Maybe the tear will become the bird wing in flight. :D

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Linking with Mary for Mosaic Monday

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Bit of a mixed up tea this Tuesday

I guess by now you all may have heard that Vancouver is under a bit of snow.

I KNOW! RIGHT!?! My poor little garden flowers…which might be made for the snow…but still.

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There really wasn’t anything to do about it but go shopping and have some tea.

Actually, I should have been working and Clover should have been studying for her midterm…but whatever. :D

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You all probably noticed that my child has been looking a bit blonder lately. She’s got that ombre thing happening, you know, where she looks like an alien with tin foil all over her hair and can listen to BBC Radio thru her teeth for 30 minutes, and now, the side effect of all that free broadcasting thru teeth, is that she looks completely washed out in my Chanel Coco Rouge lipstick, which she loves to nick for an evening out.

So high on C’s priority list was finding a red lipstick for evening which actually looks good on her. And for C, it has to be organic, cruelty free and affordable. So we did the lipstick run-around and when she was finished trying seventeen different shades and five different brands, she ended up looking very pink around her chin and cheeks from the Kleenex and lipstick smears.

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By the end of the lipstick adventure I was dying for a cup of tea and C was feeling starving so we stopped at a new cafe called Faubourg Paris Café and I ordered my Earl Gray and C a ham and cheese croissant.

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This is a lovely cafe with a patisserie where they make fabulous pastries, but the Mariage Freres Earl Gray tea they served was just way too weak and flavourless for me. And I did let it steep for a long time.

On the other hand, the cafe is lovely and bright and twinkly with loads of crystal drop chandeliers and pendant lamps, there is a gently projected movie on one wall and the chairs, with the Lucite centres and painted feathers, are lovely.

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So back at home, I still wanted my lovely, fragrant Earl Gray and so brewed myself a cup from my super secret, only for me stash of loose tea from Fortnum and Mason and I chose this sweet little cup to have it in.

I love this frosty rose from Royal Southerland and it seems like a fine homage to this ridiculous February snow.

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So I had my tea and C got into her sweats and her cue cards and I sat down at the kitchen table to think about my personal journal and see if I could come up with a page.

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You know, this page was so hard won. I loved the words “experimental genius” and tried to form a thought from among the other words on the page but it just wouldn’t come and wouldn’t come…and I’d been staring at it off and on for about a week now.

So I sat there and had a little meditation over the page and suddenly there the words were! Right there all along!

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The words say: “await the experimental genius in the magnificent fabric of the mind’s eye today”

I saw the experimental genius as swirling colours. Bold and bright colours, mixing and rushing in, taking over an empty space.

But I also saw the experimental genius as small and shy and quiet and softly moving in on silent wings, and you turn around and there he is. So suddenly I was painting an owl. A Little Owl. One of the smallest owls out there.

And then I dulled down the magnificent fabric with a little bit of soft, white tissue paper, a little imperfection, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously as artists. :D

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Sharing tea with Terri and Martha and Sandi and Bernedeen, and, just after I drive C to the uni to take her midterm, I’ll be around to catch up with everyone.

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Silversmithing advanced class…spinner rings

So this was the most fun!!!!

Remember when I took the basic silversmithing course a few weeks ago?

Remember I told you I would be a repeat offender in Walt’s class?

Well, guess what? Walt decided to hold a spinner ring class with slightly more advanced techniques and I jumped at the chance.

Do you know spinner rings? Fun, fat rings with an outside ring which can spin freely around the inner ring. So lovely, so handy when you’re nervous, so dress up unusual when everyone is wearing plain old “rings”…so what I have to make right now. (Below are a couple Walt made for demonstration.)

But you know me…I’m so not colouring within the lines, by the way…lol.

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So come see how these are made, it’s not too hard, I promise. But I would still recommend a class before you try any silversmithing on your own and, if you’re in the Lower Mainland, you can’t do better than Walt’s almost one-on-one, private studio classes, and, he’s running a basic class in a week or two again.

So this ring needs a thicker inner ring which means I got to design, measure and cut out a custom sized piece of silver.

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Silver is pretty easy to cut out using these metal cutting shears at this stage, so a saw isn’t necessary for this step.

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Next, that whole palaver of adjusting the ends so they fit completely smoothly and snugly begins with endless filing.

Remember, if you decide to become a silversnmith, it’s useful to say, “I love filing…filing is my friend!” over and over again. You can also see how badly I cut this piece of silver with one end slightly wider than the other. You guessed it…more filing. :D

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I’m skipping over the basic flux and solder of the inner ring…you can refer to the earlier post…but let’s just say that after the ring is filed and soldered and in the “pickle”, it’s time to begin work on the outer ring, which will spin around the inner ring.

Now let me tell you why Walt is one in a million.

