Archive for 2010

pearls and excuses

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Tahitian, South Sea, and Chinese Pearls; 18K white gold ring with Tahitian pearl

A few things. One: We went on vacation (!!) to San Francisco & Napa to visit old friends, drink a lot of wine, visit about twelve different parks (the toddler loves parks), and buy some pearls. Two: I got slammed with The Wedding Season. I am thrilled but also a little freaked; this is my first big rush. Yeeee! Three: True Blood. We just watched the final episode of the first season so I think I can get on with my life—well, at least until I get my hands on season two. Not having a TV for the past 20 years, and not having full access to one before that, has left me woefully unprepared for that most frustrating of plot devices: the cliffhanger. My brain pretty much sucks into a tight bead of anxiety and I am forced to start the next episode right now immediately ohMYGOD they just killed Graaaaannnn!

Anyway, ahem. I bought a few new pearls while in San Francisco, because I was just at the gem show and desperately needed more more more. Behold:

Chinese freshwater pearls and South Sea pearl

Yum. The two on the left are Chinese freshwater pearls and the one on the right is a South Sea pearl (from Australia).

Tahitian pearls and peachy Chinese freshwater pearl

Here are some more. All are Tahitian pearls except from the bright peachy pink (natural color too, by the way) Chinese freshwater pearl. They range in size from 9.5-11mm approximately.

I posted two new pearl rings on the Etsy site: here and here. I also have two new designs coming. One spare and modern and the other featuring (you will NEVER guess): roses. My oh my.

wax injector, revisited

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

I finally got my wax injector and am using it and it works great and pink waxes have populated all the ledges of my studio like weird little fairies. But it wasn’t as easy as that.

Of course I had to put off my grand purchase until the new year because of (blah) taxes. So as soon as the supply company got back in the office after the holiday, I got them on the phone and ordered the thing. It came a week later packed in a box crammed solid with shredded cardboard worms. I applaud the repurposing of old boxes but I have to say that that shit is disgusting. They went everywhere as I tried to scoop them into another box; a hazy dust cloud formed over me like some sort of plague. I’m not kidding when I say that I had thoughts of all sorts of evil creepy airborne particles, namely anthrax. I’ve never seen it but I imagine it probably looks like gray vaporous cardboard. Eventually the machine itself was unearthed in all that packing material. I pulled it out, releasing another cloud of cardboard dust and splattering a new batch of dry worms all over the floor. Curiously, the amount of shredded cardboard that came out of the one box now filled two boxes.

But the wax injector. Oh yes: it had dials, it had toggle switches. It had stylish screw-down knobs on the top. I opened it up and peered inside to find … grossness. Greasy casting sand was packed into the crevices. And I do mean crevices; where there presumably should have been the neat edges of a cylindrical aluminum canister were tool marks and bottomless cracks packed with sand. I was, um, irritated.

inside Arbe wax injector

[This is after I spent a good deal of time cleaning out the sand with a pick and washcloth. Also those dark areas on the bottom where the grinder missed are deep, and packed with sand.]

inside Arbe wax injector

[Greasy casting sand. Ick.]

It looked to me that it was simply a casting job gone poorly (I know a thing or two about casting jobs—especially the gone poorly variety). Then someone went in with a grinder and halfheartedly tried to smooth out the sides but really only made it worse. I got some paper towels to try to clean out the sand. Then I got some cloth towels. The paper towels shredded and the cloth towels snagged up on the sides. It was an ugly scene and I was rather bent out of shape over it. I wanted to use it already. My concerns (aside from the fact that it’s not preeeettttyyy) were that the sand would clog the nozzle or simply exist in my waxes, which frankly, would not do. I do a considerable amount of carving on my injected waxes and having sand in them is stupid. Not to mention, it could mess with the burnout and casting. My conclusions: Sand = Bad (and icky).

I contacted both the place I ordered the thing from and Arbe (the manufacturer) itself with my hypothesis. Arbe was the one to get back to me (promptly), except they told me that it was normal to have some sand in the canister and just wipe it out. If it doesn’t come out, don’t worry because it burns out clean!(?)* Basically, they told me I was being a pussy; a little sand in an ugly-looking canister was NOT going to affect the performance of the unit. I sent back an email all: you have GOT to be kidding me. And the reply was, no, not kidding, but if I’m going to be That Way, they would send me a new unit to replace it. AND, the guy who was writing the emails would PERSONALLY clean out any sand that may be in my new unit before sending it. What a sweetheart. I told him, “You’re ON!” They shipped it out the next day.

So, I had to wait another week or so to get the new unit, which of course was packed in another radioactive haze of packing cardboard (it took me weeks to work up the gumption to lug all those boxes of crap home for recycling); I packed up the old one and they had the UPS guy come to my house to pick it up.

The new one is fine. It is clean, it is normal. It’s perfect. It heats wax and squirts it out a nozzle! I’m very happy.

