Thursday, November 12, 2015

Buttons Made With Recycled Silver Scraps: Tutorial

With every project comes a little bit of waste, leather ends, snipped trim, scrap silver wiring and sheets. As an eco conscious jewelry business, my goal is to minimize that waste in every way possible. One continuous challenge is what to do with the leftover silver scraps. Several weeks ago I made charms. This week I'm making buttons and thought I'd share the process.

Buttons: Tutorial

Materials and Tools Needed
Metal scraps
Torch & soldering block
Steel bench block
Texturing hammers or tools
Rotary drill & high speed twist drill bits
Flexshaft or polishing equipment

1. Place a small pile of silver scraps on your soldering block.

2. With your torch, heat each pile of scraps until it pulls together into a ball. The bigger the pile, the longer it will take to melt completely. I use a pick to poke at the ball as it melts to ensure there aren't any jagged or protruding sharp spots.

3. Place each ball on your steel block. Don't be bashful about making noise. Hammering these round buggers into flat disks takes a little muscle, though not a lot.

4. Be sure to wear protective eye gear. I've had several high speed drill bits break and fly across my studio. So, with your rotary drill and a little bit of patience, drill two holes into each disk.

5. This is personal preference, but I like to hammer textures and inspirational words into my buttons, and then I oxidize them to accentuate the designs.

6. Sand and polish.

7. And that's it.

What do you think? What would you do with your scrap metal? I'd love to hear your input and ideas.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Charms Made With Recycled Silver Scraps: Tutorial

One "side effect" of silversmithing is a growing pile of silver scraps. No matter how conservative I am with my use of materials, I always have edges to be trimmed, wires a fraction too long, and all the mistakes that can't be righted. The question is: what do you do with all those (expensive) scraps?

In the past I've melted the scraps and rolled them out in my mill to make silver sheets. Some silversmiths send their scraps back to the source for a small refund.

I've recently begun to melt the scraps to make charms or brand stamps. Below are two quick and easy tutorials on how I do so, one by melting and stamping, the other by creating a simple spiral with scrap wire which does not involve the use of a torch.

I'd appreciate hearing from other silversmiths with your methods for recycling metal scraps. Thanks!

Stamped Charms: Tutorial

Materials and Tools Needed
  • Metal scraps
  • Torch & soldering block
  • Steel bench block
  • Hammer
  • Texturing hammers or tools
  • Flexshaft or polishing tools

1. Place a small pile of scraps on your soldering block.

2. With your torch, heat the scraps until they pull together into small balls.

3. Using your steel bench block and a hammer, flatten the balls into small disks.

4. Back to the torch - solder tiny jump rings to the disks.

5. Hammer flat, and use texturing hammers to create patterns.

6. File and polish with your flex shaft.

That's it. Now for the second, easier method.

Spiral Charms: Tutorial

Materials and Tools Needed
  • Metal wire scraps, at least 1.5" in length
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Flat-nose or chain-nose pliers
  • Flush snips
  • Steel bench block
  • Hammer

1. Place your round-nose pliers at the very tip of the wire.

2. Wrap the wire around the round-nose pliers until you have created a full circle.

3. Use your flat-nose or chain-nose pliers to hold the spiral steady as you continue to wind the wire tightly around itself 3 full circles.

4. Once you've completed the third circle, use your flat-nose pliers to bend the wire back. Your wire should look like a swirl lollipop.

5. Wrap the end of the wire around your round-nose pliers to make a loop.

6. Snip the end of the wire so that it's flush.

7. Gently tap the spiral using your steel bench block and hammer. This will strengthen the core of the spiral so that it is not flimsy.

That's it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mother Daughter Weaving Project

As a mother of a near teenage girl, I am guessing that I will soon transition from someone who can do little wrong in my daughter's eyes to oh-God-you're embarrassing-me-mom-stop-kissing-me-in-public-and-don't-laugh-so-loud-ugh. Of course I hope I'm wrong. I hope that we have a seamless passage into her teenage and young adult years, and that my daughter will never think I'm overly annoying.

When I was a teenager, I swore I would grow up to be different than my own mother. Now in my forties I've boomeranged and am proud to be my mother's daughter.

We mothers and daughters weave tangled webs.

Last week while visiting my parents, my mother spent three days patiently teaching me how to weave. It dawned on me that the process was a metaphor for a mother-daughter relationship. On my mother's end, I saw that she was sharing knowledge, teaching skills, encouraging creativity and independence, offering support, being patient, owning up to her own mistakes, stepping in to offer guidance, and proud of my results. On my end, I was listening, questioning, determined to do it my way, seeking input, asking for help, understanding the challenge I was facing that my mother had already faced countless times before, and finally...proud.

Dear Mom,

You are so many things to me. You are an inspiration, from living off the land, maintaining a tiny footprint in every way possible, to your determination to learn the language of every country in which you reside. You add artistic expressions throughout your home You have a profound knowledge of English literature and share it enthusiastically. You are determined to be equal in this world. You laugh hard and loud, and throw your whole body into your laughter. You dance and make me want to dance (shake like crazy) with you anytime I hear a good rhythm. You're honest, loyal, and you live life with so much passion from the moment you wake to the moment you sleep. Every day. You are the most authentic person I know. You know who you are, where you come from, and therefore you are you.

I love who you are, and you are an inspiration. I hope to be like you when I grow up.

Thank you.

Love, Nic

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Chasing Wildflowers: The Making of a Gentian

YOLO. You only live once.

What does that mean exactly?

My life has always been filled with quality. I've had the privilege of education placed within my reach, art, culture, international living, farm-fresh produce, exposure to metropolitan and mountain lifestyles, a close-knit family, supportive community, a beautiful home. For the most part, I haven't taken any of it for granted. At least, I thought I hadn't.

I was born with ten fingers, ten toes, into a highly educated second generation American family, our French, Yugoslav and Pennsylvania Dutch roots closely intact. My parents worked hard, my father a bilingual FBI agent and my mother a teacher who acquired 2 masters degrees and 2 foreign languages. We lived in Europe, and I attended schools that offered the International Baccalaureate. Indeed, I was lucky, and my life was full.

I constantly strive to maintain the fortunate life bestowed upon me by my parents. A few of my accomplishments include thirteen years overseas, college and masters degrees, a rat-race metropolitan career, over a decade tv-less, becoming a devoted (yet not helicopter) mother, a deliberate decision to move to the mountains, our home construction, and a year-long effort to consume everything from within 100 miles of our home.

At that time, my motto was: "My life is not busy. It's full."

It was only after we lost everything to a wildfire that I stared at my choices - my life - straight on.

"YOLO" became my new motto, and there was an urgency behind it. Was it possible for me to live more fully, take advantage of one more minute in my day? What did I need to omit? What could I do to live even more intentionally? How could I be a better mother, wife, friend? And...what did I want to do that I hadn't already done?

And then suddenly it dawned on me. While I was happy with my choices, I wasn't living in the moment. I was living a full, meaningful life yet constantly looking forward to the next thing.


Carpe diem.

Seize the day.

Chase wildflowers into the mountains.

Yet don't just chase the wildflowers. Take time to smell them. Absorb their color. If that's not enough, make time to do it again tomorrow.

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