Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! This particular blog will not have a whole lot to do with jewelry making, but it will have everything to do with feeding the one who makes the jewelry, plus her husband. See, yesterday was Mr Karlsson's birthday, and rather than go out and be social and eat at a fancy restaurant, Mrs Karlsson opted to cook Mr Karlsson a birthday dinner for the ages. Why the ages, you say? Because when Mrs Karlsson went searching for recipes, Mrs Karlsson searched through Southern cooking blogs and websites, and, well, those usually involve feeding armies or family reunions, and there are only two Karlssons allowed to eat people food in our house.
After due consideration, I decided to make meatloaf, potato salad, and a chocolate tart. I started cooking at 9am, because I figured I could take a break in between and work on some jewelry, but it didn't really work out that way. Here's what happened:
After I put FIVE POTATOES in the oven to bake (and this is what should have tipped me off about how much potato salad this recipe was actually going to produce), I made a graham cracker-style crust. Instead of graham crackers, I decided to be all fancy and use Italian almond toast and brown sugar instead of white sugar. The almond toast had a faint hint of anise, which I was not expecting, but I figured it would work to offset the chocolate. I put the crust in the fridge to let the butter harden again. (Just so you know, there is butter in a graham cracker crust.) Then I mixed white chocolate pastilles, Valrhona 85% cacao pastilles, and Valrhona 66% cacao pastilles to form my own blend of couverture chocolate. (In case you were curious, couverture chocolate is a higher quality chocolate than baking or eating chocolate and has a higher percentage of cocoa butter in it. Chocolatiers use this type of chocolate for making truffles and the like.) Once I had that done, I got two cups of heavy cream (hey, I didn't say this was going to be health food, y'all) and added espresso powder to it. The espresso powder adds depth of flavor. I heated the heavy cream until it was steaming.
Once the heavy cream was steaming (but not boiling!), I removed it from the heat and added about a teaspoon of good vanilla (because that's what Ina Garten says you're supposed to do). Then I poured it over the chocolate and let it sit for about five minutes to let the chocolate gently melt. The reason you want to gently melt the chocolate is that if you overheat it, it crystallizes and burns and gets really gross. Your ganache (that's what the chocolate and cream mixture is called at this point) should be glossy looking and easy to stir. If you discover you were impatient and didn't get the cream hot enough, you can always microwave your mixture for about 20 seconds, then stir. Don't put metal spoons or bowls in the microwave, by the way. You could set the place on fire.
Once you have your ganache stirred, you can pour it over your pie crust, and add whatever you want to the top. I decided to add raspberries, because that is Mr Karlsson's favorite with chocolate. I'm normally not a fan of raspberries because I can't stand eating the seeds, but these berries were exceptionally delicious, so I ate what was left over from decorating. Behold, the result!
By the time I finished making this glorious tart/pie/thing, the potatoes were baked, so I took them out of the oven to cool enough to peel. While waiting for that to happen. I cooked TWO POUNDS OF BACON. Why two pounds, you ask? The potato salad recipe called for a pound, and I decided to modify my meatloaf recipe and put a pound of bacon in it, too. (Somewhere, a cardiologist's eye is twitching...) Want to see what a pound of bacon frying looks like in real life? Here it is!
I didn't get any pictures of me chopping or peeling or any of that other tedious stuff, but here is the potato salad and meat loaf. Yes, that is a ton of blue cheese on top of the meatloaf, along with House of Karlsson secret recipe barbecue sauce. Yes, it was delicious. Yes, all this made enough to feed the 101st Airborne Division. Pretty sure we'll be eating this for a week.
And now, some news! I'm starting to hear back from art shows I applied to! I'm wait listed for Bayou City in Houston and also the big show in Galveston, but I did get into Septemberfest in Midland! I'm looking forward to heading out to west Texas after Labor Day to see everybody!
Since you made it this far, I figured I post a gratuitous alligator gar picture. This gar was caught by Mr Karlsson down in Huntsville on the Trinity River. This particular gar had a crooked back, probably borne of some genetic anomaly or a bad run in with a predator in its youth. Mr Karlsson caught this all by himself, and hopefully next time he goes gar fishing, he'll put the GoPro on his hat instead of his tummy so we can actually see what he is doing in the film. Ahem. He let this one go to fight another day. It had an approximate length of four feet.
Finally, here is resident diva and genius Tosca Q Puss to remind you that there is still a coupon code for 20% off of everything in my online shop here on the website. Just type in TOSCA2018 in the tiny spot for a coupon code at checkout and you will receive 20% off your entire order before shipping and tax and all that. Happy shopping, and once again, thanks for visiting!
P.S. In case you were curious...
Here are links to the potato salad and meatloaf recipes (minus some alterations I made).
Hello, everyone! This blog will be a really quick one. Just wanted to let you know that I'm offering a coupon for 20% off of everything on my website, including earrings! The coupon code is TOSCA2018 and it expires July 4, 2018. This code is only good in my website shop, not on Etsy.
Terms and conditions;
1. No return on sales items.
2. Sales tax applies to residents of the state of Texas
3. Shipping charges do apply
4. Enter the coupon code at checkout where it says "add coupon code" in ridiculously small print (I wasn't in charge of that design; that's the template's fault) and it will take off 20% once you enter it.
