Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Who's behind the monitor?

After years of selling and buying online, receiving and giving feedback has become part of a daily life. This post is inspired by a recent unpleasant transaction. As one of my dear MCHs, Dawn has said, "If people only knew how hard we work on the things we make, they might think before they type." True or not?

Every handmade metal clay piece starts with an inspiration, a lump of clay, and mechanical calculation. Which is the best way to present my inspiration? What's it going to be? What mechanical connection will work for the piece?

The mini snowflake earrings is one of my bestsellers, here is a tutorial on how they're made.

1. Claying is where the creative juice starts flowing. 2. Metal Clay needs to be dried before firing. Usually air dry for at least 24 hours, or drying in an oven for 30 minutes. 3. Forming and shaping the piece, this is an essential step to a nice finish.

4. Torch firing or kiln firing the piece to burn off the binder and to sinter the clay. 5. Since they're earrings, their backs need to be burnished for the next step - soldering. 6. A good cleaning is essential for a good soldering joint between the piece and the post. 7. Flux the pieces where the solder should be.

8. Solder, which takes lots of practicing. A piece can be ruined if handle carelessly. 9. Earrings put into the pickle pot of vinegar and salt (this is all natural and eco-friendly) to clean. 10. Tumble the earrings for at least 1.5 hour to work hardening and to shine.

11. Adding patina to the earrings to highlight the details. 12. How the earrings look after patina, they need a good cleaning, don't they? 13. Polishing using my Dremel. Cannot live without one anymore! Viola! Shiny and ready to ship.

(Of course, I don't need to bore you with the business side of things like ordering materials, taking photos, listing, packing, shipping, and doing taxes! The fun part is still creating!)

These earrings are considered simpler to make compare to the 3-D pieces of those metal clay masters but you can see they still demand careful planning, endless patience and flawless execution. And the earrings are priced at a whopping $19!

Maybe after reading this post, any unhappy buyer will value these earrings more? Maybe if you're a buyer, you will think before you type something negative like Dawn has said?

My feedback is ruined, so as my day yesterday, but there're always something to learn from it. Please remember that the seller is a human just like you, who has feelings, sitting behind the monitor.

Friday, December 9, 2011

After Thanksgiving

It was a crazy pre- and Thanksgiving week at my place. The first time ever I hosted a Thanksgiving "causal" dinner at my house. It turned out great and everyone was well-fed at least.

So, what's going on now? There is only one week left for school, with finals being next Thursday, so I'm trying to finish all my projects for the final presentation. Here is one of them:

I've yet to decide what to make out of them -- a brooch? a ring? a pendant? I'll let you know after hours and hours of hand polishing ;-) (Picture of them at their "raw" stage just out of the spin caster above.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

First try at prong setting

I'd been anxious to try prong setting, so I gave it a swing today. I made a very simple 4-prong setting in silver, found a matching pair of Herkimer diamonds and here is how it went.

1) I curved the prongs with a pair of pliers then measured the required height. Cut the extra wire. The cross looking wire at the back behind the Herkimer diamond is how the setting look like before curving and cutting.

2) I rounded the prongs with a wire rounder (got it from Jo-Ann), or you can use a Dremel with a cup bur. I don't have a cup bur, it is on my shopping list.

3) Setting the prongs with a bezel pusher. It usually goes like this: 12 o'clock, then 6 o'clock, then 3 and 9. Go slowly and gently so the stone won't slide into one side and you've to pull the prong back.

4) Make sure the stone isn't swimming inside the prongs. Then polish.

Viola! My first pair of prong setting earrings :-) Next time I should try a ring, a prong setting with seat, tube setting, or all of them!?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Show Time!

Today was the opening day of the Silicon Valley Small Works Art Exhibition, and my Lily of the Valley piece is showcased with other fabulous art pieces! I'm ecstatic since it's my first juried show.

The other pieces at the show are so inspiring that I felt so inadequate ... REALLY? My piece is up to par with all of these amazing work?????

The exhibit will run til Dec 13th, from Monday to Thursday at the Mission College Vargas Gallery. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My latest obsession - Herkimer Diamonds!

I saw them at a Gem Faire this Fall and am in love! They're actually quartz mined originally in the Herkimer County, NY, but their special structure makes them sparkle like the real diamonds under the sunlight!

They are known to have the magical power of reduce stress, balance and cleanse energy between the mind and body. Better than alcohol :) Just kidding! I enjoy a glass of wine from time to time as well. I'm in the process of making some simple and modern stud earrings with them. Hopefully will have the listing up sometime next week.

Monday, October 3, 2011


As many of you may knew already, I got a kiln!!!!!! The Paragon SC2 arrived a couple of weeks ago and was sitting in my garage feeling very lonely ... Before I can put her into good use, I hunt up and down, east to west on craigslist day after day hoping to find a steel cart for her to nest happily ever after ...

After two weeks of searching virtually to no avail, I logged onto looking for used office furniture places. Got a couple of places nearby and off I went hunting.

First place was small and not many choices ... then headed to the second place and B-I-N-G-O! A slightly abused steel cart on wheels with two shelves. Just perfect! And the price? Twenty-five big bucks! OMG! What a super deal! Thanks to!

I'm happy, my wallet is happy and my kiln is happy as well :-) I can't wait to give my kiln a test drive!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Etsy 2nd Anniversary! Thank you :-)

Today is my 2nd anniversary! Have to write a blog post to thank my fellow Etsy teammates, my friends, my customers and my family! Without your support and love, I wouldn't be able to grow so much!

In retrospect, I've:

1) moved away from the kitchen counter to a hand built bench! Yes, my little bench is now situated at a corner of the study area, next to my computer :-) This little sun-filled corner is my, my, my!

2) learned etching and planning to do more of it!

3) touched the very basics of enameling. My Thompson enamels are calling my name.

4) ordered the Paragon SC2 last week!!!!!!!!!!! I'm still super excited! This is such a huge step I made, meaning I'm more committed to jewelry making! This kiln will be firing and enameling jewelry! It should be here some time next week!

5) started the MetalClayHeads Etsy team! Met tons of great metal clay artists and exchanging life ups and downs with them on a daily basis.

6) started a blog that you're reading now, hehe.

So what's next? There are a few things I'm keen on doing more - enameling, base metal clay, etching. Plus learning some new skills such as injection casting and stone setting. Looking forward to all the new challenges in the coming year!

Friday, September 2, 2011

To-Do List

Over the years I've received tons of note pad free as gifts and from area realtors. I utilize them to create my to-do list.

I've a to-do list for house chores, a to-do list for monthly payments (more like a to-pay list), a to-pack list for travel (hope I could make that more often!) and of course a to-do list for my jewelry creations. Blogging has been on my list for the last two years. Now it has become a reality.

Then, what should I blog about? Hm ... weather in Northern California is gorgeous these days, no hurricane then ... Back to school is on full swing ... but the only one going back to school in my household is me!

So, guess I will talk a little about my life, a little about my beliefs, a little about my family, and mostly about my artistic outlet - metalsmithing and metal claying then! I hope you will enjoy my journey in the creative world. A little step at a time, hence one day at a time.