My Etsy Shop

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oxidizing vs. Tarnishing

Someone asked me the difference between oxidizing and tarnishing. (One of the rings I listed recently on my etsy shop has an oxidized finish.)

Oxidizing is intentional tarnishing, usually using liver of sulfur. Yep, sulfur. Cool effects, smelly process!

I often oxidize copper, but rarely do it with silver, since I usually prefer a bright look in silver. There are times, though, when an oxidized finish is the best choice.

Oxidizing is often used to achieve an antiqued look, but it can also be used to bring out the detail in a piece. It's especially effective when there is a lot of detail, in wire, say, that would be lost in a brightly polished finish.

The LOS is applied to the metal, you wait a little while until the metal darkens enough to get the look you want. Next you remove the tarnish in the areas you want highlighted--this is usually done painstakingly by hand, using a light abrasive. Afterwards, the piece is polished again.

It's a lot of work to make a piece look old, but the effect can be worth it!

In the next few days, I'll post a picture of a cross I recently made where oxidizing is used to bring out the detail. It drastically changes the look. Check back to see what you think of the difference.

-- Leigh

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learning a lesson

I had made a bracelet for a regular customer--a Helms/Parallel bracelet in 18 gauge, with a toggle clasp. She was thrilled, and wore it daily. Until it fell off when she was reaching across her desk.

Why? While it's looks airy and makes a beautiful bracelet or necklace, Helms weave is the least sturdy of the chainmaille weaves I work with.

Most chainmaille patterns have than multiple rings being interwoven, lending their strength to each other like in Byzantine (my two-year-old once grabbed a byzantine chain around my neck and hung from it with NO damage to the chain--can't say as much for my neck).

Helms, also known as Parallel weave, is an airy weave with single larger rings going smaller doubled rings. In a heavier gauge, like 16, say, this is not usually an issue. But 18 gauge rings don't have the strength that the 16 gauge rings have, particularly with a large ring as used in Helms weave. That makes a Helms chain crafted from 18 gauge rings lovely and lightweight, but also vulnerable to damage. If one of these single rings catches on something, it may open, and come loose from the rest of the chain. Not usually a problem for necklaces, but bracelets see more action, as it were, and they are more likely to catch on something.

That's what happened to my customer. Fortunately, she didn't lose the bracelet, and brought it to me for repair. She apologized (SHE apologized!) and I apologized, too. I was embarrassed, and I was going to make sure I reduced the chances of this happening again.

How? Heat hardening. One of the marvelous properties of Argentium Sterling is that you can harden it in a home oven--550 degrees for 2 hours will do the trick. Unfortunately, this does discolor the silver and requires pickling in an acidic solution or LOTS of polishing to return the color to it's normal state.

Hardening a Helms chain made from 18G wire won't make it breakproof, but it will make it less likely for a ring to open if it catches on something.

So, that's what I did for my customer. I returned the bracelet to her, she's been very happy with it, and I learned a valuable lesson. I don't heat treat all my jewelry now--it's not necessary for most weaves--but I do it for the more delicate pieces that might be more prone to damage if I didn't.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Updated Etsy Shop

Well, I've finally gotten more items in my Etsy Shop.

Sometimes it seems like making the jewelry is the easy part! After that's done, the work begins.

Writing the copy.
Measuring the jewelry.
Editing photos.

Realizing that every single shot you just took of that bracelet is slightly out of focus and reshooting it.

Going back to reshoot and discovering that your 2-year-old decided he wanted the "blankie" you were using as a backdrop and it's now on the couch, and everything that was on it is now on the floor.

Finally getting the shot you need, editing it, and starting the upload. On dial-up.
Waiting. . .

What did I learn? Pretty basic things for veteran ebayers or estyians, but not for newbies like me:
  • Use naptime. This, like many other things is much easier when the little ones are not underfoot.
  • Work in a production-line when possible--once you get your settings set, take all the pictures at once, edit at once and upload when you can.
  • Keep your backgrounds similar or at least consistent in color tones--this provides a more unified look to your listings.
  • When taking your pictures, don't forget to leave plenty of cropping room so you can edit it into a square for uploading to Etsy.
  • Artistic shots are nice, but make sure your work is the focus.
  • Don't forget to measure each piece as you photograph it or when you're writing the copy, and WRITE IT DOWN. After 3 or 4, if you're like me you can't remember which bracelet was 8 inches long and which was 7.
  • Keep the copy for each item in a Word (or your favorite word processing) file, along with any standard things you want to say (in my case, information about Argentium Sterling Silver) and your basic product tags and labels for those times you are brain dead and can't remember them. This makes it easy to cut and paste into the fields when you are creating your listing.
Well, it's done and I finally have more than 4 items in my shop: 22 and more on the way. Come check it out! I welcome (and encourage) your feedback.

How I Do It

People often ask me how I find time to make my jewelry.

Besides the obvious answer that people find time to do the things they want to do, the actuality is that I make it whenever and wherever I can.

I'd love to say I have a dedicated timberframe studio in the woods where I sit in a solitary artistic reverie, creating and building my designs (ah, wouldn't that be nice?), but the reality is that I'm a busy mom of two young boys with another full time job and a long commute to get there.

So, where do I make my jewelry? In the car (as a passenger, of course)! On a plane. Sitting at my table, in my comfy chair or standing at my desk. Sometimes, on my lunch break.

How? I've come up with a portable workstation that I carry with me. It's two parts: 1) a thin, clear plastic paper storage box from The Container Store, where I keep my current project along with my pliers and work glasses. On one side I have put a foam pad to keep the rings from rolling too much. I can carry this with me easily and open it up on my lap, lapdesk, desk and be ready to work in an instant.

The second part is my case for all my rings. I had been using a storage box from the fishing department, but my dear sister gave me a craft storage tote that works perfectly (Thanks Karen!).

With both of these, I can make my jewelry anywhere. Yes, I'd love to have a dedicated studio, but, to be honest, I love the portability and accessibility of my traveling one.