Precious Gemstones

Talented artisans often make fine jewelry to sell at online or brick-and-mortar stores. Specialists create expensive bracelets, earrings and necklaces from rare gemstones including emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Jewelry designers fasten gemstones in attractive settings made of precious metals such as silver, platinum and gold. Many individuals study jewelry making at universities or training schools. Both women and men enjoy wearing jewelry items such as wedding rings. Depending on its style, a jewelry item might be appropriate for everyday wear or special occasions. Anyone interested in being a professional jewelry maker can contact schools about learning this art.
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Spooky Inspirations!

Bat EarringsIts that spooky time of year again! With Halloween just around the corner, we at Seattle Findings wanted to give your haunted-side a jolt of inspiration! With these great ideas you can create jewelry, augment costumes and create tasty treats for Halloween!
These fun bat earrings are fun and simple to make! You can cut out bats from sheet metal or use a stiff acrylic or thick paper. Then, cut two pieces of chain for each earring, varying different lengths. Attach with jump rings and add a few faceted beads for extra fun!

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September Events

Summer is quickly ending, and the back-to-school season has begun. The first weeks of school are exciting with new networks, and the beginning of new projects. If you find yourself in a creative rut, we have listed several events in town that will surely inspire you and help you get that creative energy going.
Here are several dates you might want to put in your calendar.

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Upcycle Your Life

Upcycle your lifeFor many, school is starting, which means that Fall is almost upon us! I’ve always felt that each school year brings new beginnings and new goals to strive for. Starting this Fall, strive to be greener! One of the most enjoyable ways to start this Earth-loving habit is to practice Upcycling!
What IS Upcycling you say? Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.

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Color, Texture & Casting

Color, Texture & Casting for JewelersHave you ever gotten stuck when designing jewelry? Feel like you have hit a rut with your design techniques and or style? Design freeze happens to everyone! At many points in one’s life, career, and year, inspiration is going to run dry. One of the best ways to get your inspiration back in full force is to increase your exposure to new experiences.

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The Magic of PMC

PMC Necklace by Susan Shahinian DesignsAre you looking for something more to add to your work and your repertoire of skills? You may want to give Precious Metal Clay (PMC) a whirl! Precious Metal Clay, most often shortened to PMC is a powdered metal that has been mixed with an organic binder to form a clay-like material.
PMC can be molded, shaped, and formed, the same way that you would handle clay. Once you have formed the clay to its final state, and all the moisture has evaporated from it (or been removed with a gentle heat gun), you can fire the piece in a kiln or with a torch. Firing the piece will burn off the organic clay binder, and leave only metal in the exact form you created!

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Creative Stonesetting is a Gem!

I love books, and every now and then a book comes along that steals your heart. Creative Stonesetting is such a book. The author, John Cogswell is currently a teacher at SUNY NY. He has also taught at many other metals programs and has served as a technical consultant and contributing author for several contemporary jewelry texts including; Metals Technic, Contemporary Silver and The Penland Book of Jewelry. He was also the 2006 inductee into the National Metalsmiths Hall of Fame and was the 2007 Artist of the Year for Touchstone Center for Crafts.
I have never met John, but after the book I feel like I have. He writes with humor, intelligence and personality. He explains everything you want or need to know about stone setting.
I was concerned that the book would be too advanced for me, but was very happy to see that it is a treasure for everyone from basic to advanced jewelers. Starting with a basic bezel setting, John takes you through all types of prong, bezel, flush, tube, and other settings. The book also covers both setting in a mounting you have created or one that is commercially purchased. He explains how to choose the tools and fabricate the proper setting for any stone that might be giving you a headache, with great results! The over 600 illustrations are clear and very informative, the photos lovely.
One of the things that John puts forth that really stuck with me, is the idea of finishing all surfaces. And not just finishing them from the perspective of it should look good front, back and sides, as in neat work, but more as in putting time into the design of all surfaces of your piece. To paraphrase him:You dont just slap a pinback on it , duct tape will hold it to the body just the same! In all things Design! This is not just a sit on the bookshelf looking pretty book but a true resource that will be reached for again and again over the years. A, if you will pardon the pun, gem of a book!

-Leah

Check back next week for more tips & tricks from Seattle Findings’ Blog team!

Exploring New Media!

