For the love of silver…for the love of life!!

Archive for May, 2009

Did You Ever Make Mud Pies?

As a child of the 60s – long before the arrival of day time television – when we were masters of our own entertainment… having been plonked out in the garden for the day to get the sun and the fresh air I can vividly remember the joy I experienced in making mud pies and rose petal perfume.  All I needed was a few empty jam jars and a watering can full of water… and an old bent spoon to dig around in the soil and to stir my concoctions!!

So – what has changed????

NOTHING!!!!!!!!

I am now going to give you the recipe for the ‘connoisseur’s choice’ concoction that I made in my garden today!

As a jewellery maker/chain maker I make hundreds and hundreds of fine (pure) silver jump rings every week.  Everybody has their own way of cutting jump rings and I make mine by winding a ‘tube’ of wire of about 25 turns around a mandrel and then taping this up with some low tack masking tape.  I then insert my jeweller’s saw and cut through the rings from the inside of the tube.  The masking tape stops the rings from dropping onto the floor when they are cut through…and it also picks up a lot of the fine silver ‘dust’ that the sawing process produces.

Now – I hate waste.  So I collect the ‘sweepings’ from the sawing and put it in a pot.  I hope to be able to melt this and recover the silver one day.

I also collect the bits of masking tape and when I have a pot full I put them into a jam jar full of soapy water and some of the silver flecks swill off into the water.

Today was a fine, warm and still day so I decided to carry out my ‘experiment’.  I had collected the equivalent of 2 pots of masking tape from which most of the silver flecks had been washed…but I don’t like waste – and I could see there was still some silver adhering to the tape.  So – thinking back to the techniques of my chemical analysis job in the 1970s – I decided to burn the tape along with the silver flecks – collect the ash in a jar full of water and dissolve the soluble ashes. The liquid could then be decanted off leaving the silver flecks and any insoluble ashes left behind.

You may well think I am a lunatic…..but watch and admire!!!!

I started with a small pile…and as it started to really burn I added more from my stock.

Eventually it burned down to this…the large pieces to the top right are wrappers from Art Clay Silver packs which I couldn’t get the last bits of clay out from…and these are obviously made from plastic coated aluminium – and the aluminium wouldn’t burn.

Next, using my spoon…(not a bent one but something from my chemi lab days) – I scooped the ashes into a jar of water…

and then swirled … well more of a manic coacktail shaking technique actually!!

And you thought I was crazy………..

Not impressed yet?????……

Do you see what I see??

I guess you really need the sunlight to see it sparkle!!

OK – it isn’t pure silver….  there will be other stuff lurking in there too.  So I will let it settle for a day or so and then decant off the liquid on the top and the silver gunk at the bottom will go into a crucible in the kiln to make sure everything that I can burn of is burned off.  What is left I will melt with my torch in a scorifier – which is a pot with a spout designed to melt precious metals in.  If there is any scum and random debris I can scoop it off and what is left I will try to do some water casting with or maybe cuttle fish casting….I will have to see how well it works first!

But – aside from my joy at recovering this fine quantity of silver – I have had the delight of reliving my past!  I stink of smoke from the burnt paper and I am covered with smuts from the ash and water.

……I could always pick a few rose petals and lavender flowers and steep it in some water in one of those jam jars and make some exotic ‘perfume’ to mask the smell…

……just like I did when I was a little girl……

I hope I have taken you all back and you have relived a little bit from your childhood too.

Especially all my condron.us visitors.

If you have enjoyed this post please send me a comment and let me know!!

I talk to the trees……

…well, perhaps not quite!

I try, first thing every morning, to get out and have a brisk walk for about half an hour – even on a day like today when it was a bit chilly and drizzling – because nothing can beat that shot of beautiful fresh air before the rush hour traffic spoils it.  We have a park near to where we live and I tend to walk around the park, breathing deep of the air – lightly scented at this time of year with the flowers in the hedgerows and trees – and taking in the sounds of the birds and activity of the surrounding nature.  We are told that in order for walking to be beneficial, health wise, we need to make it brisk so I bound out of my front door and really go for it for the outward journey.  For the return journey I try to benefit my mind.  I have always had an issue with my confidence, and have recently been trying ‘self help’ strategies of self affirmations – which I really think are paying off!  So, as I slow my pace on the way home, I talk to myself and remind myself of what I am capable of and how I am confident in my abilities.  And yes, I do mean that I talk to myself – out loud!  (I always check that there is no one else within ear shot though!!!)

And, as if that is not bad enough,  I am also on the look out for inspirational stuff that might inform my jewellery designs.

