Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nature... The ups and downs or
"Are You My Mother?" Mother Nature's version of the Dr. Seuss book

Mr. Cardinal
(yes, out of focus)
Yesterday I was distracted by a beautiful bright red male Cardinal visiting my bird feeder and the bird bath (about 20' from my home office window). What really caught my eye was not just his color and beauty but the fact that he appeared to be feeding a "baby" bird that did not seem to be a juvenile Cardinal.

Unsure if what I was seeing was correct I went and grabbed my binoculars and checked. Sure enough - it was not a juvenile Cardinal. But what was it... and why was Mr. Cardinal feeding a baby that wasn't "his"?


Mr. Cardinal & Brown Headed Cowbird
Open Wider!!
I kept watching off and on while working and this went on all afternoon - and noted that a SECOND "baby" arrived at the feeder both looking for food (yet both able to eat on their own). I was able to snap a number of pics of the "baby" even catching his shake-my-feathers-and-open-my-mouth "feed me" act on video.

One too many mouths!!
After work, I used the pics and the training my Dad and "Grammie Loug" gave me on how to ID a bird and first checked the bill - def not a Cardinal. My second guess was "could it be feeding a baby Mockingbird?" We have Mockingbirds in the back yard so "maybe"?? But knowing the pissy 'tude of the parents that fly thru the yard I can't imagine that he/she would "allow" another to feed their baby. Checked the bill again - nope not a Mocking bird.

Definitely not a Finch as it was tooo big as a baby. I know it wasn't a Robin - we have a baby in the yard and his/her parents are taking great care of it. We also have at least 3 baby Brown Thrashers - which are similar in size and shape to a Mockingbird... nope.

"Parasite" baby
Brown Headed Cowbird Baby
And then I thought... a parasite bird. I had had a discussion on Facebook with a fellow jewelry designer about a nest near her studio window and possible parasite bird egg in the nest "one of these things is not like the other" type of thing. And I looked up Cow Bird Juvenile. Sure enough - I was looking at the baby that was at the feeder.

The good and the bad of nature.

Mother Nature has for some reason seen to it that some birds will NOT nest. They lay eggs though but they do it in OTHER birds nests. Most
Mr & Mrs Cardinal and
Baby Brown Headed Cowbird
often they lay them in the nests of smaller birds which insures that "their" baby will flourish once hatched. They are generally bigger than the nesting birds babies and can beat them out for food. They have apparently been known to "oops sorry" knock the nesting birds babies out of the nest. That is what a Brown Headed Cowbird does. And yes, we have them in the yard.

Watching what I saw yesterday and then many times again today - made me sad and intrigued that Mr & Mrs Cardinal took care of these "Are You My Mother?" babies. Sad because I worry that the Cardinal's actual babies may not have survived. I am keeping my eyes open though - in the hopes that maybe it/they are still in the nest and simply haven't fledged yet. Mrs Cardinal was present a couple times yesterday but did not spend time feeding the faux "baby" much so my hope is she was attending to her true babies.

Brown Thrasher
Mourning Dove
Mocking Bird
 Also spotted in the yard today - a Brown Thrasher which although looks mature pulled the "feed me" act a couple times but then fed himself (something that the Brown Headed Cowbird babies (aka faux Cardinal babies) did. They are truly big enough and able to feed themselves - I watched them, but they would pull the "feed me" baby act every time the parents were there.); Mocking bird; Mourning Dove(s); House Finch; Mr/Mrs Robin and baby (lordy he was noisy under my office window!! Wish I had realized what I was hearing and gotten a pic!); crows and - of course - squirrels. I didn't see the brown bunny that has visited the yard a few times this spring - but possibly because the grass is so long I just couldn't see him! LOL!!

Preparing to feed the baby...
Going in for the pass...
And fed!











Although nature can sadden you - did the parasite babies (Cowbird babies) push out the true babies? It also really intrigues me that the Cardinal - which really must know that "this is not my baby" continued to feed them when they asked for it.
The Baby was on the bird bath and Mr Cardinal brought the food to it.

video

video



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Not a Tattoo...

Initial starting design
A friend wanted to get a tattoo to memorialize her family members, but she knew her dad would not approve of a tattoo... so she asked me about making a butterfly bracelet. 

