Thursday, September 20, 2007

Whiskey on the Rocks Necklace

After fighting off viruses and staunching wounds in the first half of the week, I finally managed to sit down today in my studio (okay, well, stand up, as I have to do most of my hammering on the window sill of the nearby laundry room) and complete a necklace I've been dreaming of since I purchased a strand of gorgeous facetted whiskey quartz beads.

I haven't had much time lately to do a lot of silver work, plus I've been working with a lot more gold due to the autumn colors I've been using, but I really wanted to forge a beautiful sterling chain that would highlight the spectacular beauty of the whiskey quartz pendant. Although it goes beautifully with gold (see my previous blog entitled "Whiskey and Pearls by Firelight"), I thought the purity of silver was needed for this necklace.

Working with silver is a source of great pleasure for me. I love forming links by hand and eyeball, I love soldering, I love hammering (especially hammering!). There is something immensely satisfying in making something as solid as a chain from something as simple as wire.

I wanted the main links of the chain to mimic the shape of the pendant, or perhaps to mimic the shape of ice cubes floating in a crystal glass full of whiskey. I joined the larger links with smaller ones, which I hammered to give a texture distinct from the smoothly hammered larger links, and then twisted slightly for additional visual interest. I finished it off with a handforged s-hook clasp which enables the wearer to extend the necklace from 16-18 inches.

I am thinking of trotting out my Liver of Sulphur (I know: what a name! And an even worse smell!) and making a similar necklace with oxidized silver. I like the idea of dark grey silver next to the warm tawny gold of the whiskey quartz.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Road Rash...and Other Viruses

So, my husband leaves for a trip to Latin America on Sunday afternoon. All is quiet on the home front until I hear the backdoor open and turn to see my son, covered in blood from the knees down. He caught a terrible road rash, it would seem, while playing the street....while wearing shorts. Hmmmm, funny how those viruses can sneak up on you in the midst of playing. So, instead of a nice quiet dinner together, I spent the next hour discovering and bathing and bandaging his wounds. His knees took the brunt of it, but his elbow was nicely skinned as well. He was being very brave about it, while I was trying hard not to hyperventilate at all the blood and missing skin.

So, Monday morning, which is typically a difficult morning with the three of us sleepily bumping into each other and tripping on cats, was made even more interesting by the subtraction of one adult to deal with breakfast, etc, and with the additional need to remove sterile pads (ouch! Don't do it so fast, Mom!) slooooooowly, cleanse wounds, reassure child that the antiseptic states in clear red letters on the bottle that it is a "no-sting" formula while he is whimpering in pain, replace sterile pads, try to find an area where there is actual skin onto which I can put tape, then wrapping it all in Ace bandages to prevent the sterile pads from falling off during the day at school.

He made it through the day with Ace bandages intact, but arrived home with another virus: a cold. Tuesday morning, the ritual was repeated, sans help from far-away hubby, and, looking from the pulpy knees to the dripping nose, I decided to keep him home. Wednesday morning, his knees had swelled up like balloons, but I said he should go to school anyway (after all, high school counts, I told him). He slowly limped toward the door, saying it hurt to put weight on one leg, came back to blow his nose, looking so miserable that I relented and kept him home again. Took him to the doctor as well, as my husband and I didn't believe him when he came in that same back door, almost a year ago now, and said he thought he broke his leg....playing the dark....on Friday the 13th....which happened to be his 13th birthday. Lucky for us that, this time, the doctor thought the swelling was just due to the extensive bruising and subsequent swelling, exacerbated, perhaps, by the cold virus which causes joints to ache.

Long story short: I've been working on a necklace I love, featuring a handforged sterling silver chain and another one of those gorgeous facetted whiskey quartz nuggets, but... well, viruses have intervened and I haven't had a chance to finish it. Maybe I should develop a taste for whiskey after all: I heard it has marvelous antiseptic properties!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Whiskey and Pearls by Firelight

Long ago, when I was first married, I bought my husband a burgundy velvet smoking jacket at a thrift store. It was so elegant (I thought then; I wonder what I'd think now?), and I had visions of us in front of a fire in a cozy, book-filled library, crystal glasses full of whiskey in hand and some beautiful music in the background. The jacket is long gone (I wonder what happened to it?), we have a cozy book-filled room, but it is a dining room rather than a library, and there is no fireplace there. Plus, I never developed a taste for whiskey.

Yet, the other day when I went to my second favorite bead store, I saw some gorgeous facetted whiskey quartz nuggets. They were big, they were beautiful, they were very expensive. I fell in love. As luck had it (or fate?), I had to go to the mall where this bead store is located again this weekend, to provide fashion advice for my husband as he bought some shoes and pants he needed for a trip to Latin America. Well, the pants needed to be hemmed, the shoes were I had time on my hands and a husband feeling guilty for spending so much money on shoes. I said I wanted to go to the bead store while we waited for the tailor to finish and, lo and behold, that strand of whiskey quartz stones was still there, beckoning. Did you buy it, you ask? Of course I did! I know that two wrongs don't make a balanced household budget, but he felt guilty: I knew he would be relieved that he wasn't the only one spending too much money. The way I see it is that, by buying that glorious strand, I alleviated his feelings of guilt. Now, isn't that a perfect wifely thing to do?