I think I said something like, “Walt, I’d like to make a wavy branch and have a jewel on that branch in a bezel, kind of like a flower, and I’d like some leaves and maybe a bird on that branch, and I know that this class will finish by 4:30pm and I know that this means hours of custom work which I don’t know anything about, and I also want to make a second spinner ring for Clove, which I haven’t even designed yet but it won’t be simple,…but it’s what I really want.”

And Walt said, “sure, go ahead!” And then! He encouraged me in my crazy designs and showed me short-cut techniques and introduced me to new tools.

So my outer ring began with a length of silver wire. I cut it to two sizes larger than my inner ring size and, after soldering it together, I bent it into a wavy pattern. Then I filed a smooth spot on the branch and soldered the bezel cup to it.

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Next I thought about the leaves. I took a little piece of silver, drew three leaves with a sharpie and cut them out with my saw. Then filed them smooth and to the irregular shape I wanted, and used a heavy sort of screwdriver thing and my rawhide hammer to make the leaf veins on the leaves. You can see by the tip of my finger just how tiny these leaves are.

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Then I took the edge of a thicker gauge sheet of silver and drew a tiny bird on it and cut it out with my saw.

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Then the nightmare of soldering all those bits on my “branch” outer ring began. Whew, they took a fair few tries to get that straight remembering to use the solder in the hard, medium, easy and extra easy steps so not to melt the previous soldered piece with each subsequent heat-up and solder.

From such humble beginnings as scrap bits of silver to fitting the little carnelian gem took hours but I was so proud to be using the burnishing tool and doing that almost final step of fitting the gem.

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The very last step to my ring involved slipping the outer ring over the inner ring and gently hitting the ends of the inner ring with a ball-shaped tool to spread them out and keep the outer ring trapped on the band of the inner ring. I’m sorry but I was so excited to do this that I forgot to take a photo. :( My bad.

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For C’s ring I wanted to make her a tree. Not just any tree, a tall, majestic and slim sitka spruce. Walt suggested I learn a new technique or sawing inside a bar of silver, like lace, or cut work. I knew the minute he said that, that this would be the best ring for C. The way to do this is by using this new tool to make a small hole thru the silver and then treading the saw blade thru the hole and gently sawing out the tree shape.

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So C’s ring began the same way with a bespoke inner ring, a bar of silver, shaped, filed and soldered together, filed some more and polished, and the outer ring began the same way as the inner, with a bespoke bar of silver, slightly narrower than the outer ring, shaped to make sure the size was correct and then flattened out again.

As with everything, practice makes…well…a better mess the second time than the time before, and after a prototype on some copper, the bar of silver was relatively easy, even if very time consuming. (by the way, filing silver must be a good work out for your upper arms because mine are killing me!)

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I got home around supper time and gave C her ring and showed her mine. She absolutely loved them both and immediately gave me a big hug and Instagramed it. LOL. I’ll take more photos in the day time so you can see the rings better but if you have any questions at all I’ll very happily find answers for you.

Oh, and by the way, C has asked for a sitka spruce necklace now…lol. A mother’s work is never done. :D

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Sharing with Mary at the Little Red House and with Create with Joy and Amaze me Monday

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You know how you take a decision one day…

…and the next day think, “WHAT HAVE I DONE!?!”

Yup I’ve got that feeling.

Yesterday I signed my garden up for an Art in the Garden event.

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This is a local event where artists and gardeners come together for one weekend, this year May 31st and June 1st. Musicians preform in the garden, artists show their goods and gardeners open their private gardens for the event.
So far I’ve only applied the garden but also plan to apply for my art.

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Today the sun came out and made the most beautiful silver linings and Chloe took her studies into the living room and is moving the chair around following the sun. So I decided I should probably take stock of the state of the garden…especially if I’m going to have an open garden tour. (Gulp)

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It’s hard to imagine that my garden could look lush and green and fragrant with blossoms…ever!

So I got out some of my favourite gardening books from my bookshelves and had a good look.

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The Art of Gardening in Pots by Elisabeth Lestrieux is my most favourite “garden porn” book in the world! I couldn’t get it in Canada and I really wanted it, (this was years before Amazon delivered everywhere), and so my poor parents tracked it down in England and brought it to me. Ok, my garden will never look like any of the beautiful photos in that book!

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Next I looked at Chihuly at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, by RBG Kew. Then I decided that maybe what I really need is a load of fabulous Chihuly glass all over the garden…lol. Not practical you say? Yeah, if I had the million to buy the glass I’d redo this whole garden instead.

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So I picked up my good old stand by Martha Stewart Gardening. Say what you will, this book saved my sanity when I was confined to bed for the last trimester of my last pregnancy and I’ll always have a great big squishy spot in my heart for MS.
So now we’re talking doable. That book, plus my other two favourites: The Ornamental Kitchen Garden by the late, great gardener Geoff Hamilton, plus Creating Small Formal Gardens by Roy Strong and I’m set for some serious garden thinking.