Found Object PiecesNew Media. Contemporary Media. Mixed Media. What all these and many more terms are trying to describe, is jewelry design that encompasses materials other than metal. As the markets continue to soar, everyone’s pockets seem to get smaller by the day. The state of our economy is making it harder and harder to work in precious metals, so what’s next?
Metal SheetLike so many other jewelry designers and metalsmiths, you should consider trying your hand at different media. Metal is a unique material, with a variety of properties that are unlike any other material. Yet, adornment is not limited to metal, nor does your work have to be! Instead of letting the rising market get you down, think of the high price of metal as a kick start for your creativity. Your materials are now unlimited!
Some of the “new” or mixed media that has been gaining momentum includes (but not limited to!): resins, glass, wood, found objects, paper, and various textiles. To help fuel your ideas, we have pulled some project ideas to get you started!
Resin EarringsResins & Epoxy. Both epoxy and resin can be used to fill a space. The exciting part about these 2 part polymers is that you can put almost anything in them! You can suspend small objects, paint, oils, and colored powders, almost anything! Epoxy, resin, and epoxy resins all work in the same way. Some popular kinds are DeVcon Epoxy, Cast N’Craft Resin, and Marine grade resins. The main variations in epoxy or resin are the curing and setting times and their mixing ratios. I have found that working with a 1:1 part epoxy is the easiest to measure, but you may find that you prefer different resins and epoxies for different projects.
Razor Blade Resin BanglesPictured up to the right are earrings that were made from candy molds. The resin was mixed with glitter and food dye. Here on the left are a few cuffs that have dye and objects in them. The resin was poured into a mold and the rough edges were sanded with 300 Grit sandpaper.
Seattle is a hub for glass of all sorts! Pratt Fine Arts Center is among many of the excellent educational institutions where glass blowing classes and many others are available. Lamp working and enameling are more traditional techniques that can be easily combined with metal for stunning effects! Here are a few examples:
Lamp Worked Beads
Fabric NecklacePaper & Textiles are wonderful materials to work with since they can be folded, molded, cut and more. Paper and fabric can be found in a variety of shops. Stamping and screen printing techniques can be used to replicate images cost effectively. Check out these projects: Paper Necklace
Embossed Paper Earrings
Textile Necklaces Wow!!!
Mixed Metal ManiaAll the above materials can be used in combination with metal and with each other. Mixed Metal Mania by Kim St. Jean has an excellent assortment of projects and project ideas to get you started expanding on your techniques and materials. Kim St. Jean is well known for her experimental media and excellent teaching skills. Her book is a must read!
Wishing you happy experimenting! Check back later this week for more tips and tricks from Seattle Findings!

-Amelia Upton

Put the WOW in your Jewelry Photos

Now your jewelry is done, and it looks great! So you take a quick picture, post it and your jewelry will sell itself…..right? Well maybe. People often find that taking pictures of their art is far more difficult then they first imagined. To really impact your sales you will need to post good, clear pictures of your work. Good images of your jewelry areal so very valuable for your business cards, flyers, brochures, and any other marketing pieces you make.

Your photographs will need proper lighting, sharpness, exposure, and in the case of gemstones, some sparkle. Achieving these goals can be challenging but doesn’t need to be overwhelming. To me one of the most important aspects of great photos is lighting. Most jewelry is highly reflective. Light bounces off in all directions. It can create “hot spots”, unwanted shiny spots that are difficult to remove, and it can keep details of your work in shadow. Lighting is one of the trickiest but most important factors in jewelry photography. Soft, diffused lighting works best for jewelry shots.

You have probably already discovered that the on-camera flash does not lead to good jewelry photos. Not only is the flash too bright at such a close distance, but they are usually in the wrong position to actually light up the jewelry properly. Using a light box or photo tent will help guard against glare and get your lighting just right. Now the commercial light boxes and tents can be quite expensive, but you can easily make your own quick, cheap photo tent or light box for taking better jewelry photos from everyday items. Take a piece of white translucent fabric and devise a way to hang them between your lights and your jewelry. A sheet, some nylon even on old white T-shirt all work well. You can also use a large plastic container and direct the light through the top or sides. Natural light is by far the best light that you can use, but artificial light also works very well. When using artificial light for your jewelry photos, you’ll get the best results with some sort of natural daylight bulbs.