5. The 20% goes for the whole order, not each item.
That's pretty much it. If you have any questions, please let me know!
P.S. Here's some stuff I recently added to the shop under the Explorations collection:
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting! Well, I looked up from my jewelers bench and discovered that we're already halfway through June! How the heck did that happen?! Pretty soon it will be time for 4th of July and temperatures rivaling the surface of the sun down here in Texas. Come to think of it, it's pretty roasty-toasty already. It's looking like this summer is going to be a real scorcher, so I think I'm going to stock up on deodorant and orange Gatorade. Anyway, since I have your attention, I may as well tell you what all has been going on here at the House of Karlsson, starting with the most recent development.
I got an e-mail this morning from the Etsy headquarters stating that since they adore their sellers SO MUCH (sarcasm alert), they're going to raise the transaction fees to 5%, plus charging a transaction fee for shipping, plus the commission they already get, which is significant. They're also going to offer *ahem* "premium subscription services* to better serve the seller community. I don't know about you, but to me this sounds like a thinly veiled threat to pay up or have your listings buried deeper within the bowels of the Etsy search engine than they are already. Since I am not a big fan of extortion, I have decided not to update my Etsy shop any more, and use it to drive traffic to my website shop instead. I never get much traffic on Etsy in the first place, since the algorithm they have is so messed up, so I don't think I'm going to be missing out on much, to be quite honest. So, if you're thinking of buying from me, please do it through my website shop and not Etsy. I'd really appreciate it.
Now, I can hear some of you argue "but Heather, what about galleries? Don't they charge a hefty commission as well? More so than Etsy?" Yes. Absolutely. The difference between Etsy and galleries, however, is that a gallery is a brick-and-mortar establishment. The commission an artist pays a gallery from a sale goes towards the gallery's overhead. This overhead includes everything from electricity, insurance, and salary for employees working there to advertising and curating your work. A gallery puts significantly more effort into selling an artist's work than Etsy does, therefore, they deserve to be paid more commission. Also, a gallery doesn't sell cheap knock-offs or imports being sold as "one-of-a-kind" or "handmade", which is what Etsy does. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with selling on Etsy. There are people out there who do very well on that platform. I just don't think it's worth my while anymore. End of rant.
In other news, I'm revamping the Ritornello collection. This iteration is going to be strictly handmade. The design process has been to take the sculptural elements of musical instruments (in this particular case, I'm using the oboe as inspiration) and incorporate them into a solid silver piece instead of using the actual musical instrument keys. I mean, I'll still make jewelry from the actual instrument keys, but in this way I can continue to grow as an artist and flex my creative muscle and learn and perfect new techniques along the way. Here are the works in progress (I'll do a detailed blog about the process at a later date):
In case you were curious, the process I'm using to form the key cups isn't the same as the actual manufacturing process in musical instrument factories. That involves a lathe and large diameter brass or nickel stock. They cut out a recess to fit the pad into from the solid piece of metal for strength purposes. My key cup and arm setup has four parts to braze. Musical instrument key parts have only two. That means only two weak points when the part is under stress. Since the key cup and arm that I'm making isn't going to be used on a musical instrument, those high levels of stress don't come into play. Also, buying silver stock that large and chucking it into a lathe is an expensive proposition, so I'm going to continue doing it the way I've engineered it. The end result is the same, which is all I'm really after. For me, it's also a lot quicker, because it takes me FOREVER to get my lathe set up the way I like it. (I swear, those shop gnomes in my garage wreak havoc on all my gears and settings, and it is super annoying.)
In addition to making these design changes in the Ritornello collection, I've also been experimenting with doming copper and drawing on it. Drawing on copper is a lot of fun, and it doesn't take long to get the hang of it. Below are two domed pieces I worked on. One is just a simple dome that I engraved with a battery operated graver. The other is a St. Felicia medallion (you young folks should understand what I'm talking about, heh heh...). You can use a lot of wild colors, and blending them is similar to what water color artists do with water color paints, or so I am told. My last experience with water colors was probably in kindergarten, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Since I was on a roll with the disc cutter, I also made this domed piece that resembled some sort of sunflower medieval Viking Ren-faire shield thingy. I think it's pretty nifty. It was an interesting challenge in that I had to dome the copper after I put the hammered texture in, and that flattened out the texture. I think the next time I do this, I will really hammer the living daylights out of the metal before doming it. If I had a stake, I could hammer it AFTER doming, but I'm not ready to make that kind of investment quite yet. Those suckers are expensive! At any rate, here it is in all its glory:
I have a bunch more I want to share, but I imagine that if you've made it this far, you're probably all blogged out and are about to head out to the pool or something. Here instead are my two kitties being very disappointed in everyone. Once again, thanks for stopping by, and tune in next time for my further adventures!
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! In today's installment, I'm finally going to get you all caught up on that "Marriage of Metals" project that I've had brewing in my silversmithing class since the beginning of the year. This project is part of my ongoing pursuit of my "add more dimension and depth to my work" New Year's Resolution. I started the project when I began taking classes at the Craft Guild of Dallas again back in January. I had seen a fellow student's work, and thought it was pretty cool, so when my teacher Marilyn chose the technique for a class project, I jumped on board. Boy howdy, what a process!
