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Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Rings { and a CONTEST } !!!

As you probably know if you've been reading this blog for more than say, a week - I recently learned some new stone setting techniques that have me all excited about new design directions. I've spent the last couple of weeks ordering supplies and getting my studio better organized, and finally during the last two days, I've had a chance to try out these new techniques here on my own.

The results have been mixed - for every success, there have been numerous failures and frustrations, but I know that with practice, it will all become easier. (I remember how difficult bezel setting seemed at first, and now I could practically do that in my sleep.) Of the several pieces I have attempted in the last few days, two have turned out well enough to sell. Without further ado...

pink tourmaline ringCalifornia pink tourmaline and recycled sterling silver ring
(5mm faceted stone on 5mm flat band, textured satin finish)
click here for more photos

moissanite ringMoissanite, recycled 14k gold, and recycled sterling silver ring
(5mm faceted stone on comfort fit band, textured satin finish)
click here for more photos

If you're not familiar with moissanite, allow me to blather on a bit regarding what I've learned about this amazing material. Moissanite was originally born from a meteorite over 50,000 years ago, and was first discovered by Dr. Henri Moissan in 1893 in material collected from a meteor crater in Arizona. These incredibly brilliant sparkling crystals might have been considered "diamonds from space," but Dr. Moissan's research actually identified them as a new mineral find - silcon carbide, whose chemical composition is SiC (diamonds are made from carbon). This stunning jewel is extremely rare, and almost impossible to find in nature. So rare, in fact, that the dream of using it in jewelry was an impossibility until man discovered a way to create and craft these incredible silicon carbide crystals here on Earth.

With more fire than any popular gemstone (including diamond), no other stone or jewel compares to Moissanite. In fact, fire can be measured scientifically and moissanite has nearly 2.4 times the fire of diamond. Moissanite also has 10% more brilliance and luster than diamond. Proven to be harder than ruby, sapphire or emerald and second only to diamond, moissanite is also extraordinarily heat resistant, durable, and tough. It is extremely resistant to scratching, abrasion, breaking and chipping. And because these phenomenal stones are grown in a laboratory, you don't have to worry about the ethical problems involved with harvesting diamonds and other mined gems.

Pretty cool, huh? :-) I doubt that my pictures adequately capture how pretty this material really is, but it's truly amazing - so sparkly and gorgeous! This ring also reflects my first attempt at including gold in any of my work - a trend I hope to expand on as my budget allows.

Okay, I know what you're thinking - enough already, what about the contest? Be patient, grasshopper.

Here's the thing. I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about my business and where I hope to be a few years down the road, and I've come to the conclusion that I want to work toward a couple of goals. First, I would like to begin creating some higher end pieces, using really amazing stones (including more moissanite) and different varieties of recycled gold, and second, I want to begin using exclusively earth-, human-, and animal-friendly materials. I already incorporate many of these ideals in my current work, abstaining from using any animal-derived materials, and using mostly recycled silver, but I want to take it further. I'm hoping to create a new collection that uses 100% recycled metal and stones that are either (a) lab grown, (b) mined in the United States, or (c) mined in other countries, but have been independently certified as not involving mining practices that are destructive to the environment or dangerous to workers.

Here's where I need your help. I'd like to come up with a name for this new line that somehow encapsulates all of these ideas - both the ethical aspects and the higher-end feel. To enter this contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a suggestion for a name for my new collection. I have a few ideas of my own already but nothing I'm attached to yet, so throw out any words, phrases, tag lines, etc. you can think of. The winner will be chosen at random in a couple of weeks and will be awarded with a $25 credit to be used in either my jewelry shop or my bead shop.

Yay! Thanks for playing!

Exciting News!

Well, it's finally happened - after months of plotting and scheming, I have finally managed to hire a part-time assistant! Lucky for me, my new employee is also my Aunt Judy. :-) Besides being an all-around awesome person, she is extremely reliable and detail oriented - perfect for the things I'll be needing help with. Judy is going to be handling all of the order processing and shipping for my bead shop, and once she's mastered that, who knows what else we might tackle. It feels great to have some help with the bead side of things so I can spend more time making jewelry. So everyone join me in welcoming Judy to the growing McFarland Designs/BestBeads empire (ha ha)!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why kids are great...

Who needs a fancy schmancy swimming pool when you have a cheap plastic ice chest?

New Stuff

Hot off the press! (so to speak)

cloudy aquamarine ringCloudy aquamarine stacking ring set, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

pink tourmaline ringCalifornia pink tourmaline ring, recycled sterling silver, size 7.25
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

aquamarine ringCloudy aquamarine ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

labradorite floral ringLabradorite ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

green tourmaline ringCalifornia green tourmaline ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

hammered aquamarine ringAquamarine ring, recycled sterling silver, size 8.5
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

fire opal ringMexican fire opal ring, recycled sterling silver, size 8.5
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The one that got away

Our house is infested* with mice. I don't know how it happened, but it's true. A while back, we began to hear suspicious scratching noises in the wall, so we set out our humane trap and we've probably caught a half dozen mice over the last month or so. I have a tumultuous history with this trap, so I'm going to post about my experiences in case anyone else is thinking of trying this.

