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

Posts tagged ‘condron.us’

Rose Nose

I have suffered from hayfever for nearly 40 years.  I have dreaded the summer coming round each year and have missed out on enjoying all sorts of outdoor activities because of it.  I’ve tried all sorts of medication over the years and have even had de-sensitising injections but nothing has really made a long term difference……..could this year be different???

I recently  saw an advert on the televison for a new form of allergy relief which really took my attention…it was for some device that you clip up your nose for a few minutes each day.  Sceptical that this could help my hayfever I did a bit of research on the internet.  The customer reviews seem to indicate that it works really well…but they all mentioned not to use it in public places because it makes you nose light up!!  “Curious”, thinks I…..but I decide to buy one and give it a go.  Even if it doesn’t work it certainly raises your spirits because it makes you laugh every time you use it as it really does make your nose light up like a Christmas reindeer decoration!!!  Far from not using it in public I have decided to use it in front of the world!!!…because I think it might really work!!!

I know that it is only really the beginning of the grass pollen season in the UK but I have been using it for the last few days and decided to give it a baptism of fire yesterday.  I went to my favourite local ‘chill out’ location (Norton Priory Museum and Gardens)  in the  afternoon as it was beautifully warm and sunny and was fortunate enough to arrive just before the start of a guided tour of the Walled Garden.  I’ve been to this location dozens of times but have never heard the history of the gardens so this was really interesting – and the gardens are really lovely.  They have all sorts of ‘old fashioned’ roses – you know, the ones that actually have a fragrance!! and a walk in these sheltered walled gardens was like being in a box of ‘Turkish Delight’ (a soft jelly confection flavoured with rosewater) – soft, fragrant and indulgent!!

At the end of the tour the guide suggested that we take a walk through the ‘wild flower meadow’………hmmmmm.  Normally I would have run a mile at the thought but I decided I would give it a go to see if this device is really making a difference.

It was really lovely – although there was a haze of grass flowers, just above the oxeye daisies, across the whole field – and I walked the path that surrounded it without so much as a sniffle!  Amazing!!

I guess time will tell how effective this thing is as the hayfever season progresses but I am very impressed so far!

My afternoon was rounded off by meeting a lovely Irish lady called Louise from Crewe (and originally from Dundalk) who was kind enough to stop me and tell me that she had been admiring my jewellery!!  Needless to say – I was a walking advert for Solunar Silver Studio as usual!!  …but I have never had this experience before – and it made me feel wonderful!!  So thank you for your kindness Louise! – you really made my day!!

And I hope condron.us will keep me on a high by sending lots of lovely visitors my way!!!

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!!

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!!

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!!

Cross my Palm with Silver…..

I finally managed to get a little pmc (precious metal clay) experiment up and running today – I’ve nearly got my pmc ‘workcupboard’ finished now so I thought I would christen it!  It is quite a comfortable space to work in although it is a very small area and I have my back to the door (which I don’t like) so I have rigged up a mirror in front of me so that I can see what is going on behind me…I think it’s a Feng Shui thing but it makes me feel more comfortable!

Anyway – back to the experiment….

I bought some ceramic beads, some glazed and some not.  Figuring that ceramic beads have already been through a kiln firing they won’t mind going through another one, and the temperature needed for pmc is lower than that used to biscuit fire or glaze fire clay, it should be a ‘walk in the park’ for them!!

So I have coated the beads with layers of pmc slip, drying each layer before adding another one.  After several coats I added a simple decoration using a syringe of pmc.   This is only the second time I have tried a syringe for pmc and I used a larger tip this time making it easier to push the pmc out.  It was very similar to piping with royal icing so I was quite comfortable doing it this time!

After they were thoroughly dry I popped them into the kiln nestled on a bed of vermiculite.  I cranked the temperture up slowly this time so as not to shock the ceramic beads and then fired them for rather longer than usual before allowing the kiln to cool slowly.