As we spoke about the bracelet I asked about her parents and grandparents and found the love of roses and irises were as strong as butterflies. She also wanted to include their birthstones on the butterfly.

An idea began to evolve. I instinctively leaned toward sterling silver metal clay - because that's my first go-to... and then I thought about my new classic metalsmithing skills and wondered about doing it in sterling sheet... and then it hit me - sterling sheet w/ enamel! I could add color to it to really bring it alive. We hadn't considered color in the initial discussions.

More discussion and I found it was yellow roses and purple irises. As I worked the design, filigree seemed to fit perfectly allowing the wings of the butterfly to be open and fragile looking like a butterfly wings would be.
The focal is less than 2" wide approx 1" tall and the spaces for the birthstones were very tiny so I opted to "create" the colors using my enamels. Turquoise, Garnet and Peridot - got those pretty quick, the opal concerned me but with some "fiddling" I got an opal I was pretty pleased with!

Some process shots ...
Layers cut from sterling sheet
Pieces stacked to test fit

Pieces soldered together, cell
wires added and filigree wing wires

Fired and pickled many times
in prep for enameling

























Initial layers of enamel
Additional layers of enamel












Finished focal with enameled
"birthstones"
Chainmaille bracelet w entwined
rings, birthstone dangle & mag clasp
















Once the focal was finished we looked at sterling wire bangle, leather, ribbon and finally decided that it needed a silver chain - so I created a chain including two pair of entwined larger rings in a "love knot" style on each side of the focal to again incorporate the family members being remembered - I added a fifth one near the closure to represent my friend and dangled HER birthstone from the focal.

This was truly a labor of love and I used almost every skill I have learned and loved every minute of working it out. I am thankful that she allowed me the freedom to create this piece for her and I enjoyed sharing the process with her along the way - loving the "ohhhs and ahhhs" she gave me in return! 


So happy she opted to NOT get a tattoo! :o)
Finished piece on the wrist of a pleased
daughter and grand daughter

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amethyst Squared... or rather Cubed! ;o)

Stepping outside my box - more into fabrication... what am I saying - TOTAL fabrication!! Some of my friends refer to this as "from scratch". :o)

I had two 8mm square Amethyst cabochons that I had put aside for a friends February birthday and they were yelling to me... MAKE SOMETHING!! I wanted to set them but lordy I have not set square cabs ... have never made square bezel... never mind a square bezel cup - sides and bottom!!


Out came the design book one evening, then transfer design to Photoshop (just something I do) and then I waited for Friday and for the work-work day to be over.

I have to tell you, something incredible happened Friday evening - the "Studio Gods" smiled on me. NEVER have I felt more in sync with materials, process, design. I felt like I was in an awesome groove. 
No melted wires, no messed up bezel cups, no waste, no bumped head!!
I started with "the hard part"... the bezel cups made from Sterling and Fine Silver that the gems are supposed to sit in. I figured... If I could do this, I could do the rest! Measure, wrap, measure again, cut, trial fit, file, clean, solder... sides! Place on sheet metal, solder, fit, trim, file, clean, retest fit... cup!! Now they were tall - prob 2x taller than needed. So I marked them, sawed off the excess, filed and cleaned up. DONE! ;o)
NOW For the base - thanks to my obsession with having to buy tools that look cool, different, "may need that some day" or "ohhh that's a good inexpensive version of what I "might need" let's try it til I think I REALLY need it"... I have a weird set of plastic stepped mandrels in different shapes. The largest size square was perfect for what I wanted for the base of the earrings. I formed the base using Sterling Silver square wire and the square plastic stepped mandrel - shaped, checked, pushed, checked, cut, checked, soldered... checked - sweeeet! ;) 

Then I cut two squares from the Sterling Silver sheet, filed the edges, rounded the corners a touch to keep from wounding anyone. Then I formed the twisted Sterling Silver wire to form the "ropes". I placed, checked and then soldered the "ropes" onto the base square, cleaned the piece and then placed and soldered the top decorative
square onto the base and "ropes". Cleaned again and then placed and soldered the bezel cups onto the bottom of the earring base. 

