If you know me there is a really good chance that you knew Buster. Or if you have worked on Broadway, there is also a good chance that you knew Buster. He passed away a year ago in June and the vet put his ashes in a beautiful oak box that now sits alongside many adorable photos of him in my home.
While chatting with fiends I bagan to talk about different ways of keeping our loved ones close to our hearts.
All of the little flecs that you seen in the glass are actually his ashes. I really like the fact that you wouldn't know what you were looking at if I hadn't told you. What is inside the beads can be private or open information, whatever makes you most comfortable.
There is definatly a learning curve involved in the process and Buster might end up being a lot of pieces before I figure it all out but he was loved by many and I have a feeling that there are plenty of people that would enjoy having a little reminder of such an amazing guy.
And, it's really nice to have him back in the shop with me. He always had a bed at my feet and now he has a bead around my neck that I can ponder on.
An extra few hours in the day?
My initial thought for today's entry was - what to do when your tumbler explodes.
But the prevailing thought from the experience was -
What does it take to be an artist?
This is an ongoing problem with me as I'm sure it is with most every artist. How do you navigate home life, relationships, responsibilities, work and the indulgent time needed to learn, imagine and create art?
Yesterday my one hour work commute into the city took me 2 1/2 hours. That's a helluva lot of time spent doing nothing!! So this morning I decided to approach it differently. I hit the floor running as soon as I got up trying to get all of my mundane responsibilities taken care of so I would have a little time in the shop before heading into the city, I had in mind a ring to start on. At about 11am I was in pretty good shape and then I looked at the bus schedule. I needed a 1:30 and there wasn't one. Not able to chance being late I had to go with the 1pm which meant I just lost 1/2 an hour. Ok- that still gives me 45 minutes in the shop and I can at least START the ring.
Then the tumbler disaster. I spent my precious 45 minutes literally running to correct the mess and still make it to the bus on time. As I write this I am on the bus wondering how artists juggle everything and still find time to create. Maybe that is why artists have historically been considered selfish and somewhat narcissistic. Art is a demanding lover.
With each piece of jewelry taking 3+ hours I don't end up with a lot to show for my toils and the prime selling season is about to come and be gone. And it is a craft the requires me to be with it - tools and fire don't seem to travel very easily.
It's a much larger issue than can be solved in one little blog entry but I put it out there to you and to the universe - brother can you spare an hour?
Oh the tumbler. Here is what I did to help protect me from a reoccurrence.
Keep in mind that this has to run unsupervised for days at a time. Let's all keep out fingers crossed!
A friend left a message on my facebook page saying that her knowledge of this process was nil. So here is a little quick info about what I'm doing with the rocks - tumbling, and how the process works.
The picture to the left is the tumbler that I own. It is a two barrel tumbler with each barrel having a 3 pound capacity. The two barrel works very well for me because I can devote one barrel to the rocks and let them tumble for weeks (not kidding!) and use the second barrel to tumble my silver work in steel shot.
The basics - collect the rocks or have friends do it for you when they go on really cool vacations. You will be amazed at how some rocks tumble down to nothing so you want to keep that in mind while you're looking. I always look for low profile rocks with a flat surface as they will be going into jewelry.
Fill your tumbler at least 1/2 full and preferably 2/3 full of rocks a varying size and shapes. Cover with water just to the top of the rocks but not completely covering. To this you will add about 4 tablespoons of Tumbling Grit. The techincal term is Silicon Carbide and it is an abrasive powder that will do over a week in a tumbler what the ocean would do over a few years. There are four levels of abrasiveness. You obviously start with the most aggressive and let this run 24/7 for about a week, this will take off the rough edges. In the weeks following you keep changing the liquid (NEVER POUR IT DOWN YOUR DRAIN AS IT WILL TURN INTO THE ROCK THAT IT JUST SMOOTHED OUT!!!) The fourth and final step is a polishing compound that will give them a shine as though they are wet!
That is the really quick guide and obviously you will want to carefully consider where you put your tumbler as the sound can be a bit maddening. Mine is up in the shop and I have learned to just deal with it. Although every time I go up there I wonder why I didn't bring up a can of WD-40.
I have been setting them in silver but have a set of Diamond Head Drill Bits on my shopping list so I can do some simple things with the smaller rocks.
This morning I opened up my next batch of rocks. These came from the beaches in Mazatlan. Although no where near the natural beauty of the Greek rocks some of them are surprisingly very interesting to look at. One actually has the quality of wood. And by accident a seashell got into the mix so I'm going to continue it in the process and see what happens.
They have been in the tumbler for one week on the coarsest compound. I will start them today for another week on compound #2 (of 4).
Sometimes taking a picture of what you're doing is harder than what you're actually doing; so you use what you have handy - a bottle of wine. Because of the design, if you lay the bracelet down on a flat surface it all just falls in on itself and that is the key to this new design, it's really light and airy.
I am always trying to utilize the glass beads that I make without it looking like " beaded jewelry". And then there is the problem of not being able to solder close to the bead because it can't take the heat and will shatter. Once again - on my way home from the city I came up with the idea for this bracelet. The only soldering is to make little eye pins that go through the bead and then the whole thing is connected with slip rings. Tonight I did all the slip rings by hand which made it pretty time consuming, but those are something that can be purchased in bulk which would make the project pretty quick. The closure is a Sister Hook which attaches to a chain allowing for over an inch in size flexibility.
It's been awhile since I've burned the midnight oil up in my shop but while I was at work tonight I promised myself that I would spend some time up there after work. At about midnight I opened a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and made my way up the path.
These were the rocks that jumped out at me. Still from my stock of the Greek island, there was something about the yin and the yang that really appealed to me. On my way home I had been thinking about combining a couple of different rocks in the same piece and these were the rocks that I decided to use.
And here is the finished piece.
Oh and by the way. The ring that I finished over the weekend was featured on one of our beautiful actresses, Hayley, from CHAPLIN THE MUSICAL for her opening night.
It's strange to have spent such an amazing summer so focused on my craft and then step back into real life and the task of earning a living!
Shortly after my summer trip I booked a new show on Broadway, CHAPLIN, THE MUSICAL. Being in production for a show leaves little time for anything else for several weeks. We open on Monday night and today was the first day I had up in my shop for about a month.
Cleaning away the cobwebs took on a literal meaning! While I was away Charlotte's offspring seemed to have taken up residence under my work table and hatched hundreds of tiny little baby spiders that scattered and scurried across my table the entire time I was working! Spiders included it was a terrific day spent. I could feel the cloud that had been forming in my head slowly disperse as I swept the floor, turned on the torch, refreshed the flux and pondered what would be created.
I didn't actually finish the piece I started because I spent quite a long time being overwhelmed by the possibilities. After three weeks in the tumbler my rocks were ready to go! Dear friends of mine had spent their annual holiday on the Greek island Lefkas (or Lefkada) which is covered with naturally tumbled stones.
In between ocean dips and sunning they were willing to gather rocks for me!
Tumble, tumble, tumble and they are polished to a beautiful shine!
I decided on a ring using a white stone with dark gray veins to be set in a saw tooth bezel resting on a square of textured silver. Of course I looked at the clock and had to choose between snapping a picture of the work in progress or making my bus on time. Reality won out today but I will take some shots next week when I get back to the shop.
Speaking of the shop - these are the fall leaves that were on my path through the woods. Leaces and a big pile of fresh bear doo-doo!
I started my journey into jewelry making in 2005 while I was working in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, an area inundated with amazing artisans. I started with glass, which led to silver, which led to inlay, which led to joy.