Tuesday 22 May 2012

Jump Rings - To Solder or Not . . .

I've recently been soldering a lot. I quite enjoy doing this, the method, routine and ritual. The concentration. The ever-present slight fear that everything will just melt if the concentration wavers. Hmm.

Soldered jump rings

But, specifically, I've been soldering jump rings, working the two edges carefully together and then filling them up with solder and heat, so they hold firm.

More soldered jump rings

As I was doing this, I started wondering whether I was being too fussy and creating a whole lof of unecessary work. Assuming they've soldered correctly, they then need pickling out. Then I have to check them to see if they need filing and generally tidying up. And then they need a polish to clean them up and make the silver shine again, even if I'm going to mattify them eventually. Something my tutor taught me, and a lesson worth following, most of the time anyway . . .

Jump rings waiting to be soldered

I know that for certain pieces of jewellery, soldering jump rings makes the difference between things staying together and things falling apart. But with many of the jump rings I solder, especially the small ones, they are then used as components for earrings and for pendants, fixing earrings to ear wires, and pendants to thread or chain.

Soldered and pickled

In the examples of my finished work shown here, I think with the earrings, pictured above, jump rings may work just as well unsoldered, and this may protect the ear more, should anything catch and pull on the earring.

In both these pairs of earrings, the smaller jump ring is unsoldered, the larger soldered, so I've kind of reached a potential compromise - under pressure the smaller jump ring would come open. But the larger jump ring, being soldered, should hold the earrings a little more securely to the ear hook. Larger jump rings also seem a little more likely to pull apart to me, whereas the smaller sized ones, in the same thickness of wire, have less movement and give to them, and are less likely to pull apart easily.

Soldered jump ring

With the pendant, shown above, the jump ring is, to my thinking, more secure when soldered, especially when threaded onto fine organza, and it holds the silver leaf firmly to the fabric. But would it be safer for the wearer if it wasn't soldered? Is it better for the necklace to just break, if under pressure, than for it be less likely to be lost?

So what I'm asking is, overall, are jump rings really any better for doing this extra work? Are they more dangerous, as should jewellery break easily if this is needed for safety reasons, rather than holding firm and potentially tear or trap someone. Is the best compromise one soldered jump ring, and one unsoldered? Or am I just worrying too much on all counts? I'd love to know what you think, and what you do?

Thursday 17 May 2012

Gardening Times

I must confess, I've long been a garden and plant lover. I would spend ages looking through seed catalogues, often ordering very little, but caught up, all the same, in the promise of what beautiful plants I could grow, with just a little earth, some water and, ideally, some sunshine. And I've always had a soft spot for nosing around other people's gardens, enjoying the National Garden's Scheme yellow book, and plotting routes to various gardens, both large and small.

The slightly milder May weather has encouraged me outside, specifically into other people's gardens. Neither of these two I recently visited are NGS ones, but both were opened for charity, which more than justified the entrance fees.

The first venture was to Saltwood Castle. It was raining, ever so slightly, and the sun didn't come out, but that kind of increased the drama of the place. That's what I told myself anyway. This castle is where the four knights who killed Thomas Becket stayed and plotted their deed, the night before he was murdered in 1170. Although only the grounds were opened, the castle is still standing, and so is the remains of what I assume is an old chapel, now open to the sky, and home to chimney pots and peacocks.

Chimney pots in the old chapel

It was a colder day when Sandling Park Garden was opened but, thankfully, the weather did improve and when the sun eventually shone, well, it was enough to make you stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Oh yes.

These gardens were full, literally, of rhododendrons and azaleas. I've not visited a garden before which had so many, and in such a fantastic display. Corner after corner was rounded, and yet more stunning plants showed themselves. Some of the azaleas seemed to have no foliage and just consisted of flowers. No wonder I needed that cuppa . . .

Monday 14 May 2012

Earrings, made with love and gems

Just recently I had a couple of 'landmark' birthdays in one month, along with another special occasion, and so was hunting around for something to make. Things were also complicated as I was away from most of my tools. Getting the torch and pickle out, well, it just wasn't going to happen.

Using a very slow internet connection, and eventually an old-fashioned phone line, I managed to order a mini set of tools, some very fine silver wire (0.4mm, if I remember right), and some truly exquisite Aquamarine beads, that were as beautiful as I had hoped, and are also a birth stone for March. I also cheated and bought some pre-made ear wires. Shocking, I know.

These are photos of just one of the pairs of earrings made. The beads aren't perfectly pure, but the inclusions, as shown more clearly in the last photo, are, I think, subtle, delicate, and even quite attractive.

So, under a little pressure, and a few time constraints, I was pretty pleased with being able to come up with gifts that I thought were special and, I'm pleased to say, the recipients did also.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Yet more Polymer Clay . . .

Rather than just making round or disc beads, I've now had a go at making pebble beads too, which I love. I'm not sure how authentic many of these pictured here look (some of the colours are a little on the artificial side), apart from the grey ones perhaps, but I've enjoyed creating shapes that look pebbley and a little natural, rather than smooth and uniform.

I think this may well be the last big batch of photos for now. Not sure I can just keep making these beads and posting pictures of them. I must also make something with the beads themselves!

These have all been made from Fimo. I have a lot of Sculpey III but have found this very difficult to soften. I know you can get special softener, although I thought that was for age-hardened clay? Any ideas on how to soften fairly 'youthful', fresh clay? I would love to use it but it really does make my hands hurt! Pathetic, really . . . ;-) All comments gratefully received.