As you may remember from a few months ago, the process begins by choosing your materials. I chose copper, nickel, and brass for the contrasting colors. Then you slice the metal into strips using this behemoth of a metal shear, and then line them up:
Once all the strips are tightly (and I mean TIGHTLY!!!) butted together, then comes the laborious process of placing lots and lots of little bits of hard solder on the joints. The point of this exercise is to flood the surface with solder so the joints all stick together without gaps or pits. This is easier said than done. For one thing, you need massive amounts of hard solder. I think I may have used a couple of feet worth of 20 guage hard solder wire. It was quite something. Then, of course, you have the heat to consider, and the different metals heat at different rates, and yada yada yada. You have use a very flat surface to rest your pieces on, and try not to breath on the solder bits, or they'll roll off and you'll have to chase them around and start all over again. Ask me how I found that out.
You repeat this process of adding solder on the back in order to draw the solder evenly in the seams. This makes quite a mess. This is normal. Solder gets everywhere. You start questioning whether or not this was a really good idea to do. You may or may not scorch your bangs at some point. That last bit is definitely optional.
Once you get all the seams filled and thoroughly coated in solder, then you go back to the big metal shear and cut more strips. Then you line up the strips once again and the result is a sort of patchwork pattern. I confess I really didn't plan the placement of my strips very well, so the patchwork wasn't as varied as I would have liked, but oh well. That's how you learn.
Once again, the strips are placed on a flat surface and more solder is placed on. You basically repeat the original steps to get the first round of strips put together to do this part. It takes a lot of hard solder. Once completed, it's time to pickle, then decide what to do. Since I really had no clue what my plan for this giant chunk of hardware was, I decided to take my teacher's advice and add a 24 guage silver backing.
To put a backing on requires sheet solder. When using sheet solder in this process, you have to roll it out very thin, which means you have to anneal it and make it soft and fold it to gain surface area. I confess that it's been a while since I performed these steps, so I honestly can't tell you if I rolled the sheet solder in between two copper plates, but I don't think that was the case. I do recall having to fold it a bunch of times to help gain surface area.
Once I got the sheet solder at a reasonable amount and thickness to cover the silver backing, my teacher helped me set up a soldering rig so I could get my flame underneath the piece to heat the silver. The goal was to get the silver hot enough to melt the sheet solder (which, if I remember correctly, was easy solder) and let the metal conglomerate on top to sink down onto the solder and bond with the silver. And of course do all this without letting the hard solder run out of the seams and make a mess. Ha ha. I didn't take pictures of this process because it was quite an adventure, and I learned that I have been pushing solder with my flame instead of pulling it. This is not conducive to control of the flow. So remember, kids, lead the solder with your flame. Don't chase it. Here is the end result. Note the amount of solder all over the place:
After soldering was completed, there was another round in the pickle to clean up any remaining flux. Then we put it through the rolling mill (you can see from the above picture that I got a LITTLE crazy with the rolling mill on that front edge). Once rolled through, part of my copper cracked (I'm guessing it was either metal fatigue or air pockets between the silver and the marriage of metal piece above it). I kept going, put a curve it it (which caused more cracks, alas), and began the laborious process of filing and sanding. I did not take pictures of this process because it was horrifically tedious, although I guess I should have. Honestly, though, it was difficult to tell that I was making progress until a couple of days ago. Anyway, this past Wednesday I finally got the go ahead to make a final decision on what to do with this magnificent hunk of metal I created. I cut shapes from in between the cracked pieces. Below are the results, seen here with Baldwin's patina applied to oxidize the copper and brass.
Behold the newly formed metal cabochons! I intend to use the square for a big statement ring. I'm going to make it a size 7 so it will fit on my pinkie finger, or the ring finger of a lady with hands that aren't giant like mine are. I am going to use the large oval for a pendant and the two small ovals for earrings. I'm excited to see how these will turn out. Will I be doing this again? Uh, no. Most likely not. It was a good technique to familiarize myself with, and maybe I can figure out a way to incorporate it on a small scale somewhere down the line. As of right now, though, these are it. Whoever decides to buy these from me will DEFINITELY have one of a kind H. Karlsson Jewelry Design pieces!
Bonus pictures: the pendant completed!
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for reading! I didn't take a whole lot of pictures this time around, because I was busy, so it's going to be more words than pictures. I would like to take this opportunity to say that SOME SWEET DAY, I will have my little house in the Texas Hill Country. If anybody has a shed on their ranch that I can move into, I'll do that, too. As you can probably guess, I had a fabulous time in Wimberley at the Wimberley Arts Fest.