They looked to be in one piece although there were obviously areas on the large glazed bead where the bead was shining through the silver layer so something had gone wrong there…whether it was because the pmc doesn’t stick too well to glazed ceramics or because I hadn’t put it on thickly enough in those spots I’m not sure.  The unglazed bead seemed to be fine as were the little glazed beads.

I haven’t had time to tumble these in my machine to polish them up but I have given them a quick brush with a brass brush which has given them a ‘satin’ look.  It also put a lot of friction stress on the large glazed bead which surprisingly didn’t seem to suffer any more silver damage so perhaps it was just that I had put the pmc  on too thinly.

Generally, I think these look rather good considering it was a first attempt.  I think I might try painting another few layers of pmc onto the fired layer and then fire it again…I’m not too sure how well this will work but it is worth a try.  I might be able to build up a more substantial layer of silver doing it like that….I’ll have to give it a go!!

I’d love to have your comments on my stripy ceramic bead experiments…

Hot Stones!!!

In the last week I have discovered that I am getting old…  On the 6th of April I started a DIY project that I expected to get finished by Easter – OK, it was a bit of an ambitious plan to totally rearrange my son’s bedroom – with old furniture shipped out and new ‘minimalist’ self assembly furniture shipped in;  and turning a large cupboard into a dedicated PMC (precious metal clay) workroom and storage area for me – but I felt sure it was ‘doable’!!  Sixteen days on and the project is still going …my body isn’t!!  Talk about aches and pains!!  I am definitely on the home run now, so it’s not so bad….I have to admit though, there were times of complete panic when I thought I’d bitten off more than I could chew.  I’m sure I will be really pleased when it is all up and running….

So with aches and pains and knotted muscles I had a treat at the hands of my lovely daughter.  She is a Holistic Therapist, and treated me to a ‘Hot Stones’ Massage.  Oh joy!  OH BLISS!!

It is a bit bizarre going into a holistic therapy salon where the ambiance is calm and the background music serene to see they have a slow cooker on the boil and the therapist is clad in a blue rubber glove!  The ‘crock pot’ is warming up large, smooth basalt stones in water ( which is the reason for the elegant rubber glove!!).  When these were at the appropriate temperature they were placed at strategic points on my towel draped, prone body – a bit of a weird feeling but pleasant nevertheless.  Small, warm stones were inserted between my toes – really weird and rather ticklish but still OK and then the massage began with my daughter (the therapist) massaging my knotted arms, legs and back with the warm stones covered in a lovely smelling essential oil mix.  Indescribable!! …but just so good!!…and I have to say that I feel wonderful now!!  OK, I don’t feel 10 years younger…but I feel pretty darn good for the age I am!! …and all my aches and pains have been ‘ironed’ away.  Fantastic!!

So, my workroom nearly finished, I should be able to get back to doing some jewellery work in the very near future – and I have bought some semi precious stones, that I just love, which I am really keen to design  some jewellery around.

This is a chrysocolla stone.  I’ve tried to do it justice but I just can’t get the colours right.  It has a beautiful mix of turquoise and green colours along with deep black/brown markings.  So, for the light blue bits read ‘turquoise’ and the green bits read ‘malachite’ green.  I have bought 2 sizes of rectangle and one size of teardrop – all big enough to use as ‘focal’ stones….and the colours go so beautifully with silver!!

So, all the time I am hard at work rebuilding my house(!!) I am thinking and planning just what I can do with these lovely stones.  I can’t wait!!

Apart from being totally beautiful to look at chrysocolla stones are said to have a variety of healing and metaphysical properties attributed to them, for example:-

Chrysocolla is generally associated with peace and tranquility, as well as intuition, patience and unconditional love.  It is often thought to offer gentle and soothing qualities, it is believed to be a powerful source of life-force energy, as well as a stone for feminine empowerment; helping to build feminine energies and calm emotions.  (www.shimmerlings.com)  Chrysocolla  promotes level headedness and clear thinking. Often used by public speakers to decrease nervousness.  Helps with infections, fever, and cramps.  Chrysocolla can lower blood pressure and detoxify the liver.   Helps with ulcers and arthritis.  (Read more about chrysocolla at http://www.beadage.net/glossary/index.php?term=chrysocolla;  http://www.sobrietystones.com/resources/GemBook/Stones/meanings_gemstones_chrysocolla).

