Monday, October 25, 2010

I feel so productive!

I tested my kiln this weekend. Granted, I mostly refired items I had already fired, but it was really easy to program and when it was heating up I sat there working on other things with a bunch of rings, earrings and a pendant in the kiln. Such a nice feeling.

Here it is, all plugged in and ready to go. I have a Prometheus medium sized kiln, with an inner chamber of about 20 cm width. The lid lifts up and when firing it is down but not locked. It hardly releases any heat, despite the loose door and the peephole in the front. So far my cats have shown no interest in the kiln, but eventually after restructuring my work space, I may want to put it higher up somewhere. I don't want to risk any burnt cat paws.

A ceramic tile/shelf came with the kiln, and since I had no sensitive items I put everything directly on the shelf and fired at 800C for 30 minutes. All of the metal clay I had in the kiln was PMC3, which fires at relatively low temperatures.

This is what the items looked like after they came out of the kiln:

And after an hour or so in the tumbler:

:) Yay! I'm already happy with it. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On coral and ethically sourced jewelry

On October 15th, Etsy posted an article in their Craftivism blog about the use of coral in jewelry. The featured person in this article was someone who made a statement against buying coral and pointed to the 'Too Precious to Wear' campaign by SeaWeb, urging buyers to sign the pledge not to buy any jewelry with coral.

This was met by both hurrays and angry outbursts from Etsy sellers. From the comments to the article it was clear that many Etsy sellers had not been aware that coral is not always gathered legally and/or in an environmentally friendly way. Others pointed out that very few materials in jewelry making are mined in a way that does not damage the natural environment or the local miners and stone cutters. Someone also linked to a Newsweek article in which it becomes clear that not all coral gathering is a threat to the environment.

So what do I do? I do what I can, within my limitations. I save all my silver scrap and will send it to a jewelry supplier for recycling. Most jewelers do this with their precious metals scrap. It is a great way to save money and you contribute to an increased use of recycled metal. I also love to buy stones that can be traced to the source and that have been cut by for instance Etsy sellers. People you can talk to. Not anonymous laborers who work 18 hours a day in bad conditions for meager wages. Those ethically sourced stones are relatively expensive, and I must admit that these are not all I buy. I have bought from eBay and from other sources where origin and other information is not disclosed. I wish each stone or piece of metal had an 'ethics and environment' rating and we jewelers could decide on that basis if we would be willing to buy such an item.

But alas, that is not the case. We have no idea what sort of business we support by purchasing a gemstone. A safe bet, if you want to avoid a guilty feeling, is to buy laboratory made gemstones. Many precious gemstones can now be made in the laboratory, even opal. They are most often cheaper than mined stones, but can be a bit lifeless. Flawless gemstones are somehow much more interesting if they are natural than if they are lab made. That will not change, but if you really feel strongly about these matters lab made stones are good alternatives.

As a customer you can also request ethically produced jewelry. The gemstones market is like any other market. If the demand for ethically mined products increases, the products will follow. In the mean time we can do what we can to drive the development into the right direction.

With this entry I intend by no means to give you a comprehensive overview of good suppliers, it is mainly my reflections and an illustration of the complexity of this business. Feel free to post any tips for suppliers and anything else of interest in the comments section. You may even promote your own shop if you like. I can start by showing you these yummy rings by fellow Etsyan MieleMelograno, who stumbled across a Kenyan supplier of fair trade gemstones. Check out these yummy rings:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frosty is approaching

The signs are clear. The fish in our pond have been strangely absent from the surface lately, not eating their food. They had been growing fatter and fatter as autumn proceeded, and this weekend we fished them up and put them in a dark container for their winter sleep. Birds have been flocking around the basket we start filling with sunflower seeds some time in autumn. They eat about a basket per day right now! It gets crazy there sometimes and Yasmin the cat loves to sit in the tree under the basket and keep watch.

So far there has been frost a few times, but it has been warm-ish in between and I have been able to use leaves for my jewelry projects as before. But now that ship has sailed. This morning we had ice on the pond and at sunset the ice was still there.


The fern I use to make my fern rings has given up for this year:
Cookie, our other cat is often staying indoors despite nice sunny weather. We try to tell her, Cookie, it will get worse! Remember last year when we had snow from December to April and you were so frustrated we had to change the sofa cloth the following spring? So go out while there is no snow! So she goes out for a minute or two and sits in the sun, and then she goes back inside, where its warm.
But so far it is so very pretty outside, look here:

And some brave flowers still hold out, but not for long..

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Buns in the oven

Well, not yet. No matter how you interpret the title, it's not true. But I have taken the leap. A big step for me and my bank account. I have purchased...

... a kiln.

<- this one!


It's true! Within (hopefully) a few days I will have a brand new kiln that will open up new worlds for me. With it I can fire more types of metal clay, I can make larger objects, hollow objects, I can enamel, fuse glass, and even make small ceramics things! Had it been any cheaper, I would have bought it a long time ago. On the other hand, it's an investment, right? That is always a good thing to say when you really want to buy something. And that is exactly my reasoning when I indulge in the most costly sin I currently have: stone buying. I figure, can't go wrong with stones, right? They don't lose value, they last forever. The only risk there is is that I accumulate so many that I will either forget about half of them or never find them in my badly organized piles and boxes of stones.

So I organized some of my stones:

See, that looks nice! The shameful part is that this is not nearly my entire collection. Ahem.

I put myself on a stone diet that lasted from the middle of June to the beginning of September. During that time I did very well, but afterwards I was right back where I started. Sometimes I feel like an addict!

Here are some of my more recent purchases:

Lovely lavender burro creek jasper from
Etsy seller CabochonDesigner

Pink and green drusy cabochon from
Etsy seller StoneTemple
A wonderful gold calico lace cabochon from
Etsy seller cabbingrough

Aren't they great? Now I'll just have to make something with them and the multiple other beauties I have lying around..