First of all, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, and a welcome change from the adventures at the McKinney Arts in Bloom Festival. I took I-35 down to Wimberley because I was in a hurry. Setup started at 10am on Friday down in Wimberley, and I left at 10am from Carrollton. I'll let you do the math. Anyway, I made it through the usual nonsense of traffic, stopping at Slovacek's in West for a klobatch... koblaczn...MEAT KOLACHE. It was delicious, even if it felt like I was committing sacrilege for not stopping at Czech Stop. (For those of you not familiar with this particular level of sacrilege, it was tradition for University of North Texas music students making the pilgrimage to San Antonio to stop at Czech Stop, because a: that's all there was along I-35 in West nineteen years ago, and b: kolaches are delicious!)
I went ahead and checked in, then went to set up my tent. The Waters Point venue had the feel of an old fashioned circus encampment. It was beautiful, and sunny, and there was no wind. I was also excited that I was right next door to someone I knew, so I figured if nothing else, at least I'd have someone to harass. I also saw more familiar faces from previous shows, which was exciting, and I managed to find the artists hospitality room on the second try, which for me is a record. I got everything set up and situated for the night, then headed up to Dripping Springs to stay with the hostess with the mostest, Mara! There I got to meet another lodger and fellow artist at the Wimberley Arts Fest, Christine, who had been staying with her in between shows. She travels all over creation for her shows. It's really quite impressive. We all had a great time talking at night, and I really feel privileged to have been able to stay there with them. Below are some pictures of my setup, plus some flowering trees in Mara's front yard (wish I would have been fast enough to take pictures of the GINORMOUS jack rabbits!):
Wimberley Arts Fest was very well attended, and my new pearl collection was a big hit! I did learn that people have a thing for matching pearls, so I decided to make some all-white and all-black necklaces for the next show when I got back to Dallas. I also decided to throw in some turquoise because OF COURSE I DID! (If you want to see what I have so far in the *ahem* Pearls of Wisdom Collection, go to my SHOP tab and click on Pearls of Wisdom.) On Saturday night, there was an artists' meet-and-greet with some good Hill Country barbecue, good music, and new friends. We all sat around talking shop and exchanging ideas, and I got to spend time with my show buddies Lacy, Travis, and Bob. As I sat there watching the moon rise, and the gentle breeze from off the river was blowing. and everyone trading show stories and advice, I felt very fortunate to be a part of such a great community of artists!
It was hard to leave the Hill Country behind, but I had to get back and bust out some more pearl jewelry, and prepare for my next show the following weekend, which was the Highland Village Festival of the Arts. That was an educational show, and the pearl jewelry had moderate success. I do think it solidified my opinion that my jewelry will fare better in places like Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and other enclaves of art jewelry enthusiasts such as Ann Arbor and Boca Raton. What this means is that I really need to have some epic-level jewelry for my applications, so this summer is going to be busy in the design department. I've already applied for a few shows for the fall, and I'm getting geared up for more applications. I had some commissioned projects to complete, and now that summer is here, there seems to be an invasion of clarinet repair hovering on the horizon. Gotta pay for my turquoise habit somehow!
I will leave you with some gratuitous Tosca pictures, because she's just so delightfully judgmental.
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! First things first: thanks to all who came out to visit at the McKinney Arts In Bloom festival! I thank you one and all for your continued support of my quest to create and sell art jewelry. The show was an adventure and a learning experience, which I will get to, but first, it's time once again for some shameless self-promotion!
This coming weekend, April 28-29, I will be in Wimberley, Texas (which is outside of Austin) for the Wimberley Arts Fest. Wimberley is in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, and for those of you following along, just down the road from Dripping Springs, where I exhibited at The SHOW! in the Fall of 2017. I'm looking forward to visiting with my art show buddies (shout out to Mara my gracious hostess, Robert, Lacey, and Travis!), making new friends, and hopefully selling a lot of my pieces both new and old! I'm also hoping to catch the tail end of the bluebonnet season, but one never knows how these sorts of things work out. We shall see. If you're planning on coming out to visit, here is the link for more information: www.wimberleyartsfest.com/
So this past weekend was a learning experience as far as outdoor art shows are concerned. As you may or may not know, the weather during the last show I did was... um... typically Texas springtime weather. That means wind, hail, rain, thunder, tornadoes, and COLD. Thank goodness I got to set up promptly at 7am, because it took every bit of the nine hours until the originally scheduled opening time to sort through the problems the wind was giving me. The first thing I discovered was that due to the prevailing wind direction, the side street my booth was located on was like a wind tunnel. The wind was gusting up to 40 miles an hour, which was too much for my 160lbs of tent weights to handle, especially when I got my side walls put on. Much to my surprise, my tent began to skid across the concrete and into my neighbor's space! My husband's coworker (who manages outdoor events for his side business) told me to put my tent down low and that would help with the wind. It did help somewhat, but in order for me to feel comfortable enough to put the walls back up, I felt I needed more weight. Thankfully, McKinney is part of the Dallas metroplex, so off I went to a nearby PetSmart to buy, yep you guessed it, kitty litter!