Of course – there is the obvious stuff – which I am always drawn to…the lovely little flowers that are hidden away in our hedgerows…

…and I don’t feel too much of an idiot stopping to photograph these.  But it’s the other moments…the times when I notice soemthing as I am walking, and it takes me a while to process what I have seen, and appreciate the inspirational value of it… it is those times when I stop dead in my tracks, then walk back a few yards and invariably stare down at the pavement, or into the gutter…and then whip out my camera and photograph something that no-one else can see!!  It’s those times when I worry a bit what the people who are out and about in the early morning think of the crazy woman who talks to the trees and collects photographs of  asphalt!!

No – actually – I haven’t got an extensive photo library of road surfaces…although now I come to look at it…..it is rather interesting – especially when wet!!!

Well, now you can see what I was photographing this time…he was very small and really brightly coloured…and I so nearly passed him by!

And, one day, he might very well inspire me to a piece of beautiful jewellery in his honour!!

Spots Before the Eyes

I am really sorry that I haven’t posted anything for over a week but so much has been going on here I have barely had time to draw breath.

At the beginning of the year I decided to find out a bit about becoming self employed to see whether it was something I could do with Solunar Silver Studio.  I made enquiries at the local council and discovered that they have an ‘Enterprise’ initiative going at the moment and I was assigned a ‘Business Advisor’ to have a look at what sort of business I was proposing and whether it would be a viable proposition.  He has been a great help over the past few months  – not only in helping me to develop a Business Plan and Cash Flow projections but in simply saying “I think you have the makings of a nice little business here”…WOW – was that a boost to my confidence!!

Anyway – he has helped me to submit an application for a start up grant, and although it is not for a huge amount, it would make a big difference to me.  So I am awaiting the results of that now.  Whether I get the grant or not, I plan to start Solunar Silver Studio officially on 1st June 2009.

To that end I decided to use up the stock of fine silver wire and precious metal clay that I already have in making findings that I can use in my jewellery in June – thus giving me a bit of a head start.  So I was just about to start annealing wire and winding jumprings when I get a panicked request for a birthday cake required in 10 hours!!…that is from request to delivery, and I didn’t even have the ingredients in the house!!  Now my madeira cakes take in the region of 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cook – and at least 3 – 4 hours to cool down enough to decorate.  Adding the shopping time to that left me with less than an hour to slap on some form of decoration!  Fortunately there had been no request for any specific decoration – in fact they had said just cover it with white icing and leave it at that, but my personal pride would not allow me to go quite that minimal so I quickly coloured the offcuts from the white sugarpaste icing red, yellow and blue and using a set of geometric shaped ‘canape’ cutters (dating back to the 70s!) I stamped out a hand full of shapes  for each colour and stuck them on the cake at random.  Total sugarpaste icing time 15 minutes!  And – surprisingly – it didn’t look too bad at all!!  Very bright and cheery and sort of … well … nondescript – but definitely partyish!  Anyway – it went down well, or so I am told!

So, I am back to the jumprings now.

I have also spent a bit of time over the last week making my workshop ‘Studio’ into a rather more hospitable place since I am going to be spending a large chunk of my day working out there in future.  I have added a layer of wool insulation to the interior of the walls and roof and covered that with hardboard which I have painted a bright sunshine yellow to help to brighten up the space both physically and psychologically…with the morning sun shining through the window and reflecting off the walls it really is a lovely little place to work!  It has been physically demanding though and there have been times – particularly when trying to secure sheets of hardboard above my head with no one to help me – that I have literally seen spots before my eyes!

Although I have to share my 5 foot by 7 foot Studio space with the freezer and the gardening and Do-It-Yourself equipment I have built in plenty of shelves and drawer space and I have thick carpet tiles, a chair, ‘arty’ photos that I have taken on the walls, and a radio tuned to Classic FM to help me focus – what luxury!!….Oh! … and of course, my kiln(s) and ‘hearth’ and the rest of my ‘kit’!   So I am sure I will have no problem working out there during the better weather months, but as I learned at the beginning of the year – the winter is a different matter!  It is still a L  O  N  G way off though!

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I hope I haven’t lost all my condron.us visitors by not posting for so long….please come back….I promise I will post more often!!

…well – that’s another story…

All 3 of my grandchildren have their birthday between 16th March and 12th May….that makes for a tough time for me as I have always made cakes for them – and as they get older they seem to like more and more complicated things.  My youngest grandchild has a passion for Toy Story at the moment.  I did ‘toy’ :0) with the idea of making a ‘Buzz’ cake but when I actually looked at how he was put together I changed my mind!

Having made a Sleeping Beauty bed for my granddaughter at the beginning of May I decided to stick with the bed theme and do Andy’s bed and a handful of the toys for my grandson…… Simple…… Ha!

As with Sleeping Beauty – the bed making was fine.  Andy’s bed has a wooden head and foot with ‘turned’ spindles…a bit of a challenge…but I overcame this by taping bundles of cocktail sticks together and rolling sugarpaste around them for the posts and rolling sugarpaste around individual cocktail sticks for the spindles.  The large areas of the ‘woodwork’ were simply cut from thick sheets of sugarpaste.  The spindles were inserted and the posts attached then all the whole lot was left to dry and harden for 4 days.