So that is 2 kinds of really ‘HOT’ stones that have entered and enriched my life this week…and hopefully will remain part of my life from now on!!

I know it has been a long time since my last post so I hope my condron.us visitors are still viewing!!

A Perfect Sunny Sunday

What a beautiful sunny Sunday we have had here in the North West of the UK!!  I spent a lovely afternoon at Norton Priory Museum and Gardens in glorious sunshine and not a breath of wind.  The flowers are all beginning to burst forth – grand and glorious!  I couldn’t resist sharing some of my photographs with you.  I have spent most of the week doing major redecorating work at home and my walk through this wonderful, peaceful garden was just the kind of relaxation I needed!  I hope you like my photos!  I will get back to making some jewellery next week…promise!!

Thank you condron.us for sending so many visitors my way!

A Charming Way to Spend a Weekend!

I had an idea this morning (Saturday) to make a sort of charm bracelet using one of my fine (pure) silver chains and the little pmc (precious metal clay) letter discs I made last Sunday ( see Sunday Playtime).  I have a fairly large immediate family and thought it would be a great idea to have the initial letter from each of their names on my ‘experimental’ charm bracelet.

Cast pmc charms before firing

I am rather taken with the idea of having jewellery that moves a bit so I thought I would mount the discs on rings that would slide up and down on the bracelet chain.  However, because there are so many of these discs on the bracelet they tended to get all clustered up in a clump!…so here’s my great idea…I have wired semi precious gemstone beads (relevant to the individuals whose initials are on my bracelet) onto the jumprings that connect the twisted elements of the chain together.  As I went along I ‘trapped’ a slider into the spaces between the wired gemstones.  This meant that they could still slide but only within their own little bay.

Finished bracelet with discs mounted on large decorative rings

The bracelet is surprisingly heavy and makes a fantastic changling ( my newly invented word to mean a rather subtle jingling!) noise as all the rings slither around on the chain.

I think I would probably like to add a few more charms and/or beads to it as it is a rather ‘inbetween’ design…it certainly isn’t minimalist (!!) and yet it is not sufficiently ‘filled out’ to be dramatic.  That is for another day however…

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Well, I left it overnight to think about it and first thing this morning (Sunday) I took the whole thing apart again!  I decided to cut down the size of the rings the charms were mounted on – which meant that they only just had the clearance to slide about but made the whole bracelet more streamlined.

Bracelet denuded of beads and with smaller attaching rings.

Then I reattached the semi precious gemstone beads and one of my pmc chunky heart charms at the ‘bar’ end of the chain to fill up what was a bit of a gap.  I am a whole lot happier with this bracelet – it is more balanced and far more comfortable to wear.  Before I put the beads back on I weighed the silver components of the bracelet and found it to be over 13 grams…so you know you have it on!!  There is still plenty of room to add more charms if I decide to but I think I will wear it like this for a while and give it a ‘test drive’!.

Finished bracelet ready for a ‘test drive’!

I am really pleased with these little letter discs.  In fact – I might take a temporary break from making flower based designs to have a go at some ‘wordy’ ones!

I’m having a day out tomorrow to go to the British Craft Trade Fair at Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England.  I really am terrifically excited and hope to get a real buzz from looking at the amazing craftwork people are making now…who knows – one day I might find myself exhibiting Solunar Silver Studio jewelelry there!!  I’ll let you know what kind of day I have later in the week.

By the way… for anyone reading my blog on condron.us – Yorkshire is another fantastic place to visit in the UK!!