I wrapped the boxes of kitty litter in plastic garbage bags to protect them from the rain that was coming down, then strapped them to my tent legs with bungee cords. Once secured, I could put the walls back up. I decided against raising my tent back up to its full height for stability reasons, but that made it very difficult for tall people to come in my tent and have a look around. Oh well. Part of the perils of having to put your tent on concrete. I'm confident that the Wimberley show will be easier since I'll get to stake my tent to the ground. The next obstacle was to put up my tables. This proved troublesome because suddenly the heavens opened up and dumped all the rain the area would need for the next month. Thankfully I had the foresight to use outdoor upholstery cloth for table covers, so they protected everything. Eventually, the rain slowed and I could get back to work. I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the setup details, but a lot of duct tape and industrial velcro were involved in keeping my display pieces in one place. Note to self: next time, use wood table tops instead of cloth. Cloth will blow off and take ALLLLLLL your jewelry with it.
By the time 5pm rolled around, the sky was looking like this:
And yes, that sucker was rotating. I learned that I can strip my displays and close up my tent in a little under 12 minutes. I also learned that going with my achy big toe instead of waiting for the weather alert from the organizers got me to safety in plenty of time. I was told that during all this, on the far side of Highway 75 they had jagged golf ball sized hail. I'm very glad that missed us, because that stuff would have destroyed every single tent in the place, and probably caused a tree branch to drop on mine and my neighbor's. We were given the all clear to open around 7pm, so I stuck around until 10 to show some stuff, and went home.
Another thing I learned was that keeping my displays low and backed up against more solid objects kept them from falling over. Hidden swathes of duct tape also help stabilize things. Here's a tip, kids: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS CARRY DUCT TAPE. IT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. Or your art. Here is what my booth ended up looking like. (P.S. Note to self: get more lights!!!):
The rest of the show was less eventful, precipitation-wise, but boy howdy was it windy! I spent most of Saturday hanging on to the struts of the tent to keep it from blowing away, and I even roped a friend of mine in for tent-clinging duty for the afternoon. We made a lot of "holding down the fort" jokes. One helpful soul decided to help me rig up a makeshift weight with an extension cord and one of my storage boxes in the middle of the tent. It wasn't pretty, but it made the thing more secure, and at this point I wasn't really looking to win any best of show prizes for booth layout. I'm going to have to come up with a better way to stabilize everything, but I think the main takeaway from all this is to maybe go with a center booth instead of a corner booth next time. Sunday was pretty much more of the same, although the wind was kind enough to die down by the time teardown time came. This gave me time to run to Emporium Pies to indulge in a slice of Smooth Operator. Seriously, go try it. You'll thank me. Another friend brought me a delicious cheeseburger from Square Burger earlier in the day, too, so I pretty much ate like a king on Sunday!
After the show, I decided to create a more wallet-friendly line for my collection. I haven't decided on a name, but it's made from textured argentium silver and these really sweet freshwater pearls I picked up from one of my suppliers who happened to be visiting from Delaware. Here's what I've got so far:
There's more to come from all this. I just ran out of argentium and have to wait until Monday to continue! The price range for these pieces will be anywhere from $30 for a pair of earrings to $190 for a long pearl and silver necklace. I hope these are a hit at the upcoming shows. In the mean time, thanks once again for reading, and stay tuned for further adventures!
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! Boy, oh boy, has it been one wild month since last we met!!! Not only is the McKinney Arts in Bloom festival THIS FRIDAY, but I just got done with not one but TWO Jayne Redman workshops! My brain is a little overstimulated at the moment, but in a good way, so let me fill you in on all the fun! Go grab a snack and a beverage and settle in, because this is going to be a long blog.
First of all, the workshops! For those of you who don't know, Jayne Redman is a jewelry artist based out of Portland, Maine, who is reknowned for her multiple forms based on flowers and plants, plus her skill at keum boo (more on that in a minute) and tool inventing. I was super excited to get into both sold out workshops. One was die making and forming multiples, and the other was keum boo (patience, grasshopper, for I shall explain later).
In the first workshop, which lasted three days, the objective was to make a blanking die (also known as a pancake die) out of tool steel that we could use to form multiple shapes or a continuous pattern. I chose a shape similar to a rose petal. Once we determined our shapes, we cut out our steel. The tricky bit is to cut the steel on an angle so the separated parts would form a cutting edge like scissors or shears. The design should also have a hinge built in so it can spring back over and over. If cut properly, the die can last for decades.
As you can see from the above picture, cutting straight lines by hand is easier said than done, especially while trying to keep your saw perpendicular to the plane of your bench. To do this work, you really need a rotating bench pin and a magnetic protractor to set everything up. Thankfully, those tools were available for purchase, so I bought some for home use.
Once my die was cut, I tested it on some really thin copper. I had to use a hydraulic press to get it to work. For those of you who are interested, a hydraulic press is similar to what mechanics use to jack up a car off the floor to change the tires or work on the engine. It transfers the power through oil pressure and a lever (or a compound lever? I can't remember off the top of my head) and brute force, and the result is that the die pops the piece of metal out without me having to spend a lot of time cutting each individual one. The best part is that all the pieces will be uniform. After trying my die out on copper, I tried it out on some 26 guage argentium.