The ‘mattress’ was made from madeira cake (with home made blackberry jam and buttercream), covered with a thin layer of sugarpaste to represent sheets and pillowcase.  The patchwork ‘quilt’ was just 1inch squares of alternate coloured sugarpaste.  So that bit was fine…

…it was the characters that I really struggled with.  Each part of each character had to be allowed to dry before I could add the next bit.  I started making Woody on Saturday morning and finally added the finishing touches to him this afternoon (Monday)!  It has probably been the longest cake making ‘marathon’ I have ever done!

As always – the faces are just a little bit ‘off’…it’s a bit like Toy Story from a parallel universe! – but as he is only 3 I don’t suppose it will spoil his day!

I will deliver the cake to his mum in the morning when he is in Nursery so it will be there for him when he gets back at lunchtime.

So you have been given a sneak preview of his special 3rd birthday cake….Shhhhhhhhhhh…don’t spoil the surprise!!

A Shared Moment….

I just couldn’t resist sneeking up on this pair as they were totally absorbed in watching Shrek 3 D movie…  My son and my grandson were taking a quiet moment after trashing my lounge!!  I just love the sense of closeness and the shared pose as they are both absorbed with the film…..aw…..how cute!!!

‘Lips as Red as the Rose and Hair as Gold as Sunshine’

‘Lips as red as the rose and hair as gold as sunshine…’  These were the instructions I received from my granddaughter with regard to the design of cake she wanted for her 6th birthday.  She wanted a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ cake and obviously had in mind the Disney Princesses Sleeping Beauty because she is well into the Disney Princesses.

The cake concept was not going to be too much of a problem…but the breathtakingly beautiful slumbering princess…well, that was going to be a toughie!!

Surely I could dazzle a six year old girl with a grand, scroll encrusted and gilded bed with frilled and flounced bedding fit for a Princess…and she might not notice the girl herself was feeling a little below par!!

Truth to tell – she was not a beauty…she was definitely rather ‘homely’!  In fact, I ended up calling her Medusa…which amused the adults but thankfully went over my granddaughter’s head!

Still – considering she was all moulded free hand from sugarpaste I don’t think I did too badly!

The whole thing was, in fact, edible.  The head and foot of the bed were made from sugarpaste and the scroll work was done in royal icing which gave the strength needed to ‘build’ the freestanding bed ends.  The gilding was also an edible food colour.  All the rest was madeira sponge cake and coloured sugarpaste icing.  Just because a thing is edible, however, doesn’t mean that it necessarily should be eaten (…not if you value your teeth in this case because the royal icing was really hard!)  I did think that she might want to keep some bits of the cake – like the bed head and Sleeping Beauty, for a while, as a memento – and sugarpaste does keep quite well so long as it is kept in a dry place.

However, talking to my daughter this morning I was told that everyone liked the cake and during the evening Bethany had started eating Sleeping Beauty’s dress….later on the skirt was gone and one of the legs was missing….then there was nothing below the waist.  Before bedtime there was a bite mark in the back of her head…and this morning her face had been bitten off!!

I’m not quite sure if that means she was just too hideous to leave lying around or that she was just too gorgeous to be left uneaten!!…but there certainly wasn’t any sentimental attachment formed there!!

Still, I’m glad her stomach loved her – even if her heart didn’t!!

Good Job!!!

I had a job interview yesterday…

It seemed like as good a time as any to make use of my new chrysocolla stones which I showed you last week – particularly as chrysocolla is supposed to have properties which help the throat chakra and therefore are good for public speaking and are overall good for keeping a calm and serene countenance!!

Using my handmade fine twist pure silver chain I added some of my newly made pure silver coated ceramic beads (which I made last week) to give a bit of a build up to the stunning chrysocolla teardrop focal bead which I used as the pendant.

I made a pair of very simple earrings with the small rectangle chrysocolla beads and a couple of small pure silver coated ceramic beads.  They have a lovely weight to them which served to remind me every time I moved my head that I was wearing these eye-catching stones!!

I love them and was really proud to wear them.

It was a panel type interview – which was a bit daunting – but I felt very positive and happy with the way I performed…

OK – so I didn’t get the job…

…but I did get complimented on my jewellery!!!!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  R     E     S     U     L     T  ! ! ! ! !

Every cloud has a silver lining so they say – and not getting this job means that I can spend all those extra hours that I would have been working for someone else working on making my jewellery at Solunar Silver Studio!!  So I’m still smiling!

I haven’t mentioned condron.us in my blog lately so there are loads of people who might have missed out on my recent jewellery experiments!!

Hopefully you will enjoy seeing the jewellery that I have just made….let me know!!

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