The two pieces went into the pickle pot to clean and I went to work forming the pierced earring post... I have a small (SMALL - like 1" x 2" MAYBE) steel draw plate that I use to make the posts. First I use a mini torch to ball the ends of a 1" piece of Sterling Silver wire (when you hold it into the flame it forms a ball and it slowly creeps up the wire forming a bigger ball). Once cooled I put the wire in the smallest hole it will fit in inside the draw plate (which is being held by my small (SMALL! ;o)) vice. And I wack the ball with a hammer. This flattens out the ball forming a flat top instead of a ball. THIS I have found makes soldering a post onto an earring back MUCH MUCH EASIER. The posts were then soldered onto the earring bases and the two completed but not set earrings were pickled one more time and I was done for the evening! 
::phew:: Nothing. Went. Wrong. STILL!! 

The next night all the cleaned and rinsed pieces were ready to have the Amethysts set. I still felt the cups may be a 'touch' to tall so I cut two pieces of PVC card to fit into the cups (1 each). The cabochon went on top and POOF perfect height. Slowly I pushed the edges (starting at the corners) in - moving the metal slowly and not scratching the stone. and finally... they were set. I cleaned up the pieces, burnished the cups and base pieces and then tossed them into the tumbler with stainless steel shot to harden and shine. The next day they came out, were rinsed off, the posts trimmed, scratch brush used on the top square to give it texture and a matte finish. A purchased Sterling Silver earring nut was added to both and they were complete. 




This was THE BEST project - I felt completely in sync with the materials and the project. Such fun pair of earrings and I'm very pleased with the outcome!

Size: 1.75" x 1.5"Stones: 8mm

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Back in the Studio...

Climbed back up on the horse after looking at late 2012/2013 year in review and seeing how few pieces I posted. No wonder I've been feeling "out of sorts"!! To much what I call "work-work" not enough creative play = "out of sorts" Cindy.

Fine Silver Locket...
I took a "hinge-less locket" class at the Memphis Botanic Garden in mid January and after making my piece I have ideas for how to change it up, improve on the piece I did (example - I did a deeper curve on mine so it was a bit smaller than the rest in class so my bezel should have been smaller... next time I will take all that into consideration. :o) ). I love taking classes - even if it's a repeat which I do quite often - I tend to learn something new each time OR get ideas on how to tweak projects and make them my own. (Next class is spinner rings! :o) )

earth prints in Sterling Silver...
On Jan 9 - 31 I took part in the Memphis Botanic Garden "Incognito Artist Silent Auction". The idea is that
 all pieces submitted are not "signed" (as most of them are paintings that is easy to do) and bidders are encouraged to "bid on what you love, not who you know". I created Sterling Silver versions of my "earth prints" in the form of a bracelet and an earring/necklace set. I loved every minute of creating these pieces! They speak to me and the "clean" edges on these - as opposed to the more organic look my latest bronze pieces have been was a fun different look for these. 

The pieces were pretty well received - they were on display from 9th thru the 31 with a big Gala event the evening of the 31st when the silent bid auction took place. My necklace and earring set brought in a winning bid of $125 and my bracelet brought in a winning bid of $50. Not a bad donation for the Garden Education Department.



Bronze earth print:
Cilantro w Amethyst ...

On even better news - I posted the Bronze Cilantro w Amethyst crystals earth print I wore to the Incognito Gala on Facebook to show how cool it looked with some organic ceramic beads and SOMEONE ASKED TO BUY IT! - Ok I know, I have sold pieces before, and even shipped to Australia but ... ::giggle:: it never gets old! ;o)

The piece had two Amethyst Crystals (little pieces that chipped off when I dropped an Amethyst Druzy piece on the floor by accident) fired in place in the Bronze. They clouded in the kiln - which I expected something to happen because Amethyst should not be fired - and let me tell you - they were soo cool looking. They clouded, did not fracture or break, just ended up looking almost like Moonstone. I paired it with two twist tube organic textured, ceramic beads with a slight turquoise coloring on them. Strung it all on a brown leather cord and created hand-coiled end caps and "S" hook. It was restrung and is now in the loving hands of it's new owner. 

