Monday, October 10, 2016

Roasted Sunflower Seeds (In Shells): Recipe

This year I grew Tarahumara sunflowers. Each breathtaking, robust golden stalk produces an enormous head filled with delicious, edible white shelled seeds. This huge sunflower produces a primary, large (8-10” diameter) single flower head and stands up to 15' tall. Seeds are white and are delicious when roasted. This sunflower variety is named for the Tarahumara indigenous people of northwestern Mexico.

If you grow your own giant sunflowers and want to harvest the seeds to roast, watch for when their necks begin to bend and the petals dry around the center. Another good clue is when birds and other critters begin to feast on them.

To harvest, cut the flower head from the stalk.

Gently rub the flowers from the seeds into your compost or garden beds.

Then, from the outside working inward, massage the face of the sunflower to dislodge the seeds.

As you approach the middle of the flower, test the seed pods to be sure they actually have seeds inside. To do so, pinch the pods. If they pop, they're empty.

Once you have removed all of the viable seeds from the sunflower head, you're ready to tackle the easy directions below to roast your own.


Roasted Sunflower Seeds (In Shells)

These directions are for salted, roasted sunflower seeds. If you don't want them salted, simply rinse them off and roast them. Without being lodged with water, they will roast more quickly at 400°F, a mere few minutes.

1 cup raw in-shell sunflower seeds
2 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt, or 2 Tbsp table salt
1 quart water
Jalapeño powder, optional (I make my own with dehydrated Jalapeño and kosher salt)


1. Place sunflower seeds, salt, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Drain the water from the seeds and spread them out in a single layer on a cookie tray. Place in the oven at 400°F. Roast for 15 minutes, periodically turning them so that they roast on both sides. Optional: sprinkle the Jalapeño powder over the top of the seeds before placing them in the oven to roast.

3. Continue to check the seeds every few minutes until they are dry enough and roasted to your satisfaction.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Concord Grape Vine with a Cluster of Grapes

I decided to submit a botanical piece to the Saul Bell Design Award. The mission of the award falls right in line with why I set out to make botanical jewelry: "The Saul Bell Design Award is a chance for jewelers to reach for greater heights of skill and knowledge. To conceive and execute a career-defining design. To break free from constraints, expectations and precedents. To accept the challenge of a lifetime—and to be recognized around the world for excellence in jewelry design."

Looking at past winners, I realized I couldn't just submit a botanical piece already created. I needed to use this as a challenge to take my silversmithing to new heights, again. I contemplated making a willow branch or aspen branch necklace, leaves "fluttering". But then, while on a gorgeous sub-alpine hike, it came to me. I would make a grape vine complete with a cluster of grapes.

I started with the stem...

I added a (hollow) grape...

Grape by grape, and one leaf at a time...

"The piece must be the entrant's original design. Artistic integrity is of the utmost importance to Rio Grande, the Saul Bell Design Award and the jewelers that both institutions serve. As an SBDA entrant, your commitment to artistic integrity shows respect for your own work and for the work of other jewelers. SBDA contestants are proud of the tremendous skill and imagination that they have put into their original designs, and they are honored to have these pieces rigorously judged against the work of their peers. Work that derives or copies its central ideas from another artist's work is not considered an "original design" and has no place in the SBDA."

I completed the piece today. Seventeen grapes and a raisin, 5 leaves, 54 hours, a few curse words, several audiobooks, and plenty sighs of gratitude... and it's finished. I am ready to send in my submission.

Wish me luck (thank you)!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Intermediate Silversmithing Workshop: January 23-27

Registration is now open! THIS COURSE IS NOW FULL

Course Description:

What? Intermediate Silversmithing Intensive
When? January 23-27
Where? Twisp, WA in my personal studio.

This workshop is a 5-day intensive for intermediate silversmiths. We will work for 7 hours each day with a one-hour break for lunch.

If you already have a handle on basic techniques such as sawing, soldering, and finishing, this intensive will empower you to use these tools in a more personal and creative way. Over five concentrated days you’ll hone your existing skills, add new ones, and grow more comfortable and confident in your ability to realize your own designs. During this workshop students will learn how to hand fabricate 3 different chains to include both fusing and soldering, as well as complete one 3-D pendant of their design.

Poppy, hand fabricated sterling silver by Nicole Ringgold

Further details of the workshop:
  • The cost of the workshop will include 5 days of training and interaction, 1 3x3" sheet of 24 gauge sterling silver, one 4 ft 16 gauge sterling silver wire, another 4 ft wire of 18 gauge sterling silver, and silver solder.
  • Should you require additional materials, please be sure to bring them with you to the workshop.
  • For the 3-D pendant, you may choose to focus on bezel setting, a botanical, texturing, soldering, or other techniques. Should you choose to set a stone, please bring the stone with you as well as the bezel wire. If you choose a botanical, bring the plant or images of the plant with you. Note, I often use 22 gauge silver sheets for botanicals, so I encourage you to bring a 3x3" sheet with you (a 24 gauge sheet is included in the price).
  • You may work on more than one pendant if you have completed the first before the end of the 5-day course.
  • All tools and equipment are included.
  • My studio space is well ventilated. However, I encourage you to bring your own eye/mouth/finger protection. See below for a description of my studio.
  • Meals are not included.
Course Prerequisites include:
  • Experience working with a propane/O2 torch system.
  • For the intermediate intensive course, experience soldering with silver. This technique will be learned in Silversmithing Basics.
  • Experience working with a jeweler's hand saw.

To Register

The cost for this 5-day intensive is $400. 

To register, send an email with your intent to participate to: ringgoldnic@gmail(dot)com. I will respond with a Paypal invoice. If you prefer you may send a check (I will provide my address when I receive your email of intent). Once I have received your payment, your space will be confirmed.

