November 8, 2011

Commissioned work with new materials

I heart figuring out a new jewelry method by mistake or chance encounter. Actually, no - fewer things make me happier than when people ask me to make custom jewelry to celebrate a loved one. Wait - no, I am happiest when I have returning customers asking for more. Scratch that - I am happiest when a returning customer asks me to make jewelry for their loved one and I learn a new technique in the making!
Recently, my friend Nilsa's husband Sweets contacted me with a simple request: leather. Apparently this is the traditional third wedding anniversary gift and Sweets wanted to go traditional and romantic, yet stick within his wife's tastes and aesthetic, which he knew I knew. I was up-front with him: as a vegetarian, I will admit that I have never really worked with leather before. Oh, and did I mention that the necklace was needed in less than 4 days? :) He asked me to go for it and see what happens. 
After doing some "research" (i.e. browsing around the internet for inspiration) I had an idea of the type of necklace I wanted to do (i.e. no hammering or welding required - heck, I prefer to stay away from glue, too) though knew that leather string is thicker than your average beading wire and would thus require beads with very large holes. The only beads I had on hand with large-ish holes happened to be some beautiful gemstones and crystals I purchased from Arizona and LA. So, after some playing around, we had this:

The little white beads are especially cool... my mom purchased them for me from a Native American craft vendor in South Dakota. Apparently they are hand-cut glass beads that are over 100-years old. When she gave them to me, I thought to myself, "Where the heck am I going to use these?" It makes sense that I used them with leather! I also avoided having to use glue thanks to some gold crimp beads. 

But then came the real challenge - closure. How dost one secure leather strings with a clasp? After tying the strands in two large knots, I played with all kinds of methods of getting a clasp on there. I even gave in and used glue to make sure that the leather wasn't going anywhere. Then it dawned on me - duh - free-style wire. Thanks to that pesky glue, I know this closure is there to stay.
Nilsa was tickled when she received the necklace: "You are so sneaky! I cannot believe you worked with Sweets to make such a GORGEOUS necklace for me! I absolutely love it and hope that your first go with leather wasn't too painful. =) We went to a concert last night and I picked an outfit that ensured I could wear the necklace. LOVE IT!!! Thank you so much for turning it around so quickly!" See, this is why I love working with returning customers who want to make something for their loved one while I learn a new method in the process...

Meanwhile, I was sitting on another piece that was quite overdue. At one of my shows, a client noticed that I had a porcelain Chinese bracelet on display. She bought it, then handed it back to me: "I would like a necklace to match a pair of earrings that I own which feature the same beads." Her earrings seemed simple:
But then I realized - though I have wrapped beads before, I have not necessarily wrapped rounded beads, let alone such smooth and glossy beads! I sat down at my work table and just stared at my material: a bracelet that I made which I will have to cut apart, and some wire. I played and played with the beads and wire with no luck - that wire was movin' everywhere and would not stay in one place. Then I noticed a Sharpie marker nearby and LIGHTBULB! I first wrapped the wire about the Sharpie to create a coil, then popped the bead inside the coil to get it to stay in place - rather than trying to make the coil around the bead itself. After some working, I finally had this: 
Not quite what I had envisioned, but it worked and resembled the inspiration earrings. Now that I know how to work it, I think I will play with this method more often! 

What are some new materials that you have worked with and ended up loving?