Heart Felt
& Simply Understated...

My latest piece was a custom Valentine's Day gift. Now I know this gifter and they let me pretty much have my own way but I wanted them to be able to have a hand in the piece also so when they told me the receiver's favorite color is green so I went thru my stash of lampwork beads and pulled out three types of green beads....

  1. "cutesy" green - like cupcakes
  2. "love" green - hearts of diff shapes, sizes and shades
  3. "dressy" green - more modern take on green lampwork beads - long focals, swirls, etc.
Without even asking for more the large heart focal was picked. No second guessing - just perfect. It has an opaque almost Emerald green bottom and transparent green top with silver swirled where the different glasses meet. The heart focal is one I had gotten from Principessa Jewels & Glass.

I went for a "simply understated" look and highlighted the colors on the bead by using 4mm Swarovski Crystals (sand opal, olivine, emerald and peridot) and added one for the gifters birthstone and one for the receivers birthstone. I hung the pendant from a black leather cord (also requested by the gifter) with Sterling Silver hand-coiled end caps, "S" hook and then added a 2" chain to allow for it to be worn at varying lengths. I finished it off with a clear crystal Swarovski heart. 

I have been back in the Studio this weekend too - started and finished a project that went INCREDIBLY SMOOTH! :o) Right now the pieces are in the tumbler so more later!! :o) 

Thanks for "listening". :o)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A year past?! 2013 Year in Review...

"I'm lateI'm lateFor a very important date
No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late! I'm late! I'm late!"
- White Rabbit, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Oh, my goodness!
- Shirley Temple, Poor Little Rich Girl'


I couldn't choose which to use as the title to this blog post! Because Oh, my goodness! I'm late! I'm late! it has been over a YEAR since my last post - Oh, my goodness! 

So what do I do? Do I try and update in order or do I show you what I've created in the past year? I'm thinking a "quick" (seriously have you ever found me to be QUICK on this blog?) "Year in Review" is in order - so here we go!



December 2012
Custom Mother's Pendant - Intertwined Lives
Three children, three circles, intertwined
as their lives are intertwined.
Sterling Silver hand-forged open
filigree design. Lab created stones:
Topaz and Emerald with Pearl (all 6mm).
Manufactured Sterling Silver chain w/
coordinating 3 circle links connecting long link.
December 2012
Mother's Love
Special Mother's Pendant - Sterling Silver with Amethyst, Emerald and Aquamarine stones (CZs or lab made) representing three children. It hangs on a hand-dyed, black silk ribbon.

This is my first Mother's Pendant in Filigree and I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I'm working on a design that will allow me to add additional children.

December 2012
Custom Mother-In-Law Set - Heart Vines
Two Sons and Daughter-in-law vining within her heart ... her heart of hearts.
Sterling Silver hand-forged open filigree design. Lab created stones: Sapphire and Tanzanite
with Pearl (all 6mm). Earrings are 6mm Sapphire and 4mm Pearls. 


Pendant hands from manufactured 20" Sterling Silver French Rope chain.
A beautiful compliment to the vining heart. 

December 2012
Custom Filigree "Initial" Earrings...
Sterling Silver earrings hand formed,
forged and soldered. 

December 2012
"Family Pendant"...
Sterling Silver wire, settings and chain. 

This is a small piece I did for my Great Aunt...
Hand-shaped, and forged sterling silver wires
forming two hearts. The top stone is my
Great Uncle's stone (Turquoise),
bottom stone is for her daughter (my God-Mother). 


My Great Aunt lost her husband last year,
and just recently lost her sister - who was buried
on what would have been my Great Uncle's birthday.
I thought I wanted to make her
something special this year for Christmas.


January 2013
Sterling Silver St. Brigid's Cross
Designed to look like grasses
in the form of a cross.
January 2013
Bronze* St. Brigid's Cross
Designed to look like the grass ends
are tied.


January 2013
FINISHED! Remember Moe from class in 2012?
In Jan 2013 I had a great set of
custom beads made specifically for this piece and
combined them with beautiful black
 and brown leather bolo cord, sterling silver
hand-fabricated end caps.