After I completed my tool steel die, I decided to skip ahead to carving a die from clear acrylic. This was great fun, and also very messy. I kept making my bench mate laugh because my safety glasses had static electricity and all the particles kept sticking to them and I couldn't see what I was doing. Don't worry, I was wearing a mask! Inhaling acrylic will cause severe lung damage! My first attempt was a fancy and subtly textured rose petal. I used ball burs of different sizes to carve out a recess for my metal to be pushed into in the contouring die with the hydraulic press. Well, it was SUPPOSED to be a rose petal, but it kind of ended up looking like more of a sad cabbage leaf when I finally decided to step away from it. The really sad part is that I found out that 26 gauge argentium silver was too thick to pick up all the details I had carved in, so the resulting piece looked kind of like a rabid possum bit into it. Oh, well. Live and learn.
Since I had so much making a mess with the acrylic, I decided to cut another contouring die. On this die, I decided to do the smart thing and make it less detailed. I came up with a generic shape that mimicked most fish as they jump, and went with that. The plan is to puff the general shapes and then cut the fins and stuff from the flange. This shape will make trout, marlin, possibly catfish, and I think killer whales. You'll have to use your imagination for the time being on how this will turn out, because I ran out of time. Experimentation will have to wait until after the Arts In Bloom festival.
I also made an open acrylic die to puff out my rose petal shape. Unfortunately, I didn't cut it big enough (which is better than it being too big, because then I can't use it with my cutting die. I ran out of time on that one, too. I had to use a router-like device attached to a bench vice to keep the cutting bur at 90 degrees to cut a completely straight edge. The reason for this is to be able to use either side for puffing in case I need a mirror image or whatever. I have to confess that I am a bit intimidated by the hydraulic press, and I didn't use the die to its full potential because I was afraid of splitting my argentium in the test. I should have used the test copper, but I was so fried by that point in the three day workshop that I just decided to go for it. I got a pretty nifty shape, but if I want the cutting die to work with minimal waste, I'm going to have to cut the puffing die a bit bigger. This will just have to be a later problem.
The next workshop was a two day workshop about the keum boo process. Keum boo is an ancient Korean technique where you get really thin gold foil to adhere to fine silver by high heat and burnishing with an agate burnisher. Jayne told us that she preferred to roll her own gold foil so she could get a better thickness for cutting precise shapes. Tradition gold foil is SUPER thin and flakey, and it does not appreciate being cut into pieces. Also, don't have the ceiling fan on while you're doing this, because it will blow your gold all over the place. Trust me on this.
The first day, we rolled out a small piece of 24 karat yellow gold to a thickness of about 0.025 millimeters. It felt thinner than aluminum foil, but was a lot more substantial than factory made gold foil. We had to anneal the gold each time we put it through the rolling mill, and by the time we got down from 30 gauge to 0.06mm, it was really hard work to crank that tightly through the rollers. Gold turns a peach color when it anneals, and you have to take care to anneal the whole thing thoroughly, otherwise it will crack when you put it through the rolling mill. Anyway, I won't bore you with the steps, but it took until after lunch to get it completed. After that came the real fun: fusing the gold to the silver!
To do this, you need a piece of brass and a hot plate, plus agate burnishers and gloves to protect your hands from the heat. Yes, the silver and the brass will get rocket engine hot, believe it or not. I also discovered that for those of us with substantial frontal real estate, it might make sense to wear a leather apron, or you could melt your brassiere. Ask me how I know that. Anyway, once the brass turns black and you can tack the gold onto the silver, you use your burnishers to rub the gold into the silver. You would not think that it would work, but it does. Ain't science neat?! The gold becomes molecularly bonded to the underlying silver, so it won't come unstuck unless you buff it off. This is such a neat process, and I can't wait to show you what I have in mind in the future!
Here are the two pieces I did. One is fused argentium and the other is sterling silver. The sterling silver piece ended up cracking because I overheated the metal to try and bring the fine silver atoms up to the surface and like a doofus, I quenched it too quickly. It's the first time I've ever seen that happen, so that was a learning experience. I ended up cutting off the cracked bits and experimenting with patina. Fun fact: diluted acid will turn gold black. Another fun fact: you can get the gold to raise back up using a pencil eraser and a lot of elbow grease.
PLEASE NOTE! The workshop descriptions are by no means a complete rundown of the processes I learned about. If you want to learn more about them, YouTube is a wonderful thing, or better yet, you can look up Jayne Redman's classes on her website and see when her next workshop is and take one. You'll be glad you did!
I really wanted to do a sneak preview of my new collection for the McKinney Arts In Bloom show, but alas! I have run out of time! You'll just have to come out and see for yourself, or wait until i get around to writing another blog. Well, okay, ONE sneak peek, but that's it!!! Hope to see you this weekend in historic downtown McKinney, Texas!
Greetings, everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog! In this installment, I'm going to show you what I've been working on in my metalworking/fabrication class and my metal clay class at the Craft Guild of Dallas, but first, time for some shameless self-promotion!