* Okay, infested might be a big of an exaggeration. So far we've only found one in the house; the rest have all been in the garage.

The idea of the trap itself is great - obviously I purchased it as a kinder alternative to those nasty traps that snap down on the mouse and may or may not kill it right away. I had visions of releasing happy, relaxed little mousies into a field full of wildflowers. A mouse might pause on his way out into the idyllic field of daisies and glance over his shoulder, and a look would pass between us, wordlessly conveying his gratitude for my kindness, and my gratitude for his gracious departure. So you can imagine my horror the first time we used this trap (quite some time ago now; this isn't the first time we've had mice in the garage) and I went out to check it in the morning to find a dead mouse inside. I'm not sure if it's dehydration or stress or something else that does them in, but what I've come to discover is that you have to check the trap a lot. At first I thought once a day was fine, then I thought twice a day was fine (morning and evening) - now I realize that you really need to check it every couple of hours, and especially immediately before bed and immediately when you wake up.

Not too long ago, I had a second one die on me (after quite a few successful catch and release experiences - I don't mean to make it sound like they always die). As with the first one, I had checked the trap in the evening and it was empty, and by the next morning it was too late for my little mousy friend. That time, he wasn't actually dead yet, and I put him in a cardboard box and tried to nurse him back, but within a few hours more, he did die.

Fast forward to this morning... again, I did check yesterday evening - no mouse - but neglected to check at bedtime (that's where I went wrong - I think they often get trapped after dinnertime but before 11 or 12 at night). This morning, I found a sad little specimen in the trap. Once again, he wasn't all gone yet, so I set up my cardboard box nursing facility again. I thought I was going to lose this one too - he looked nearly as bad as the last one who died, but I was finally able to get him to eat and drink. After another hour or two, he was scurrying around the box as if nothing had happened. As I prepared to take him down to the woods to set him free, I paused to grab my camera to take a picture of the little cutie. I got these two pictures right before he launched himself out of the cardboard box and down onto the floor.

I swear, it was like watching a miniature kangaroo! I never knew mice could jump like that. So the good news is - he's alive. The bad news is - he's still on the loose in our house. D'oh.

My husband is sweet.

While I was in Mendocino at that workshop, Matt and Carlos drove down for all but one night to be able to hang out with me in the evenings after class. The two of them had fun doing all kinds of things during the daytime - going to the beach, the park, and the Mendocino Botanical Garden. Despite the fun I was having in class, I was feeling pretty bummed about not being able to go to the garden with them, especially since I had to drive by it every day on my way to and from class, and a giant banner outside announced that the dahlias were in bloom. I love dahlias.

How thoughtful of Matt to take all of these absolutely beautiful pictures for me...

Isn't this one amazing? I know I said I didn't want any more tattoos, but these gorgeous dahlias are tempting me!

the sweetest picture of them all, of course

Aren't those pictures awesome? If there were a few more of them, I'd be tempted to make a calendar out of them all.

Oh, and the highlight of the trip for Carlos had to be the masses of dead jellyfish washed up on the beach.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Did you miss me?

Of course you did. :-)

Well, I am pleased to report that my time away last week was indeed well spent. I couldn't be happier with the class I took at the Mendocino Art Center (a truly magical place!) - our instructor, Jim Dailing, was awesome, as were all of my classmates. I can't say enough how much I loved it all, and I am already plotting ways to go back sometime for another class.

The workshop was called 'The Magic of Stone Setting', and it fulfilled my expectations and then some. As you probably know, I've been doing a lot of stone setting over the past year, but only with bezel set cabochons (i.e. stones that are flat on the back and domed on the front). My goal with this class was to learn some options for setting faceted stones (i.e. stones that are faceted on the front and faceted/pointy on the back) so that I can broaden my skills and possibly begin to start doing some work with higher end stones and precious metals like gold.

The first thing we learned was a technique called bead setting, where small faceted stones are set flush with the surface of the metal, and secured with tiny beads of metal around the perimeter of the stone. This can be done with as few as two 'beads', or as many as will fit around the perimeter. On my practice piece, I went all out and beaded the whole way around each stone. Good thing I used cubic zirconia because I broke a few stones!

Sterling silver band with eight bead set 2mm cubic zirconias

Next we learned how to set stones flush with the surface of the metal without the little metal 'beads', which gives a nice clean, contemporary feel.

Sterling silver band with eight 1.75mm pink sapphires

Working with those teeny-tiny stones was a big change for me since I am used to making such bing chunky rings most of the time, but I really like the look of the tiny stones set in the band, and of course if I used a wider band, I could set slightly larger stones using this same technique.