June 2013
Something Blue Ankle BraceletHemp, Lampwork Glass and Sterling Silver. 
Made for a bride's beach wedding. The hand
formed closure is sterling sliver heart w hook.

June 2013
"earth prints... Cilantro"

Bronze (Goldie 50/50), Kumihimo Cord, Sterling Silver
This was created from a mold I made of a sprig of cilantro that had just barely started to go to seed. I purposely left the edges "unfinished and uneven" to help with the "fossil" look. It has a fold-over bail on the back. The pendant hangs from a hand-crafted 20" kumihimo cord I braided using embroidery floss to get the small diameter - bronze, brown, cream and green were used. Finished it with sterling silver coiled ends and hook.

July 2013
Fold-Formed Copper with Mini Hessonite Garnet cluster
Created this copper piece in Fold Forming Class at the
Memphis Botanic Garden last weekend with Brandy Boyd.
Brought it home and added the Mini Hessonite Garnet
cluster. 
It was going to be a bracelet but it really
didn't want to be - sometimes you just have
to listen to the piece!

July 2013
Remembrance Crow...

Sterling Silver, Yellow Sapphire
This crow was created as a
remembrance charm representing
a much loved grandparent
who LOVED crows!
The yellow eye represents his
November birthstone.

August 2013
Race for the Cure Golf Tournament
Sterling Silver Pink Ribbon Heart Charm w/ Golf Ball
on Sterling hand wrapped bangle with glass lampwork beads.

My new obsession... earth prints
earth prints are designed to look almost like a fossil found on a dig! Some of them have crystals poking thru others are set with birthstone czs. 

August 2013
earth prints... "Sapphire Ocean" Pendant

Bronze, Blue Leather, Sapphire Crystal
This "Sapphire Ocean" pendant is approx 1 1/2"  across by 1 1/4" high and is crafted using two of my own custom created mold. This is shown shown straight from the kiln with heat patina acquired during firing with only a slight brushing to bring up some sparkle on the high points of the piece. The Sapphire Crystal fired perfectly and looks wonderful in the pendant. The look fits my idea of earth prints perfectly. It is currently hanging from a length of blue leather cording.



August 2013
earth prints... "Ocean" Key Fobs
Bronze, Leather, Bronze WireThese 
"Ocean" Key Fobs are approx 1" diameter using two of my own custom created molds and textures. They are shown straight from the kiln with heat patina acquired during firing. Some even have specs of carbon on them. The look fits my idea of earth prints perfectly. They hang from my hand-cut/bound leather cord fobs and have a purchased bronze colored key ring .

September 2013
Took a wonderful Mask Class with UK Metal Clay &
Enamel Artist - Joy Funnel
Fine Silver with Enamels, CZs Shows front and back of my Sea Queen

October 2013
Larimar & Sterling Silver
A wonderful artist friend of mine cuts cabochons
and creates beautiful jewelry. He sent me the pretty
Larimar set pendant with a cabochon order.
I loved it so much I asked him to cut me a couple
of small triangle Larimar cabs so that I could
try setting my own post earrings. I LOVE THEM!!!

December 2013
Dreamcatcher Sterling Silver Filigree EarringsSterling, Pearl 

Special custom order Christmas present for a bestie from her bestie. Both girls share the same birth month (June) and an inside joke... hence the 1 and 2 on the back of the hearts. Designed to fall slightly "off center" the dream catcher part of the earring is approx 1" diameter. It hangs approx 2 1/2" long from removable posts. This allows any "stud" like earring to be used.

The feather and hearts were hand-crafted from sterling silver PMC.

This was an incredibly fun project to design and create. Thank you to the "bestie" for allowing me to make her friend's Christmas present!!

December 2013
Sterling Silver Filigree Leaf Mother's Pendant


Hand-formed, customized Mother's Pendant featuring Mother of Pearl cab for June and Yellow Topaz for November birthdays. Hangs from doubled 1/8" hand-dyed black silk cord with hand-formed coil end caps, hook and a sterling silver (pmc) artisan tag. 

This is my first international order and is wing it's way to New So Wales, Australia!! :o)

December 2013
Bronze Mitten Christmas Ornament
This ornament went to my family members in lieu of a gift this year...
The card below explains the meaning behind it.