Spoke to Robbie this afternoon Van/evening UK, and complained about the state of the garden and questioned what I had done and he said, “Oi, stop being a Joan Collins! … Miss Diva!”

Ok, lol, settling down now! :D

Basic silversmithing…would you like to see how it’s done?

Come, I’ll show you then.

This Saturday I took the best course from a great teacher: Walt. The course was very small, only five students, so loads of personal help. The object of the course was work with sterling silver, to learn to cut, solder, shape and polish rings and to solder holders for bezel stones onto those rings, to fit the stones and then to actually make an odd shaped holder for an odd shaped stone from scratch.

Here is my workbench station with the tools I used.
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There don’t seem to be a lot of tools involved, just some basic tools and, if you’ve ever done anything like stained glass or even used a kitchen torch on your creme brulee, then you’ll be able to handle silversmithing, but I’d advise to take a course, (if you’re in the Lower Mainland, I’d really recommend Walt’s course for personal assistance, friendliness, camaraderie and general good time.)

Silver seems to come in these lengths, like wire. Some are plain and some are patterned. Some are flat and some are rounded. Chose the one you like. I chose a plain one for my first ring, but later found out that the patterned ones were infinitely easier to bend.

To make a ring, first twist the wire around a tool called a mandrel. It is a long metal ring form which tapers smaller and has ring sizes printed on it.

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Then the piece of silver, which will be your ring, is cut from the length using a small jeweller’s saw. The saw needs to be fitted with a blade and the blade needs to be so tight that it sings a note when twinged. This is easy to do. It’s also easy to break the blade…as I found out almost right away…you don’t need to put pressure on the saw at all because the blade will simply cut thru the silver without much force. The rule of thumb is if you’d like a size 7 ring, cut the silver at about one size smaller, so at the size 6 for a size 7 ring, because you always end up cutting a larger piece because it’s impossible to shape it exactly at the size you want. Below a size 5 ring subtract only 1/2 a size instead of a whole size. (Trust me, my first ring, which should have fit my middle finger is too big for my thumb!)

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What you have now is a round of silver with crooked ends. Use parallel pliers and bend the ends apart. Use a fine file…we used #4 and #2 files…to file the ends so that they meet perfectly in the middle.

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This is best done in this kind of a holder because it’s not easy to hold the silver in your hand while filing.

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When the ends are smooth and even, bend the ring so that the ends overlap and gently bring them back together keeping a slight tension on them, as though they want to be overlapped but are forced up against each other.

Now place your ring on a fireproof brick and get ready to solder.

Solder seems to come in four wires. They range from hard to extra easy. Walt advised that you cut yourself a small length but stick a tape on it immediately identifying the wire because it will be impossible to tell the wires apart without the label.

The rule is that you start with the hard wire but if you want to add anything else on your ring, like a bezel and a gem, then the next soldering will be with the medium and then the easy and finally the extra easy.

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Now comes the fun stuff…the soldering. drip a drop of flux on the joint and also a little all along the length of the ring. Carefully turn on the torch and heat the ring up. Here is my fellow student getting the ring to the correct rosy gold temperature. When your ring is so rosy, focus the torch on the seam and touch the solder wire to the inside of the seam and the heat will draw it thru to the outside.

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Then plunge your ring into cold water using small pliers to pick it off the brick, and put it into a warm “pickle” in a crock pot. That’s a very weak acidic solution and cleans the ring. After fifteen minutes, lift the ring out, rinse and fit it back on the ring mandrel. Hit it sharply with the rawhide hammer until the ring is round and sits nicely on the mandrel. Do not hit it in a downward motion because the silver will stretch and your ring might be too big. Now you have a lovely round ring and you’re ready to polish. Polishing can be done with your dremel tool and some polishing wax.

Here are the first few rings I made. The first ring took me an hour! But the subsequent rings took me much less time.

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The next type of ring I made was a round band with a bezel and a stone set in it.

The ring started out the same way for the band.

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When the band was finished and pickled, there was no need to polish it. I chose the joint to solder the stone to and so filed a smooth, flat surface there for the bezel to fit.

There is a nifty tool for holding the band upside down on the bezel on the brick to solder the two together, but mostly the tool heats up and gets in the way. If the flat part is truly flat it balances on the bezel easily.

So now it is important to remember that the band was soldered with the hard wire and so the bezel needs to be soldered with the medium wire.

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The the same process of pickling and polishing has to be done before the stone is fitted into the bezel and a burnishing tool is used to gently bend the sides over the stone to keep the stone in place.

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And that’s how I made these!
I used iron pyrite and a rose quartz for my stones. I made some tiny rings for Chloe’s tiny fingers, I made us matching rings, I made pinky rings, stacking rings…well, I had so much fun. :D I can’t wait to buy some supplies and try again. :D

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And I absolutely plan to be a repeat offender in Walt’s class at least one more time this spring.

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Sharing with Mary at the little red house and Ramona at Create with Joy. :)