So, they are now mine! All mine! I carefully examined them, found the most perfect of all these perfect stones, and set to work. The whiskey quartz is so gorgeous that I decided to pull out all the stops: nothing less than crystal and pearls. I found some beautiful, facetted potato pearls whose lustre encompasses the gorgeous warm, tawny color of the whiskey quartz. I had a stash of Swarovski bicones of a perfect, neutral, light topaz color that provided just the right sparkle, like firelight reflecting off a cut-crystal glass. I finished it off with a handmade clasp with a spiral shape that echoed the spiral lines on some additional pearls I added, and a chain that makes this necklace adjustable from 16-20 inches (42-52 cm). In this necklace, I recreated that long ago vision of an elegant evening with crystal and whiskey and pearls in front of a fire. Now, how perfect is that?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Golden Days and Dreams of Amber

A short drive from where I live in Northern Virginia, is a parkland situated along the banks of the Potomac River. A trail winds along the edge of the river, enticing one to take a lovely long walk. A few miles downriver are the thundering Great Falls, which stopped Captain John Smith in his journey up the Potomac centuries ago. In this park, the river itself is wide and shallow and slow, dotted here and there with rocks and rills and a few deep pools in which gaggles of geese and rafts of ducks eat and play in the clear water. What was to have been a short stroll, turned into a nearly three hour walk because I couldn't bear to turn back. Strolling along the shaded path, with no sounds other than birds in the surrounding forest and waterfowl in the river, with the Potomac sparkling in the sun, was heaven. The weather was perfect; the park was perfect: I fell in love.

I also fell in love with a strand of large Baltic amber beads which I found in a nearby shop recently. These beads look like drops of warm sun that encapsulate the golden and reddish colors of fall. I lived in Poland many years ago, and I have regretted ever since that I didn't buy trunkfulls of amber then. I do remember walking along the Baltic sea and finding delicate drops of amber on the sand. Amber is wondrous: It is so ancient that the trees that gave off the resin that became amber no longer exist. The resin formed 25 to 50 million years ago and enfolds within itself the world that existed at the time. Homer speaks of amber as a gift fit for royalty in the Odyssey, and an amber room was indeed given to Peter the Great of Russia by the Prussians. It is said to bring luck to its bearer, whether royal or not. And this amber strand was big, it was golden and full of red and yellow inclusions as if it is reflecting a fall day millions of years ago. I couldn't wait to make a necklace with it.

I began with a beautiful, large center bead. That bead is surrounded by tiny Czech glass seed beads, and two facetted Czech crystal rondelles of a hue the color of yellow-green leaves in autumn. From that gorgeous center bead, graduated sizes of more amber beads continue, separated by small Czech glass rondelles and cathedral beads -- also showing the gradual onset of autumn in their sparkling green and yellow depths. To reduce the weight and the cost of the necklace, I added beads of amber and citrine glass whose golden color perfectly mimics the beautiful amber. Finished off with an adjustable 14-karat gold-filled chain and a handmade 14-karat gold-filled clasp, the lucky person who ends up with this necklace will indeed feel like royalty. Look for it in my etsy shop soon.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The First Signs of Autumn

It is easy sometimes, when walking in my neighborhood, to forget that I live in a suburb of a major metropolitan area. A short stroll away lies a stream valley park where, as often as not, I see or hear some form of wildlife. It might be a cluster of deer, startled into statues by my coming. Occasionally, I'll spy the tawny red coat and spindly legs of a fox. Rarer still, but not uncommon, is when I catch sight of a beaver, either sliding down the riverbank with some tasty tangle of leaves in his mouth, or gliding through the water towards his dam. Always, I am surrounded by birdsong, the chatter and scramble of squirrels, sometimes the cry of a hawk as he sails overhead, and the mesmerizing song of the cicadas.

I lived overseas for many years in countries where there were only two seasons: the hot season and the cool season; or the rainy season and the dry season. Coming back to witness again the four seasons of a temperate climate has been thrilling for me. As I walk now, despite the persistent summer heat and humidity, I see leaves fluttering down onto the path. The trees themselves are just beginning to show hints of gold or red or brown. The combination of colors in a temperate forest in the autumn is always both soothing and exhilarating to me, exciting my artist's eye and promising more changes to come.

I love designing jewelry that showcases those changes. I just finished a necklace called Smoke and Sparkle, which has hints of the beginning of autumn. Starting with a lovely smoky quartz nugget, which looks as if it has been caressed over time by wind and water, I surrounded it with the sparkling facets of smoky quartz briolettes. Nestled in between these, I added chips of peridot and small Czech facetted cathedral beads, with lovely transparent green barrels tipped with gold like the leaves in autumn. I love how the green sparkles amongst the brownish grey quartz like sunlight on the leaves in a forest. The necklace has a wonderful combination of textures and colors, that are both subtle and eye-catching. It is now available in my etsy shop, along with additional photos.