Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Stone Setting Story

Many of you know that my husband Hans has been learning lapidary, which is the art of cutting stones. He has been cutting cabochons--the smooth rounded stones--for about a year and has been faceting stones for about 6 months. He is very anxious for me to set his stones. I have put it off as long as possible. I have not really set many fancy cut gemstones, so I admit that I am a bit intimated. This weekend I decided to tackle them. I have a show coming up this weekend and I figured that I needed lots of bling!

This "morganite" cubic zirconia is cut from a pattern designed by Jeff Graham called "White Asterism". It weighs 12 carats. The pattern boasts 72.6 in light return with a mere 73 facets in 6-fold mirror-image symmetry. (I looked that up on the pattern page.)

Here's what I did:
I used 3 shanks of 16 gauge wire about 3 inches long and then notched them in the middle with a file. I bent them in half and arranged them so that they were equidistant from each other and soldered the center together. Then I gently bent the arms from my 6 sided wire snowflake shape over my "rings" and soldered them to 2 large jumprings--one at a time. (this made a little cage--can't wait to explore that idea too!) All solder was done with hard solder. I trimmed off the centerpiece where they were soldered at the bottom and filed it. Next I cut the top prongs to the correct height. I rounded the prong tips and notched them with a little hand tool made specifically for that purpose.

So far I'm really pleased and feel that I'm finding a definitive style by using these bigger, flashier stones. So my darling Hans, I just ordered you some more rough gemstone. :D

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My First Brooch

My First Brooch
Originally uploaded by sarawestermark
Kind of sounds silly, but I was really intimidated to do a brooch. I think its because in order to have a sturdy back you can't use sterling wire to make the "pin" stick part. I have many sketches for brooch/pendant combination pieces, so I'm excited that I've crossed over the threshold. Now everything my be brooches!

Thanks to Andy Cooperman for some tricks for pin backs that he shared with me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My First Publication

I was so giddy last week when I saw a yellow bubble mailer from Lark Books. I had a hunch that it would be this book!!!! I opened it up and looked inside to see my first piece of jewelry in print. Being included in this book has quite literally changed my life.

In the Spring of 2009, I received an email from Lark Books inviting me to participate in this project. I was confused. At that time I had only been metalsmithing for a little over 2 years--having received my first torch as a present from my sweet husband, Hans for Christmas 2006. My maiden name was Graham and I was immediately terrified that they had mixed me up with a well-known (and famous) metalsmith--Sarah Graham. I consulted with a few friends and then I mustered up the courage to call Lark Books. I explained that they made a mistake and that I probably wasn't the person that they wanted, plus I was entirely self-taught. The Lark representative, Amanda Caresto, laughed good-naturedly and assured me that Marthe Le Van did not make a mistake and wanted me to be involved in this project.

Many of you know that I'm a classically trained opera singer with a master's in voice performance. I had struggled with my life's twists and turns and had really felt like a failure because I chose not to pursue a career and to be a Mom. I had frequent nightmares of being a failure. While I love being a mom, my artistic and ambitious impulses fought to get out. I turned to metalsmithing as a hobby to soothe my pent up frustration. I read every book I could get my hands on and every weekend, I would challenge myself to learn a new technique. I believed that if I had done a technique 100 times, then I owned that skill.

After the birth of my second child in 2006, I adopted my 10 year old niece. I went from one child to three quite literally overnight. I had to make more money, so began to sell my jewelry at church festivals and local craft fairs. It was impossible for me to teach more students because my voice would wear out, but I could make jewelry all night long while everyone slept. I had always wanted to make jewelry, but never knew about "art" jewelry. Now I can't imagine not making jewelry!!!

I want to thank Marthe Le Van and Linda Kopp for believing in me and for allowing me to be in this book. This validation happened at such a key moment in my life and has transformed me as an artist. I also thank my husband and my niece for all their help that allowed me time to work. I want to thank Karen Schoon who has always believed in me and who has been like a second mother to me. I am grateful for my Mom and Dad who have always been there for me. I only wish that my Dad had lived long enough to see me be an artist. And I thank all the people who have purchased my work. I feel so blessed and I am full of joy.

Now I hope that you all will want to purchase your very own copy of The Jewelry Design Challenge!