Monday, February 28, 2011

The price of silver

I was going to buy some silver metal clay this past week to top up my supply. I haven't bought any in about 6 months. At that time, the price of silver was $19 per oz.   When I went onto the usual website where I buy metal clay, the price was just so off-putting. Silver metal clay prices are directly influenced by the silver price and today the price of silver has increased to $34 per oz.  So in 6 months, the price of silver has nearly doubled.  When I started working in metal clay in 2005, the silver price was $7 per oz.

Data from

I actually left the website open on my laptop for a week, trying to adjust to the change in price before I pressed the "buy" button.  In the end, I checked what I already had in my studio and decided not to buy any more.

It has really made me stop and think about what I am doing.  While I was away in Mexico over December and January, I got to try lots of other different media.... and loved it - so with these silver prices, I think I'm going to focus more time on things other than silver for a while. 

I've been wanting to have some time to work more on my aluminum techniques...and also other types of clay, so this seems like the perfect time for this.  I'll obviously continue with silver clay and have a few commission to do...but I'll make sure that I make time for other materials too.

How is this silver price increase affecting you and your work or your buying of jewelry?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Birdland Vineyards in February

By guest blogger John

Editor's note:  I've convinced my hubby to be an occasional guest blogger to tell you about what is happening in the vineyard each month!  Welcome Johnnie ;-D  Now you'll know about Birdland Vineyards as well as Birdland Creations!

Winter time, well really the time after harvest and before pruning is the quietest time of the year for grape growers as the vines are dormant and there is very little to do, particularly in northern california as this is also the rainy season. The vines can survive frost and wet and even the gophers seem to be quiet, perhaps as their holes and tunnels get full of water when it rains hard.

New grafted Godello vines in May 2010

Last year we decided to do an experiment with 2 winemakers by grafting to our rootstock a Spanish white grape varietal called Godello. We tried it out with about 300 vines and although we know that there were a few that didn't take the big test will come after we prune when we find out which of the canes from last year produce buds. Hopefully we shall get a good percentage that survived and with luck produce enough grapes for us to make some wine to try out.

Godello grafted vines February 2011
If it all works well we may graft more vines or even plant a larger portion of the vineyard as this variety is so far not produced anywhere in the USA.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekly Bird in the hand

This week's bird in the hand - the things I am grateful for - is short!  One item only - and fresh on the palate.

Photo by Robbie1

This week I am grateful for:
I just made puff pastry with their new mix for the first time. It was quite a lot of work with combining the butter etc, and putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes after every two rollings...for a total of 6 rollings.  But if you make your own regular puff pastry, you have to do all that too - although if I recall you don't have to "freeze" it so often.

From the pastry, I made a steak and onion pie and wow! It was yummy!  I haven't had flaky/puff pastry for over 6 years as I've never known a way to make it gluten free. I just assumed I'd never eat it again.  But it worked! It was crisp, and crunchy, and tasty and you'd never have guessed it was gluten free.  Even John liked it!!

I ate dinner before taking a photo of the pie - but half is left for tomorrow - so here is my half-eaten gluten free puff pastry steak and onion pie!

If you need to eat gluten free - and don't mind spending a bit of time baking - give this pastry a go.  There is enough to make two pies, so I've frozen half of it already rolled out, so next time it will be quick and easy! :=D

Friday, February 25, 2011

Merry go round - Five favourite tools

It's the last Friday of the month, so join us on our merry go round for a quick spin.  Our merry go round is where a group of 11 artists/craftwomen link together around the world and tell you a little about their art and craft, through blogging on the same topic. We have three new members this month: Jen, Samantha, and Bethany, so I hope you'll check all the links at the bottom of this post and see what their favourite tools are for their art.

This month's topic is a blog list of our 5 favorite tools! I decided to focus on my favorite tools for metal clay.  Here are the five - in the order of when I use them in my creations, plus links to where you can buy them:

 I have a few different shaped clay shapers and in fact have just ordered another couple as after a while they do wear down a little and get more flimsy. Anyhow, I use the clay shapers for squidging clay into little gaps.  I'm sure the manufacturers don't use the word 'squidge' in their description - but it is a wonderful tool for that.  For example, if I've attached two pieces of clay together and it's dried but there is a little gap - out comes the clay shaper, grabs a bit of clay and squidges it in the gap! Perfect! It also smoothes out clay, and is great for adding little bits of clay to a piece.