* Seriously? If the casting sand burnt out clean in the kiln during wax burn-out, why didn’t it vaporize when MOLTEN LAVA (I mean, melted aluminum) was poured into the mold? Am I missing some crucial point here? Because it makes no sense to me.

bauble ring

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

sterling and sapphire bauble ring

The first of the Bauble Rings. I constructed this out of sterling and set a tiny 2.3mm sapphire in the top. The ball measures just under 3/4 inch. I snapped a few photos out in the brilliant sun. It has been beautiful here in Portland these past few days; the sky has been deep blue, crocuses are blooming, there are tiny pink flowers sprouting from all the plum trees. It’s deceptively cold though and every time we take off for a leisurely walk, we come back with blue lips.

sterling silver and sapphire bauble ring

sterling silver and sapphire bauble ring

sterling silver and sapphire bauble ring

sterling silver and sapphire bauble ring

This is another one. The ball is more perfectly spherical and a little bigger too, a tad over 3/4 inch.

gems, rocks, dust, mud

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Chinese turquoise

When I found The Guy With The Turquoise at AGTA I totally started vibrating, I was so excited. I probably spent an hour poring over every stone even though I ended up buying the three papers I picked up initially. I ended up with 100 grams of turquoise. That piece up above is so cool I had to get it. It’s going to be a monster ring, most likely; that thing’s easily the size of a peanut butter cup. It looks like some sort of infrared Japanese water lily pond.

My mom came in for the spectacle the first day and we met up with Alisha. We all sort of drifted from one huge fancy color diamond booth to another for a while before shaking our heads and trying to remember what we came for in the first place. The AGTA show is so freaking huge it’s hard to know where to start.

AGTA show

Winding down on the last day of the show. Note the strict business casual dress code. I was in jeans and looked more presentable than most of the buyers. I guess the suits come for the first few days of the show only. I come for the sales on the last day.

Pearl capital building

A godawful waste of pearls if you ask me. The lady went on about how long it took them to find so many matching pearls to build this wondrous monstrosity.

Tiara of Empress Marie-Louise

Aaahh, that’s much easier on the eyes. This is Empress Marie-Louise’s tiara. Originally it had emeralds instead of turquoises but it was purchased by Van Cleef & Arpels in the 50s, they removed all the emeralds, and had them replaced with Persian turquoise. The emeralds they reset in modern-style jewelry and sold off as pricey little nuggets of Napoleonic history. I find it interesting that the turquoises are really unmatched in color. I wonder if it was always so or if some of them turned more greenish over time.

many little sapphires

Some of the booth folk were not interested in me taking photos of their stock (corporate spies are everywhere) but these guys didn’t care. Here are many many sparkling sapphires. There was a LOT of this sort of thing going around.

trapiche emerald

As the show neared the end, vendors were either brain dead or really chatty about their stock to people clearly not buying $13,000 stones. This guys brought some of his trapiche emeralds out for us to ogle. They are just so damned cool. Really intense green and so much clearer than you usually see emeralds.

desert clouds

The gem show is in Tucson so we stayed at my parent’s house out in the desert near Rio Rico. I snapped the obligatory out-the-car-window shot of the ominous clouds.

more desert clouds

Joshua stopped the car for me here. The cloud shadows on the dusty mountains looked really cool. It started raining as we drove in to Tucson.

wash skate park in Tucson

Since we’re big tough Pacific Northwest types, we walked in the rain in between venues (along with nobody else). I was amused to see this skate park built in the concrete drainage ditch. This is right near the Convention Center. Go skater punks!

geeky valentine love

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Tjep design studio "A Clockwork Love"

I don’t often get into heart or gear jewelry. Heart jewelry is usually too sappy sentimental and gear jewelry generally attracts too predictable a crowd for my tastes. The combination of hearts and gears, however, cancel out the sap/dork and make for some pretty damned awesome pieces.

Tjep design studio "A Clockwork Love"

Tjep design studio "A Clockwork Love"

They are made by a design house called Tjep that does everything from product design and packaging to interiors and building design. It’s all pretty decent looking stuff really, rather heavy handed on the laser cutting.


Lynn Christiansen

Her other stuff is even cooler.

rosie the riveter

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Riveted rose ring - sterling silver

New ring in the shop! It’s made from three plates of silver riveted together (no solder at all).

Riveted rose ring - sterling silver

It looks awesome when the sun shines through it; it makes little rose shadows on your hand.

In other news, I’ll be going to the Tucson Gem Show in a couple of days. It’s the largest gem show in the country, in the world possibly? At any rate, it is massive; the entire town of Tucson is descended upon and taken over by gem, rock, and fossil types. There are venues set up all over town, some typical convention-hall places or large temporary tents set up for the occasion but others are in various motels. The string of motels along I-10 transform into a crazy marketplace; people vending out of their rooms. You wander the halls, going into any open door. Beds are shoved up against the walls and folding tables are set up with lights and glass cases for the stones. You can see into the bathroom nook where there are always personal effects like coffee cups, makeup bags, electric shavers, toothbrushes, rumpled washcloths or towels sitting out. I always feel awkward when I see such things because I remember that they have been living in this room for the past week. They actually sleep in the bed underneath the table.

