Monday, December 12, 2011

Cicada Wings in the Rolling Mill

During the months of late July and through August the cicadas sing their cacophony high in the maple and elm trees in the neighborhood.  In high season their symphony can be very loud and their shells can be seen still clinging to tree trunks, which my young son liked to pick off and put into a cicada shell collection jar. Towards the end of their life span the music dwindles to a buzz here and there.  By the end of August and early September the large eyed bugs have lived their short life above ground and can be found in the grass and the sidewalks at the end of their life cycle.  Since I tend to enjoy going for walks in the neighborhood in the summer time I would stumble upon many of these ridged cicadas.  Their morphology always fascinated me in a somewhat mysterious way, especially their beautiful wings and bubble eyes. 

This last summer one of these big bugs landed on our bedroom window screen and I took some photos of it and this got me thinking about how interesting it would be to try to mill a wing and see what kind of impression it would leave.  Mind you, there is no way that I would ever touch a live bug as big as this, so you know that what I did was use one that was past it's prime to experiment.  After mustering much courage, I snapped the wing off of one of the dead cicadas and ran it in the mill against annealed copper, dipped it in liver of sulfur, drilled a few holes and polished it up .  The result was pretty fantastic. It was as if the memory of this cicada would go on for a while longer imprinted into copper.  There is something kind of cool about that. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 3: Pearls

I love the look of a nice pearl, especially with silver or gold or hand knotted with silk thread.  But what is known of these lovely gems of the water? 

About two years ago I was searching for some nice 2mm pearls at a trunk show at a jewelry shop.  I noticed that the prices of all the pearls varied drastically.  I chose the pearls that I felt were esthetically pleasing and walked away as happy as a clam with my iridescent lovelies that boasted various nacre surfaces.  Nacre is the outer radiate layer of the pearl.  The thinner the nacre the more likely the pearl exterior is prone to crack or chip. More recently, I purchased some expensive half drilled pearls over the Internet.  When I got those pearls I was in love!!  I knew then that there is a difference with pearls and that difference isn’t just the price.  After doing some research on the Internet and looking at books in the local library, I found a surplus of information about pearls.  For those that wear or work with pearls and are interested in learning more I would recommend a book titled Pearl Buying Guide: How to Identify and Evaluate Pearls and Pearl Jewelry, by Renee Newman 2010 edition.  According to her book, Newman sites pearl price factors being affected by the pearl luster, surface quality, shape, color, size, nacre thickness, matching, treatment status and pearl type.  Pearl types are saltwater/freshwater, natural/cultured, whole/blister. What I have learned is that a large high luster pearl, with few flaws, that is symmetrically round in a white or light pink color which has thick nacre or is a natural pearl, is one that is frequently most valued.  

What is a natural pearl?  This is a pearl that is formed as a result of a particle or parasite entering the mollusk shell naturally.  The mollusk secretes pearly calcium carbonate exudates around the particle as a form of protection.  Over time the mollusk will continue to form thin layers of this coating producing concentric growth rings.  Think of the rings found in a cut tree stump for a similar visual.  The natural pearl is nearly all nacre.

What is a cultured pearl?  A cultured pearl is the result of human intervention where a person inserts a foreign object into the mollusk that is usually a nucleus bead or a small portion of an oyster or mussel tissue.  Over time the irritant is covered by thin layers of nacre by the mollusk.  The cultured pearl has an outer coating of a few layers of nacre with a solid nucleus that was the inserted foreign object. 

Tips for care of your pearls:
*After worn, wipe the pearls with a clean dry cloth.
*Store in a soft bag or jewelry try separate from other jewelry to prevent chipping of the nacre
*Store in an environment that is not dry or warm to prevent the nacre from drying out and cracking.
*If the pearl needs to be washed, do so with Ivory flakes or castile soap and warm distilled water, rinse well with distilled water and lay flat to air dry.
*Don’t use ultrasonic cleaner, chemicals or abrasives with the pearls.
*Apply hairspray, perfume and make up before wearing pearls.
*Restring silk hand knotted pearls about every year. 
*In jewelry design patina metal before adding pearls.  Do not dip pearls in liver of sulfur

In conclusion, pearls tend to be one of the fragile gems that need special care when worked into a jewelry design, as well as specific considerations when worn, stored and cleaned.  Their spherical radiance offers much to a design that is well thought out.  It is my hope that by reading something that you have seen here that you will be encouraged to work with and wear more pearls confidently.    

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day 2!!

Thanks to my husband, Mike, I now have a place to put my jewelry thoughts, photos and ideas to pen and paper (so to speak).  Last night we worked on the logistics for getting set up on blogger and Scribd.  Computers are a different language for me, so this was very helpful. 

If you click on the pdf link below you will have the opportunity to see my first posting, which is a pictorial lesson on how to use the rolling mill.  With the help of many people this lesson has come to fruition.  The lesson contains dozens of photos, instructions and tips for using the rolling mill.  I designed this lesson for the person starting off with a new rolling mill or for the artist interested in understanding the rolling mill before purchasing one.  I encourage anyone making this purchase a consideration to look at this free lesson and to ask me any questions that are left unanswered after looking at the lesson.  

Why did I create a rolling mill lesson plan?  A couple of years ago, I took a strong interest in wanting to learn about etching metal, as patterned metals appealed to me.  I found the etching process daunting, as I didn't care to have the acids required to etch silver in my house. All pathways, during my research to patterning metals, led to the rolling mill.  After perusing the Internet for a lengthy period I found very little on the process.  The few articles that I did find were helpful to me.  Once I had spent some time with the mill and through trial and error I finally became more comfortable with patterning metals with the rolling mill.  I use my rolling mill almost exclusively for patterning sterling silver and copper. I had vowed to myself that once I became more comfortable with using the rolling mill that I would share what I have learned with others in hope that they could follow an untapped creative muse. 

This lesson was a collaborative effort.  Thanks to Tela, Mike, Astraea, Bruce and Tracey for editing the tutorial and offering constructive suggestions; to Tela for helping me with computer and Photoshop logistics and her constant support; to Ronnie for his quick action to make sure that I had appropriate photo software; to Art and Julie for supporting me from day one by making sure that I have all the right tools and supplies; and a big thanks to Mike who has supported every thing about what I do creatively. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Tutorial: Flat to Fab

Welcome to Wired Lotus. I'm excited to start my new blog featuring information and tutorials about wire-wrapped jewelry.

I'm getting started by sharing this free tutorial --

(PDF download)

Check it out and let me know what you think.