Thursday, November 27, 2008

Going Industrial

Hello Hello! Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone has a heart full of gratitude today... I know I do!

I haven't been posting a lot, and there is a very good reason for that. Orders have been coming in like crazy for customized necklaces because they just make the best darn gifts, don't they? Yes, they do! Go here to order your own! :) I was the very first client for my lovely hairstylist Cindy after she came back from maternity leave and I brought her a Circle of Love necklace with her new baby boy's name on it; within minutes I had orders for three more, and then more orders trickled in. When I went back last week they handed me a sheet of paper full of orders. Hooray!

Kellie made my first batch of fused circles for me, until I got in all my fusing supplies and could start making them myself. So I used up hers and needed to get fusing to fulfill my orders. I started fusing ten days ago. And while I conquered fusing small circles and/or thin-gauge wire, I had a little problem with making bigger, thicker rings... you know, the size I need for the Circle of Love necklaces.

So I took a break and asked Kellie a few questions and referred back to the book and tried again another day.

And more than once I wanted to throw my torch through the window.

So I took another break and pestered Kellie some more, and then I got scientific. I know the melting point of silver. I know how hot the butane torch gets (or is supposed to, anyway). I went on a trek to find higher-grade butane. I experimented with different levels of gas flow and oxygen mixture. I experimented with different heights and different speeds to ensure I was getting the ring as hot as I possibly could (which is fairly easy to tell since it glows orange!). I experimented using both my fusing torch AND my crème brûlée torch at the same time.

And the only fusing that occured was when I accidentally (in my frustrated state) set the base of my butane torch on my firebrick for a second, and the plastic melted instantly.

For real.

So I cried and bitched and whined and complained to Kellie, who was just as perplexed as I was. We went through everything I'd tried and she was baffled. Which made me feel better, but still didn't help much in figuring out the problem! The good thing is that we know each other so well that she didn't just write me off, she knows I'm a perfectionist so believed me when I told her everything I was doing. So she suggested I write to Liz, the author of the book. And I did, explaining everything, and she was baffled, too! She was incredibly nice and even offered to have a one-on-one with me to figure it out; of course the problem is that she's in Seattle with Kellie, and I'm clear over here in Northern Virginia. Boo!

Enter Jason, the grease-monkey, garage-junky, engineer. "Propane!" he says. "No!" I say, "Everyone else can do it with butane torches, I must be able to, too! Propane is much too hot! It's dangerous!"

Meanwhile, I'm getting more and more orders. Which is so awesome! But, ummm, there is a small supply problem here. I'm getting increasingly frustrated with my inability to fuse the exact size rings I need (although I had no problem with anything else), I'm more and more confused about what the problem is, and I'm more and more worried about getting my orders completed in a timely manner. I wasn't getting anything else done because the #1 thing on my To Do list had taken over my brain and I spent way too much friggin' time experimenting with different techniques, researching on the internet, signing up for online jewelry-making forums and asking questions, etc.

And still, no fusing is happening.

"Ummm, J? Maybe I should try propane?"

So off to the hardware store we went. We're lucky to have an old-fashioned True Value in our neighborhood, the kind where every inch of available space is filled with dusty bits and pieces and parts and tools and things you didn't even know existed, and the employees actually know where stuff is in the store and are happy to help you. A very cute young lady offered to help and led us to the torch section after I explained my needs. She showed us all of the options and said, "This wouldn't have the fine point that you're probably used to using for this type of work..." and I believe my exact words were, "I don't even care, at this point I just want to melt some shit."

After he finished laughing, Jason helped me set up a station in the garage, and with a nervous and hopeful heart, I set at the first ring.

There is a sheet of stainless steel underneath and then two firebricks on top, and a fire extinguisher nearby. I wasn't messing around. I adjusted the flame a bit and then started heating up the ring.

And then, it happened. That magical moment with the silver starts to melt and looks "flowy," that state I had never reached with the butane torch!

See at the bottom of the ring there's a bright yellow bit? That's where the joint was, until my propane-wielding self fused that shit together it and turned it into an unbroken circle.

Oh, happy happy day! Oh joy of joys! Hallelujah and praise Jesus! At that moment a huge weight started lifting off of me, and it just kept lifting as throughout the day yesterday I formed more rings, fused them, and then filed, flattened, hammered, tumbled, and polished them.

I must admit that it made me feel like quite the Bad-Ass Artist to fuse with propane in the garage and then hammer hammer hammer away and end up with a gorgeous pile of silver rings out of what had been a spool of silver wire.

So we are back in business around here. The best part is that once I got going, the anxiety-fog that had clouded my brain lifted and a deluge of design ideas flooded in. Oh, I am so, so stoked! Now I can finish up my orders, upload more to my etsy, and work on bringing my new design ideas to life. After I eat a ton of turkey with Aunt Susan, Uncle Bob, and gang, that is. ;)

Today is a very special day because it is Katie's birthday!!!

Happy, happy birthday, my dear friend! I am so happy that we both took the very last mini-workshop at Inspired, that there happened to be a seat open next to you when I came in late, that there was a crazy lady who made us giggle and snort and started our amazing friendship! You are one of my very best friends and I'm so thankful to have you in my life! [In case it's not clear how much I adore her, click here.] The photo is one she took during her quick visit to D.C. on the Fourth of July. It rained, obviously. That didn't dampen our enthusiasm, obviously. :) Happy Birthday, Katie!!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in America! I have a lot to be thankful for, and I hope you do, too!


jen said...

oh my stinkin' heck. that is so freakin' cool. i hope to be the proud owner of one of those REALLY soon.

that totally rocks!

Katie said...

Okay, I came to check out Favorite Photo Friday and WHAT A NICE POST! Okay, so the top part was TOTALLY cool -- love that you were melting shit. love that Jason helped you out AND THEN TOOK PICTURES! And love that I got such great birthday wishes. Thank you so much! I am extremely thankful the stars work the way they do and I cannot wait to trek down to inspired WITH you this time instead of JUST having the last minutes together! Have a super super Thanksgiving break weekend! xo

Wendy Huckins said...

So glad you got it all worked out!

Ava's Mom said...

You're awesome! Great post. Glad you got the problem solved. I want one these so badly...but we haven't decided on a name for numero 3. Can you even put 3 names on a ring? As soon as we make a decision, I'm ordering one. Looove them!

kellie said...

So a belated CONGRATS on getting the rings to fuse! In retrospect, I was going to ask you if your rings were for sure the same size as the ones I used, but I didn't... because I assumed you HAD been using an 18mm sanford ___ "mandrel"... so that COULDN'T have been it! LOL!! Ha, ha. I'm glad we figured out what was causing the problem! Maybe now that you have your dry erase marker, it WILL work with a butane torch! :)

Kerry said...

YAY! I'm so excited that you made your rings...hooray, congrats and all that good stuff. By the way I've already finished off a bottle of the Chocolate Lab, man that stuff is delicious!!