The other critical and challenging element in jewelry photography is getting sharp, close up photos that show your designs beauty in sharp detail. To really get close and sharp you need a macro lens on your camera. Next you need to set your cameras depth-of-field in your camera. Your camera should be set to manual mode so that the smallest aperture setting can be selected. For consumer cameras use F8.0, for professional camera use F16.0. This allows you to focus on the entire piece of jewelry, rather than only parts of it. I also highly recommend you to mount your camera to a Tripod to get the sharpest photographs possible. If you hold the camera with your hands, no matter how steady you are, the camera will move slightly and your photos will have blur.

Now some of the tech stuff is out of the way let’s get down to the fun part, setting up your shots! No matter how technically perfect the shots are it needs YOUR touch to be creative. You will want a non competing background. HINT: Scrapbook paper, lots of amazing designs. Move your pieces around to see what is most pleasing to the eye, watch the line of the necklace when it’s laid out. Angle your ring to show off the lines. You can have a bracelet, ring, or other piece stand up dramatically with no visible support by using a little bees wax under the jewelry to hold it in the position you want. You can then move the digital camera on its tripod to whatever angle will give you the best shot of the jewelry. You can also suspend an item by fishing line to get that floating look. Getting someone to model your jewelry is also a great way to show it off. You may also want to have pictures of your jewelry being worn by someone. The pictures don’t have to be a big production. Some of the most elegant jewelry photos are taken outside in nature, among the elements.

Now that you have some great shots, you may need to do a little photo editing to crop, resize, and adjust your shots. Don’t have Photoshop? Not to worry I often use a free, easy photo editor called Gimp 2.6. (Get the free Gimp download.) Relax and have fun with your images, practice, practice, practice . Soon your images will have the same WOW factor that your pieces have!

-Leah Alden Jaswal

More than Metal: Interview with Tim McCreight (Part II)

What is your favorite metal to work in and why?
Metal SheetsWhen I can get my hands on it, high karat gold, it is just beautiful. I spend a lot of time testing metal clay. And I work a lot with ingots, hammering and rolling them down. About 10 years ago, when I started working with fine silver ingots, I just fell in love with it – it’s just – yummy! Fine silver is really quite yummy. (But I would not say so if the other metals could hear!)
What projects are you working on currently?
PMCA new PMC book by Hadi Sanderson, just finishing up the final proofing and designing of the cover. It’s very exciting, it will be sent out today. I am also working on 2 more in house books. And in the next year, I’d like to do another video. I just outlined it this weekend. Workshops, I’ll be forging at Bead & Button and I’m a chairman at the PMC Conference coming up.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years?
I am delighted where I am. I don’t have any plans or desire to change things. I’m not a big future planner. 30 years ago, I didn’t come up with a master plan that put me where I am today. Although, I probably will be cutting back on workshops, with all the travel and the bad food, and nights in hotels, it’s time to step aside for the next generation.
MetalDo you have any advice for beginners to the field?
Someone invented everything. It is efficient to pursue education, but there was no one there to teach the first graver how to engrave. Curiosity is the best tool! Sentences that begin with I wonder – Be Inventive! Trust the process! And don’t over intellectualize. Metalsmithing is logical and there are often 12 or more different processes that will be done to the metal, saw, drill, punch, hammer, solder something on, wrap. When you don’t give yourself the time to explore where a piece could go, or you have too rigidly defined the end result you set yourself up for disappointment and you miss opportunities.
SolderingDo you have any words of advice or encouragement for those of us who are not new to the field, but are continuing on?
Follow your bliss! To do your best to find the arrangement that is most satisfying – there is no one path. There is no hierarchy of craft or material. Find your relationship – – let me focus on the metal the way I like it – – for who you are and where you are. Don’t listen to anyone else, and it’s NOT all good. Don’t fall into the misleading hierarchy. The value is personal reward. Find the mix of paying your bills and creating what is satisfying to you. Don’t be clouded by assumption.
When I asked Tim to comment on his fame and the enormity of his career, he told what a few strangers have told to him at conferences and lectures: “We’ve never met, but you are my teacher.”
Tim’s work will no doubt continue to inspire and teach the metalsmiths and jewelers of tomorrow. This concludes our interview with Tim McCreight. We look forward to our next Spotlight Interview!

-Amelia Upton