Life is a Rich Tapestry…

I know this is not exactly ‘up to the minute reporting’ but I want to let you all know about what I did on Sunday!  As any regular readers will know, I am a sucker for a bit of sunshine…( so long as it is not too hot!)…as soon as there is a bit of blue sky and sunshine my spirits lift and I want to enjoy a few minutes in the ‘great outdoors’.  Well, Sunday was one of those days and in the afternoon I was drawn back to our local visitor attraction, Norton Priory Museum and Gardens.  Last time I visited on the 19th of March (see What a BEE…uty!) most of the plants (except the daffs) were still in winter mode with just a couple of promising buds on display, well, on Sunday spring was definitely on the way as you can see from these photos of the magnolia and camelia…so beautiful against the blue sky!

The other delightful surprise I had when I got there was an invitation to watch a fascinating music recital given by ‘Tapestry of Music’, who, dressed in period costumes, led us through a display of musical instruments and music from the 12th century onwards.  They were a lovely couple, full of fun and very skilled.  The instruments were amazing and very beautifully constructed, and the sounds they made were quite enchanting.  A truly unexpected and delightful afternoon!  If ever you have a chance to go to one of these recitals – I thoroughly recommend it!  I have put a link to their website under my ‘Great Art’ category- in the CDs section of their website you get a chance to hear some snippets of the music played on lutes, harps, hurdy-gurdys, crumhorns, shawns and many other mediaeval instruments.  Fascinating!

Once again I would like to thank condron.us for continuing to send visitors my way!  (Blog lovers go visit!)  And if anyone from America (or anywhere else for that matter!) is planning a trip to England – come and visit the North West, there is a lot of historical interest up here and some truly beautiful countryside!

Floral Display

Last week was one of those weeks where nothing much got done but there was a lot going on…rather a case of ‘ever decreasing circles’!  Anyway – it might be a little bit late but I thought I would do a delayed post from the end of last week and try to catch up with myself.

My daughter wanted me to do a little display of the jewellery I am currently making at her ‘birthday bash’ on Saturday – not so much a jewellery sale but more a sort of look what is on offer! – the only problem was that she hasn’t got any sort of table that I could display my jewellery on – except in the kitchen, which is not quite what I was after!  So I decided to make myself a simple, portable display case.

I was able to buy a long narrow aluminium (silver) framed picture frame which was a good size for displaying my jewellery in and replaced the glass with clear acrylic sheet (perspex).  I replaced the back with a piece of MDF onto which I attached a suedette covered pad which fitted neatly inside the picture frame, giving me a few millimetres of clearance for my jewellery to be positioned.

I then made a box out of MDF which would be big enough to take the folded up legs of a ‘butler’ style tray/table.  The idea being that I could transport the box, with the folded up legs inside it in the car with the display case on top – then when I get to the venue I can carry the whole thing into the house, open up the legs, invert the box to make the table top and put the display case on top…voila…instant tabletop display case!!

Anyway – it worked very well and everyone was able to have a good look at what I had put into the display case and asked a lot of questions and showed a lot of interest…which was good, because they said they will be willing to hold jewellery sale parties in their homes for me when I get enough stock together to get started later on in the year.  Excellent!!

Having finally got my new batch of precious metal clay delivered at the beginning of the week I continued with my quest to incorporate my little silver flowers into as many different kinds of designs I could think of!  Everybody I have met so far likes my floral bracelet (see my entry for March 14th, Happy Hippy Bracelet), but I found it really hard to get the joining links to fuse closed so I thought I would try a similar effect with just one row of connecting links which would be easier to accomplish!  I decided that this idea would hang well around the neck.  I have made 2 sizes of square silver ‘frames’ so, for one of the designs, I used a mix of large and small squares to mount the flowers on.  Both designs work really well and I am very happy with them.  I have added the squares to 18 inches of my fine twisted link chain and added a toggle fastener.

Personally, I prefer the design with the 2 different square sizes…what do you think??  Do let me know!!  The necklaces can be seen on the right hand side of my display case (above).

Many thanks again to condron.us who are still sending me lots of lovely viewers to my blog!  If you enjoy viewing lots of blogs look them up!!

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