The needle tool is a perfect tool for lots of things.  Like the clay shaper, it can be used to squidge clay into very tight spots - but I think I use it more often for making eyes and other little accents on my pieces.  It is a sharp point, and makes a nice little eye - for example on my bluebirds.  Also, when making hinges, you can put the little tubes on the needle point tool to dry.... when joining two pieces, you can rough up the surface to get a better join by marking with the needle tool.... when bits of clay get stuck in cutters, you can poke them out with this tool so it's great for clean up too! In fact, I find it on my finishing bench quite a lot too... A versatile little thing!

I love the 3M sanding pads - which come in different grits - although I tend to use the superfine most of all. As they are pads, you can bend them as you sand, and they just conform to the shape of the piece and follow the contours perfectly. When I'm making sculptural pieces - which is most of the time - I don't want to file with something rigid and flat  like a file, because then you tend to get flat surfaces on your piece. Instead, I want soft curves to my birds, animals and figures - so these pads are just the best. I tend to use them on dry clay but you can also use them on fired silver too.

This is an attachment that you use in your rotary tool to finish your pieces after firing.  I am not a person who likes shiny silver and so I tend to use this on just about all my pieces.  Basically, after you have sanded your fired piece of silver, a quick brush over the piece with this in your rotary tool gives it a lovely matt finish.   Some love shiny, I love matt!

 So this is a very un-metal clay tool!  Basically its a roll of sticky tape that is marked off as a ruler in inches and centimetres.  You pull off a length of 30 cm, and stick it wherever you like. I have a length stuck on my worktops, on my laptop, inside the drawer on my desk...and various places. Then when I need to measure something, I don't have to hunt around for a ruler.  The one of my desk drawer and laptop are perfect when I list items on websites because I can measure their dimensions easily...and also can check chain lengths etc when I'm mailing things out.  Such a simple product but as it's stuck down, you never lose it!

A couple of other tools that I couldn't live without are my kiln, of course, for firing my metal clay, and my rotary tool for numerous finishing/sanding tasks that it does. Both are used hard  and I had to give them a mention in case they took offense at being omitted and decided to stop working in protest - but they seem more like "power tools" so would go at the top of my top 5 power tool list instead! 

I hope you check out what the other in the merry go round have for their top 5 tools by clicking on the links or blog hop below.   We all live in different places around the world, so time differences may impact when we all get our blog post up.

Samantha at Vintage is for lovers -
Jen at Painted Fish Studio -
Bethany at Dirksen Dabbles -
Laura at Blue Terracotta -
Monika at Red2White -
Mitsy at ArtMind -
Kim at Vilt a la Kim -
Sara at Crafts of Texture -
Mariana at Florcita -
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent -

Ruth at Birdland Creations -

Or else you can click on the blog hop below.  If you are a merry go round participant, please add your link if it's not already included. You can then copy the code and put it on your blog post too.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Green Glint

Here is my latest pair of color anodized aluminum earrings entitled "green glint".  I think glint is an underutilized word!  It means "ray of light" - so I figured naming jewelry is an ideal opportunity to use words that I don't tend to use in everyday speech.

I love the dark smokiness of the grey/black with the brightness of lime green. And the little bit of silver color exposed on the edges seems to frame them nicely.

I made a simple pendant to go with them.

Hope your day had a glint in it somewhere.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

8/52 Bird a week challenge - Henry the Heron

Here's Henry - this week's bird of the week - part of my year long challenge to make (at least) 52 different birds this year.

Henry is a heron, but I'm sure you can tell that from his long legs and bill.  His legs are wiggly too - not sure that is a distinctive feature all herons however :-D

He loves to go fishing in ponds and small lakes.  If you see him at one near you - be sure to shout out "hello Henry".  He'll be so delighted.  You can see him here, looking carefully for small fish or frogs:

He also enjoys walks in fields looking for gophers, frogs, mice and other small creatures.

Henry - and herons in generally, tend to fish and walk alone so although they may appear a little antisocial, it's not true. In fact, Henry favorite place to hang out is around your neck on a little chain.  How friendly is that!