This workshop is first come, first serve. Space is limited.

Cancellation Policy:
  1. 10% of fee is considered non-refundable in cases of withdrawal for all students within 30 days of the workshop.
  2. Course fee is non-refundable within 30 days of the workshop unless I am able to fill the student's spot, in which case #1 above still applies.
  3. If I cancel a class then 100% of your fee will be reimbursed.

Save the date for these upcoming workshops in 2017:
March 13-17 - Silversmithing Basics (this course is for beginners). Registration opens Nov. 1, 2016.
April 24-28 - Project-Specific Workshop (for intermediate students). Registration will open Dec. 1.
May 22-26 - Intermediate 5-day Intensive. Registration will open Dec. 5.
June 16-18 - Intermediate 3-day Intensive
July 17-21 - Silversmithing Basics (this course is for beginners)

Lodging, directions and information about the Methow Valley

I can work with you and the others in the group to secure affordable lodging. Let me know if you would like assistance. Otherwise, following are several links to arrange lodging.
Central Reservations - A local source for lodging at Inns, Hotels, B&B's, vacation rentals, condos, cabins, and more.
Lodging within walking distance to my studio:
Twisp River Suites - river front lodging in downtown Twisp, close to shopping and my studio
Methow Suites B&B - Wonderfully cozy, close to downtown Twisp, and the owners are some of the warmest people you will find in the Valley.

Here's a map to Twisp, Washington.
The closest airports are Twisp, Wenatchee, and Seattle, WA.

Information about the Methow Valley:
Below are some useful links to learn about this stunningly picturesque area.
Winthrop, WA Chamber of Commerce
Methow Trails - access to miles and miles of nordic ski and summer hiking/biking trails.
Twisp, WA Chamber of Commerce
Loup Loup Ski Bowl - our local alpine ski area (my husband and I are ski patrollers there)
Winter Fun Where The Olympians Train - Sunset Magazine feature
Hiking Guide - WA Trails Association
Old Schoolhouse Brewery - an old schoolhouse in downtown Winthrop with great food and live music

The Studio

My silversmithing studio is situated inside the greenhouse at Yard Food, owned by the fabulous Tess Hoke. When you arrive, take time to visit the quaint shop in front of the building and walk through the plant nursery. Seek Tess' advice on how to grow successful garlic or, if she isn't present at the time of your visit, sign up for her online classes.

The photo below was taken before I expanded to include space for workshops. My studio can accommodate up to 5 students - 3 torches, 2 flex shafts, 4 adjustable rolling stools (and additional seating). There is an open floor plan and bright, natural light. It is well ventilated and heated for all seasons. It is wheelchair accessible.

Given that it is a greenhouse, you may expect a friendly spider to drop in while you're working. Nibble on greens growing in the garden bed. Making messes and loud noises are welcome.

The Instructor

After taking 2 years of silversmithing courses at Wittenberg University, I set jewelry fabrication aside to head to West Africa with the Peace Corps, acquire a masters degree, and pursue a career in non profit management. In 2010 I decided to try my hand at making jewelry once again.

For two years I made most of my jewelry using an antique drill press. I sold my jewelry locally and online. After saving funds made through sales, I invested in soldering and polishing equipment, reacquainted myself with soldering techniques I had not practiced in 20 years, and quickly produced an extensive, exclusive portfolio.

Much of what I know was self-taught. In December of 2015 I embarked on a self-inflicted challenge, to create 30 botanical pieces in silver. Long after completing the challenge and drastically improving my skills as a silversmith, I would like to share with others what I learned. These workshops will provide a venue for me to do so.

Poppy Pods, hand fabricated sterling silver by Nicole Ringgold

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Huckleberry Scones with an Elderberry Glaze: Recipe

A mother. A daughter. An almost blind dog. Sweeping views, exercise, crisp mountain air, whistling marmots, huckleberries, elderberries, and lots of bad jokes. What more could you want?

Fortunately our nibbling along the way didn't result in empty hands. We returned home with a generous stash of berries to make this morning's breakfast: huckleberry scones with an elderberry glaze.

Huckleberry Scones with an Elderberry Glaze


Huckleberry Scones:
1.5 cups Emmer (or all-purpose) flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup fresh huckleberries
1 cup plain yogurt

Elderberry Glaze:
1/2 cup elderberry juice
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
  4. Fold the huckleberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough.
  5. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. You may wish to switch steps 4 and 5 if you're worried about crushing the berries.
  6. Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches.
  7. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape
  8. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze
  9. In the meantime, remove the elderberries from their stems. Place into a saucepan and heat on medium until juice is extracted. Press berries thoroughly to squeeze out all of the juice
  10. Pour juice through a sieve. Let cool
  11. Mix the elderberry juice with the confectioners' until dissolved. Drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let them set a minute before serving.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Making of a Poppy Seed Pod

Seed pods are utterly fascinating. Isn't it incredible how they're constructed simply to protect their seeds from pests and pathogens, provide nutrients to the seeds, to break open and release their seeds at just the right time, and even designed to filter out damaged seeds?

Take the poppy seed pod - I hadn't realized how different they are from one another until I chose to hand fabricate them out of silver.

Here is a photo journal of my study. I am in awe.

I started out with 3 flat discs, two large and one 1/2 the size.

I then used my dapping block to turn the discs into cups.

I drilled a tiny hole into one of the cups, and then soldered the two together.

I sawed off a section of tube and splayed it at each end. I then soldered the tube to the ball.

I snipped 14 lengths of 21 gauge wire and placed it on the smaller disc, soldered them together.

Using my saw, I cut small slivers out of the disc between each wire, then filed them down.

I dapped the top of the pod to give it a bit of a curve, then soldered it to the ball.

...and added a stem.




And that's it!

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