The annual Arts in Bloom festival in downtown McKinney will be April 13-15. There will be fine art, food, wine, and entertainment for the whole family! For more information, visit www.mckinneytexas.org/687/Arts-in-Bloom
Also, just an FYI, if you are wanting custom jewelry for Mother's Day or graduation, NOW IS THE TIME to get in touch with me. You can do that by going to my contact page on this website, or messaging me on www.facebook.com/hkarlssonjewelrydesign
In other news, the spring session has started at the Craft Guild, and I am devoting my fabrication class time to actually paying attention to the class projects instead of wandering off to do my own thing. This session, the class is working on a technique called "marriage of metal." Marriage of metal is basically butting different types of metal together and soldering them so they don't fall apart, then cutting them into neat designs like checkerboards or flowers or pretty much whatever you want. Since I've never done this before, I figured I would stick with something relatively simple and make a checkerboard.
First of all, you have to use pretty heavy gauge metal, and to cut that evenly, you have to use BIG BERTHA, the metal shear in the back workshop. Here it is in all its glory. You have to be careful how you slide things in, especially small pieces, because you could lose a finger if you aren't paying attention. You also have to have a fair amount of upper body strength (or, like me, a low center of gravity courtesy of tacos).
Once the pieces are cut to the desired width, you line them all up, hose them with flux, then put a whole bunch of little hard solder pieces on them. The trick is to keep the solder from rolling off before you start heating, and also to keep the metal firmly butted together. This is an exercise in patience.
Once everything is lined up, the fun begins. The idea is to get the solder to flow in the cracks to bond the different metals together. This is easier said than done. In this technique, solder is your friend, and the goal is to get rid of all the pits and gaps in the solder. Below is my work in progress. Yes, it looks a fright. Yes, there are still gaps. Yes, all this mess of solder will get filed off, and once clean, I will go and slice across the metal to form my checkerboard pattern. This part took a good three hours to complete. I still have a long way to go before it's ready for round two!
Meanwhile, in my metal clay class, I learned some new things as well. For instance, I learned that one should burnish the clay BEFORE firing it for a smoother finish. I also learned you don't necessarily have to use files to shape the clay once it's dry. We also worked on what was supposed to be a pair of earrings, but since I am a rebel I made a pendant instead. I'm not sure how I feel about the texture (it's a mold I took of the texture on a hotel bathroom garbage can, but it looks like lizard skin), but we'll see how it turns out once it is fired. I do not have any pictures at this time because it's not really much to look at. I also embedded a bezel cup into another little piece so I can put some RHINESTONES on that sucker! Yee-haw! (Okay, technically it's cubic zirconia.)
One of the other things I did was to finish up a trout I carved a couple of weeks ago so I could get it fired in the kiln. It only needed to fire for about twenty minutes or so and then it was done! Kind of like baking muffins or something, really, only at much hotter temperatures. Here's a before and after picture of my little fishie!
Oh! And one more metal clay thing I meant to share with you but forgot, I made a mold of a clarinet key to see if I could form a clarinet key using metal clay! I'm pleased to say it worked! However, don't get any ideas. The clay shrinks when fired, so any custom key you might make would be too small. Also, did I mention that silver metal clay is around $50 for 20 grams (about a teaspoon in volume)? Anyway, here it is: a solid silver top trill key! My plan is to make some molds of oboe keys so I don't have to try to find any more trashed out oboes. Trashed out oboes with silver keys are very hard to find!
As you can see, there's lots of new things to learn and try at school, and I have two Jane Redman workshops the first week of April. In addition, I'm working on several commissions. I'll share those in detail once the recipients receive them. Wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, after all!
I will leave you with some gratuitous cat pictures. Tosca Q Puss has not been handling Daylight Savings time very gracefully!
Greetings, everyone! I guess I'm just going to be high maintenance this month in regards to blogging. In this installment, I thought I would run some stuff by you regarding my policies on custom or commissioned jewelry. For what it's worth, custom jewelry and commissioned jewelry is pretty much the same thing. "Commissioned" just sounds fancier. Take a gander below at what I have thus far, and if you have questions or have anything you think I should add, post in the comments!
THE COMMISSIONS PROCESS:
If you like my work, but don't see anything that quite fits what you are looking for, then you can request a custom piece of jewelry from my studio! Here's how it works:
Pre-design consideration will help you decide if the commission process is right for you. In the pre-design consideration phase, the following are discussed:
This will guarantee you a spot in the production queue. Once design services have been secured, we discuss the following important factors:
After the type of stone is determined, if it is a stone I don't happen to have in my collection, I will go on the hunt for the type of your choosing. Once I have found candidates, I will send pictures of them and you choose the one you want. Also, if you already have the stone you want to use, then I will need it to begin the preliminary sketches.
Once general design ideas have been put into place, I can begin the preliminary design sketches. These are rough sketches that give the general idea of the direction a piece might take, to help you visualize what the finished piece may look like.
Final draft sketches.
Once you have selected from the preliminary design sketches, I will make sketches that show the commissioned work in more detail. You will be presented with the design sketches for final approval.
Once final approval is made, an estimate for cost of the piece will be given and the difference of 50% of the final cost will be due (nonrefundable).
For example, let's say you commission a piece, put $100 down to secure design services, and approve a design that will end up costing $400, not including tax and shipping. Fifty percent of the final price would be $200. Since you already put down $100 as a deposit, another $100 will be due at the time final design approval is made, bringing the total amount you have paid so for to be $200.
After final design approval is made, production begins.
