Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wire Sculpture & Me

Wire wrapped jewelry pieces consist of the majority of my inventory, probably about 80% of all my pieces.  Creating wire wrapped loops and connected them to one another is a fairly basic technique and fairly easy to master as well.  I am always looking to learn new techniques to increase my expertise as a jewelry designer.  However, I (not so humbly) thought that I was a fairly advanced in my jewelry making abilities for about a year or so.  Then wire sculpturing came along and put me in my place.

For a while, I had kept an eye out for jewelry making classes near Harrisonburg.  Michaels Arts and Craft store only had basic level classes.  I had taken a wire wrapped cuff bracelet class at a fairly large beading store chain called Potomac Beads in Winchester last year.  However, it takes well over an hour to travel there, not making it very convenient to regularly attend classes there.  A few months ago though, I discovered a small independently run small bead store called “Generations Creations” operated in New Market, only twenty minutes away from my apartment.  A woman named Pat held wire sculpturing classes every Saturday ranging from advanced beginner level or advanced level.

Very quickly, Pat taught me the difference between wire wrapped and wire sculpturing.  Wire wrapped jewelry pieces mainly consist of wrapping wire loops together.  Wire sculpturing does contain some wire wrapped techniques.  However, it requires much more precise measuring of the wire, manipulating the wire with both your hands AND pliers, twisting the wire and connecting completely separate pieces of wire together.  It was a bit overwhelming at first, but thankfully Pat, with her 40+ years of wire jewelry experience helped guide me make two pendants in two separate classes.

The first pendant is called a “Julia” pendant.  It involved twisting wire, by using a drill and carefully connecting the two halves of the pendant with thin wire pieces.  I used a lapis lazuli dyed gemstone  as the centerpiece of this pendant, with air blue opal Swarovski crystals to accent it.  At times, I felt like Pat did most of the work, but towards the end of the project, I worked more independently on it.  I was fairly satisfied with the result, but the bottom half is not very tightly wrapped, making it swing out.  Fortunately, you can not tell that error in this photo :)

For the second pendant, I used a polished labradorite cabochon and completely encased it in wire, as cabochons do not have holes drilled in them.  This particular pendant required VERY precise measuring of the wire pieces and where to connect the wire together.  Otherwise the cabochon could fall out of the wire, if not properly wrapped.  For this pendant, I was definitely more confident and able to work more independently than the previous pendant.  (Although I certainly was not going to reject advice and helpful suggestions from Pat!) It turned out splendidly and I was very pleased with the finished product, especially since labradorite is one of my favorite gemstones.
I hope to take more classes in the near future and continue to expand my repertoire!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Renewal Bands