The goods range from dusty rocks and fossils or mammoth tusks to fat glittering diamonds and sapphires and rubies. There are tables piled two feet high with hanks of pearls. Buckets (literally) of lower-quality cut sapphires, amethysts, garnets, citrines. Some venues are just in parking lots and others have security guards, only letting certified in-the-business folks inside. These venues actually have a dress code, a thing that totally freaks me out since I have very little in the way of non-denim and t-shirts.

One of my favorite stops is the Flamingo Hotel lounge downtown where the Native Americans show their work. This is not so much a rock venue but rather a finished jewelry and artwork show. You walk into the hotel lobby and the light is dim, there are smudge bundles burning, wooden flute broken up with an eagle call here and there is playing in the background, and a bunch of surly old dudes loaded down with serious turquoise jewelry stand over their work. A lot of the jewelry isn’t really my style but some is truly awesome. It’s always worth checking out.

new photos on the website

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

sterling silver box ring

sterling silver box ring

sterling silver box ring

I made this a while ago but only now got around to photographing it. I got the pebbles from Pebble Beach, near Ano Nuevo on the California coast. There is a sign that says “Please do not take the pebbles,” but seriously how could you not? The whole beach is filled with these tiny perfect colorful pebbles that would pretty much turn anyone into an obsessive compulsive. As soon as we got there, I fell to my knees and spent the entire time sifting through them, running them through my fingers, putting them in my pocket…

piles o rings

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

rings rings piles of rings

Pretty! Pretty!

roses are silver, roses are gold

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

carved rose ring in sterling silver

I’ve been on a rose carving kick lately. This is the most recent one I’ve done. It’s my current favorite. My newest ring is always my favorite. This one I carved freehand (i.e., no sketch beforehand, no measuring, no plans, etc.), which worked just fine since it’s not exactly a complicated design.

carved climbing rose vine ring in 18K gold

This is another recent one I did freehand—just started hacking away at a scrap of ring blank. I think I started on the actual wax a couple of years ago but never got farther than blocking out a size and width; I don’t even remember what I intended to carve.

carved chain of roses ring in sterling silver

So dainty!

carved rosebush ring, boulder opal in 18K gold

So not! This is a massive, honking, behemoth of a ring. It took me so long to carve that I felt like casting it into silver would have been ridiculous; $5 worth of silver in a ring that took me 20 hours to carve. Just how do you price stuff like that? So I had it cast into 18K gold (happily back when it was around $400/ounce). It’s really over-the-top but I love it. A big snarly rosebush for your finger.

carved rosebush ring, boulder opal in 18K gold

The stone in it is a boulder opal that I bought from a couple of dudes (brothers) who own and work their own mine in Queensland, Australia. While I was admiring his stones, one of the brothers entertained me with bawdy miner stories. He joked about how his brother (who was off getting lunch) was a total wuss when it came to snakes and spiders (seriously, who wouldn’t be; the number of deadly poisonous beasties that creep and crawl across the continent of Australia is staggering) and every night, having passed out after drinking his weight in warm canned beer, the wuss brother would find himself desperately needing to get up in the night to pee. After lying in agony in his cot until he couldn’t take it anymore, he would proceed to wake everyone in the tent with his swearing and flashlight flashing and banging of his boots against the ground manically attempting to dislodge any deadly scorpions or spiders. Then, lightning quick, he would dash outside to the nearest tuft of grass to relieve himself and fly back to his cot and be in his sleeping bag like his ass was on fire. The other brother laughed himself hoarse telling the story until finally the wuss brother returned to the booth with a couple of Indian tacos, eyebrows raised wondering what was so funny.

I’m thinking it would also be totally awesome to have little 3-5 point diamonds set around some of these bands. Maybe 5 or 6 stones bezel set. Course I need to learn how to set (faceted) stones…

Actually learning to set stones is totally my goal for the next few months. Except using the word ‘goal’ makes me feel like I’m on a job interview for an entry level position at some massive financial firm being asked by a doughy middle manager in an ill-fitting Structure suit, “What personal goals have you set for yourself?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Those are the two lamest questions ever and I always hated them. Probably because my answers were always along the lines of: “Goals? I don’t need no stinking goals,” and “As a rule I do not plan more than a week in advance, but I can tell you now that I sure as shit don’t see myself HERE.” Sadly I never did answer honestly to those questions and I always got hired in the end.

Anyway. The point of my post? Not a team player. Also: likes roses.

oh haiti

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Market St., Port-au-Prince

[Market St., Port-au-Prince, before and after. Image taken from here.]

I’m going to contribute $10 to Doctors Without Borders with every purchase from my Etsy shop. If you buy something, you will receive an email confirmation that a donation has been made in your name. Thank you.