Please keep in mind, once final design approval is made, no changes will be allowed in order to facilitate timely delivery. The production process includes:
Once the piece is completed, it is lovingly boxed up and ready for its new home! At this time, the remaining 50% of the final price is due, along with applicable sales tax and shipping.
Greetings, everyone. This part of my adventure took a little more serious turn. Most of you may not know that one of my most favorite places on this earth is Port Aransas, Texas. I first found the place a few years ago when I was down visiting Dr. Kellie Lignitz-Hahn at Texas A&M University-Kingsville for their clarinet day. It was the first time I had ever been to the beach by myself, and I had a fine time hunting for seashells, talking to day-drinking retirees, and I met the absolute best bar tender and had the tastiest meal of my life, which, coincidentally, was the first time I ever had crab or red snapper. Ever since, I've been drawn to those barrier islands, and each experience has been peaceful and restorative in its own unique way.
When Hurricane Harvey basically wiped Port Aransas off the map back in August 2017, I cried. To think of all that was lost, and to see pictures of the devastation was heartbreaking. I didn't know what to expect once I got there, but I was willing to take a chance. Everyone I mentioned my trip to thought I was nuts, that nothing could possibly be open or ready for the public. I figured it didn't hurt to look, and perhaps in some small way, my tourist dollars could help. I made it a point not to take any pictures of the damage. It seemed rude and voyeuristic, and that it would trivialize another person's suffering. Instead, what I did was travel around, talk to local people, and visit my favorite places to see if they were had rebuilt, or were even still around. I also had some shop cats to check on.
I drove in on 361 and to my surprise, there seemed to be more beach condos than when I was there the previous year. I also saw a new water tower being installed. I could see in the distance where they had brought in a big oil rig close to the island. The weather was cold and gray and windy, and was threatening rain. I cruised on in to town and was shocked to discover that a lot of buildings looked as if nothing had happened. Don't get me wrong, there were some grim reminders of Harvey's wrath six months previous, but reconstruction was moving along at a rapid pace.
My first stop was Winton's Island Candy. At first glance, everything seemed unchanged, although I did notice that there was a wave painted on the front door to mark the flood line from the hurricane. The shop was full of candy, and the proprietress and her helpers were as friendly as always. I sampled some caramel and some fudge and made my selections. I mentioned that the gift shop that used to be next to them was gone, and a liquor store was opening up in its place. One of the ladies told me that Connoisseurs had opened down the road in a new location.
I headed down the road, noting that one of the gas stations was still completely mangled, and there were a few of the old restaurants still torn up. Everything seemed to be in a state of mid-repair, but it was thrilling to see so many familiar places either open or just about ready. I went in to Connoisseurs and had a lovely chat with the lady running the shop, and got to check in with the shop cat. Sukey the Shop Cat had had a very rough time of it during Harvey, but was finally back in house, firmly ensconced in a sorting tray on the front counter.
When I left the shop, I saw small groups of people gathering and pulling up chairs to the sidewalk. I then remembered someone mentioned a Mardigras parade. Since I had never in my life been to a Mardigras parade, I thought I would stick around. Two shop owners who were seated on a bench nearby noticed my look of bewilderment, and were kind enough to offer me a place to sit and watch the show. I overheard many interesting conversations about the way things were shaping up since the hurricane, and some of the things that some people had been through, and the nightmares of dealing with insurance companies, and trying to get things worked out. As the parade progressed, it was mentioned that it was a little sparse this year for obvious reasons. I was just glad to be there to witness it. To me, it seemed like an act of defiance against the worst that Nature could throw at a community.
Y'all, I could talk all day about the stories about the storm the locals told me. Nothing I could write would do them justice. I can't even imagine what it must have been like to come back to all that destruction, or to have actually stuck around on the island and lived to tell the tale. I will tell you this, though. Port Aransas is bouncing back, and the best gift that we can give them now is to go visit. Go down for Spring Break. Go play on the beach for a weekend. Heck, take a whole week. Go visit Sukey the shop cat. Go see the taxidermied rattlesnake at the candy shop. Go out deep sea fishing. Go look for sea shells. Go shopping for souvenir t-shirts. Every dollar you spend helps bring Port Aransas back to life, and helps these good folks rebuild. And no, nobody is paying me to write this (and you'd sure have to question their reasoning if they were). I just really like Port Aransas.
Since this wouldn't be a blog without pictures, I'm going to share some of the pictures I took at Padre Island National Seashore, which is just south of Port Aransas. The park ranger on duty said that they had missed the bulk of the hurricane, but the shore was pretty churned up. Someday I'd like to take a drive down to the beach at mile 60, but I need four-wheel drive first!
For more information on things to do in Port Aransas, Texas:
The official tourism site of Port Aransas: portaransas.org/
For more information on the town and it's inner workings: www.cityofportaransas.org/
For yummy caramel and fudge: wintonscandies.com/
A lot of my favorite businesses don't actually have websites or even Facebook sites, so look for their locations on Google:
Connosieur's Gifts & Crafts: home of Sukey the Shop Cat!
La Playa Mexican Grill: home of delicious seafood and fajitas
Islander Souvenirs: home of souvenir t-shirts, flip-flops, beach towels, and so forth