A Tale of Two Renewal Bands
Since I started Sparkling Creations Jewelry almost three years ago, I have had the privilege of designing jewelry pieces for several weddings.  Creating customized jewelry has always been my favorite part of making jewelry, as I am able to tailor the piece to my customer’s specific needs.  Therefore, a few months ago, I eagerly accepted the request of a madly in love couple, at my church. They wanted me to produce a special set of ring bands for their ceremony. 
Slight twist though, instead of a future bride and groom, this particular couple had been married for almost twenty-five years!  Thomas and Rebecca wanted to hold a full out renewal ceremony for their twenty fifth wedding anniversary.  It was particular touching especially since Thomas and Rebecca had not been Christians, when they first married back in 1988. So, they wanted to rededicate themselves to each other and to the Lord as they now understood the spiritual differences deeply embedded in the role of marriage in the lives of Christians. 
I did not have to start from scratch either, because Rebecca immediately showed me a picture of a band they wanted me to replicate.  That particular ring had three wire pieces elegantly braided together, each one a different type of metal.  Besides being very pretty, this pattern held a deeper significance for Thomas and Rebecca, as they had chosen Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 as their Bible verses for the renewal ceremony.
It reads as follows: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
To be honest, the creation process for the renewal bands had a rather rocky start.  First of all, the ring in the picture had been soldered (fused together using a small firing torch).  Since a basic torch cost at least $200 and probably with my luck, I would burn something besides the bands, I decided to wrap the wires together at the bottom of the band.  Easier said than done.
Fortunately I had the insight of using practice copper wire before creating the final bands, rather than more expensive wire like silver.  Very soon, my kitchen table looked like a display of a kindergarten class wire sculptures.  I had SO much trouble getting the braids to be even and wrapping the wire around the bottom of the bands tended to warp the shape of them. Frustration soon set in.
However, I decided to consult the 21st century solution to all problems-Google.  I quickly found an easy suitable pattern on for a braided wire ring.  I used a jig (a board with pegs in it in which a person can manipulate wire around to make specific designs) to stabilize the three wire strands, which greatly assisted to allowing the braids to be much more even.  I then switched to making the final product using gold filled, argentium silver and artistic copper wire. 
It only took a few tries and I completed the renewal bands successfully.  Here’s a picture of them:
Last Saturday, November 9th, I had the privilege of attending Thomas and Rebecca’s renewal ceremony in Singer Glenn (about twenty minutes north of Harrisonburg)  About eighty other friends and family members watched eagerly as they renewed their vows in front of us and more importantly God.  It was a very beautiful ceremony complete with worship songs and a touching moment at the end where Rebecca and Thomas braided three cords together as our pastor read the Ecclesiastes 4:12 passage. Several friends at the reception also gave testimonies on what God did in their lives and how it impacted their marriage.  It was a wonderful day and I feel very honored that Thomas and Rebecca asked me to contribute to it through the creation of their renewal bands.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dayton Autumn Celebration Round Two!

Wow, it’s been over two years since I last posted in this blog!  I’ll do my best to be more consistent but we shall see how life works with that haha.  In any case, much has happened with Sparkling Creations Jewelry in the past two years.  I have start placing my jewelry on consignment in the Skyline CafĂ© near Massanutten Resort, a quaint eatery, which showcases the work of over twenty local artists/crafters.  Possibly the biggest change has been that I have joined the Artisans Gallery in downtown Harrisonburg as a Member Artist.  Despite these changes though, I am still participating in local crafts fairs/festivals in the Shenandoah Valley!
Last weekend, on October 5th, I participated in the Dayton Autumn Celebration, possibly one of the biggest fall festivals in the Shenandoah Valley. The small town of Dayton lies around three miles south of the city of Harrisonburg, where I live.  It is a peaceful rural town, with many local business and several small galleries.  However, on the first Saturday of every October, over 350 craft vendors and 75 food vendors descend upon Dayton, setting up their canopies and food trucks in the streets and meeting places there.  Despite the large number of visitors, the vendors and townspeople of Dayton peacefully coexist on this big day.  Some of the townspeople even offer access to their homes to plug in electrical cords or let them park closer to their booth. 2013 marks the second year that I have been accepted to this event and I must say out of the dozen craft venues that I participated in, it has to be my favorite.
Although the Dayton Autumn Celebration lasted from 8:30am to 4pm, due to the large number of craft vendors, I had to set up my booth at 6:30am.  Yes 6:30am.  Getting up early doesn’t bother me too much though and my dad woke up early to help me set up my tables and canopy. I had the same booth assignment as last year, which was strategically located near the food vendors!  My vendor “neighbors” also stayed the same-a couple who sold handcrafted wooden lawn signs and a group of families, which had set up sand art activities for children.  Below is my jewelry display layout.  As you can tell, the sun was pretty brutal in the morning, but it definitely helped my jewelry be extra sparkly. :)
Although I do not know the exact number, tons of people came to this event, crowding the streets as early as 8:00am!  The day was unusually hot for October, but not completely unbearable.  My ever supportive and loving parents sat me for the day and helped out tremulously!  I also saw many friends from my church (Aletheia Church) and several other acquaintances in the area.  I sold a variety of jewelry pieces, but by far the most popular pieces were my copper bracelets.  Below are a few pictures of the bracelets that various people purchased:

The festive atmosphere and friendliness of my fellow vendors and booth visitors made the day unfortunately pass by too quickly.  Definitely looking forward to next year’s event!