The next project was tapered tube settings. I love these! A slightly tapered tube setting is integrated into the design of the ring - sunk down right into the band - and it supports a faceted stone.

Tourmaline solitaire ring, sterling silver

rear view

on my hand

I didn't spend too much effort making the metal all pretty and shiny since I wanted to focus my limited time on mastering the actual fabrication techniques - but I actually kind of like the non-shiny finish on that last one.

Jim taught us one other setting, but my practice piece got kind of messed up and I need to give that one another try at home. Stay tuned...

So - now that I've dished out the money for the class (well worth it, obviously), paid for a hotel and gas, sacrificed the productivity that I would have spent here at the studio during the time I was away, and oh yes - purchased an incredible garden sculpture that I really couldn't afford from the art center gallery - this morning I went and spent a bunch more money ordering new tools for my studio so I can start working on these settings here at home. I got some very exciting stuff - a flex shaft (finally!), a benchmate (heaven!), and tons of little burs, punches, files, etc. Once I recover from all of those expenses, which will take a while, I'm hoping to start investing in at least some small amounts of gold to begin integrating into some of my pieces (all recycled, of course, just like the silver I use).

So, that's that! I'm feeling rested and creatively invigorated, but also stressed by the backlog of orders and emails that I need to take care of ASAP. If you're waiting for something from me, please be patient - I'm doing my very best! I have more to post about but it's going to have to wait...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A small batch this week

I only had time to finish a few rings this week... today I'm running around like crazy trying to get five zillion things done before I leave for my class tomorrow. I have a bunch more rings in the almost-finished stage, but sadly, they won't get done before I leave. If you're waiting for a custom order ring from me, rest assured that I will be finishing it up when I get back next week!

Charoite ring, recycled sterling silver, size 7.75

Faceted labradorite ring, recycled sterling silver, size 6.25

Pink tourmaline ring, recycled sterling silver, size 7.5

All of these rings will be listed soon in my Etsy shop.

Lovely Loveliness

New beads - woohoo!!! Most are available for custom orders.

Pink tourmaline, 12mm round, 7.6 carat

Nevada Variscite, 20mm x 36mm, 29.4 carat

California vesuviantie, 12mm x 14mm, 5.4 carat

Violet chalcedony
Upper left - 14mm x 21mm, 14.8 carat
Lower right - 10mm x 12mm, 3.9 carat

Peruvian chrysocolla, 26mm, 29.2 carat

Mexican fire opal
Upper left - 13mm x 18mm, 7.0 carat
Upper right - 11mm x 16mm, 6.2 carat
Bottom - 10mm x 14mm, 4.3 carat

Mexican fire opal
Upper left - 9mm round, 1.9 carat
Upper right - 11mm, 2.2 carat
Bottom - 10mm x 11mm, 3.0 carat

Upper left: 9.5mm x 11.5mm, 8.1 carat
Lower right: 10.5mm x 14mm, 8.7 carat

Hexagonal aquamarine, 12mm, 7.3 carat

(same cab; top view)

Bicolor tourmaline, 8mm x 13mm, 6.1 carat

Peruvian blue opal, 12mm x 13.5mm, 5.1 carat

Cat's eye blue tourmaline
Upper left - 10mm x 14mm, 6.9 carat
Right - 8.5mm, 3.5 carat
Lower left - 9.5mm, 5.5 carat

Also some new shaded ruby beads for the bead shop. Yum!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I am a lucky girl today -

This is mine! It's for my studio. Is it not the most exquisite thing you have ever seen? It's a commissioned painting by the amazing and talented Roz. It's going to be hard to focus on jewelry making with such a beautiful distraction...


Don't know what this is all about... but it's funny.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Finally some new jewelry...

Here's what I've made in the last few days...

orange opal pendantOpal pendant, recycled sterling silver

silver opal pendant(same pendant; different angle)

recycled silver bandA simple hammered comfort fit band, recycled sterling silver
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

blue topaz ringSwiss blue topaz ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

blue tourmaline ringCat's eye blue tourmaline ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

mexican fire opalMexican fire opal ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

grey moonstone ringFaceted grey moonstone ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

blue opal ringPeruvian blue opal ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

recycled sapphire ring
Sapphire ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

And last but not least, let the labradorite parade begin...

labradorite cocktail ringBig round labradorite ring, recycled sterling silver
{ custom order; sold }

labradorite recycled silver(same ring; different angle)

labradorite sterling silverAnother big round labradorite ring, recycled sterling silver
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

big labradorite ring(same ring; different angle)

large labradorite ringYet another big round labradorite ring, recycled sterling silver
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

(same ring; different angle)

One more big round labradorite ring, recycled sterling silver
{ to be listed soon in my Etsy shop }

(same ring; different angle)