There are a good number of us taking this bird a week challenge, so if you want to see what the other birders are making this week, click on the links below:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anyone can fall in love

I had a whole day in my new studio today!  What bliss! And with all that new space, I managed to work in silver clay, bronze clay, aluminum, and wax - all in one day!!  What a happy Ruthie!!!

Working in wax again was great. It is the first time I have tried it at home after learning about it in San Miguel. I bought all the kit - not much needed actually - and made something inspired by a piece of my jewelry.  Recognise anyone??? (hee, hee!!!)

Yes - it's "Anyone can fall in love". I thought it would be good to give "anyone" a try in wax! Not quite finished yet...a work in progress, but it went pretty fast.

It was a different type of wax than I'd tried before - a little softer and I liked it.  It meant I could do a little more with my fingers rather than just tools.

Happy Ruthie and Happy Anyone. :-D

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thank you notes from customers

It's always lovely when a customer takes the time to drop you an email to thank you for the item they have purchased and tell you how much they enjoy it.

Occasionally customers even put a thank you card in the mail. Nowadays it seems even more special to get a card in the mail.  And that was how it felt when I got a lovely card from Jennifer who bought my "bluebird of happiness" bangle last week.  But it was the front of the envelope that made it extra special as she had the following name sticker (I've cut out her name) on her envelope, which just shows how appropriate the bangle was for her:

Looks like those bluebirds are spreading happiness wherever they go!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Knew saw

Last year I bought myself a Knew Concept frame saw.  I've never been a fan of sawing and putting those blades in and getting the tension correct was giving me bruising on my chest and dents in the wall!!! Consequently, I tried to avoid sawing - which you can do to a great extent with working with metal clay.  But when I got into my aluminum work, there is no getting around doing some sawing.  So at a class last year, someone mentioned the new Knew Concept saw so I thought I'd give it a go.  I bought the jeweler's precision 5 inch hand saw.

First of all - it's a jolly red color - so that immediately seems better and happier.  Then it's made of aluminum and so is lightweight but strong. 

Installing a blade is easy and then to get the correct tension on the blade, you just turn an adjusting knob! Yeah! Easy and no pushing into the body required!!!  It's then really comfortable to hold and use and I find myself holding it much more lightly than the traditional jeweler's saw.  It naturally cuts the metal well, and doesn't flex as much as a traditional saw so reduces blade breakages.  I like it.

If you are not a big fan of sawing, but have to do some - give this is a try.  And if you love sawing - still give this a try as you'll probably love it even more!!!

Any of you jewelers out there tried it? What did you think?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekly Bird in the hand

Saturday rolls around quickly! Here's this week's bird in the hand - the things I'm grateful for:

Photo by Andy Cardiff
  •  My new studio!!!!! :=D
  • John for helping me move into my new studio this week....up and down the attic ladder, carrying so many things.... buying new shelves....helping me move out and in all the furniture.
  • John for being my Valentine.
  • Meta's surgeons and hospital carers - Meta, a friend of mine, just had surgery on a brain tumor and she is now home and doing well. I'm looking forward to seeing her on Tuesday.
  • New creative ideas.
  • Rain! 
  • Warm dinners on a cold evening - like last night's Ginger spiced beef.
  • Lunches and dinners out with friends.
  • Good magazines. The latest edition of "Uppercase - a magazine for the creative and curious" just arrived this week and it's very inspirational.  It's more like a book than a magazine.  And smells really good too! How many magazines do you know that smell good???? It's subscribing just for that :=DDD
  • Getting back into my aqua aerobics class and reconnecting with people there.
  • Good movies. Loved "The King's Speech".
Hope you've had a fun week too.  What were the highlights?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bird Signs - The Wren

Last week my chosen bird from my "Bird Signs - guidance and wisdom from our feathered friends" was the owl.  It was interesting that I often woke up in the night this past week to hear an owl hooting close by.  I did try to look carefully at things during the week and gain greater discernment about things on my mind...

This week the card I picked is the Wren.

Photo by aussiegall

HEALING COLORS: Brown, white
MESSAGE: Success is believing that you make a difference in the world

The owl's colors last week were brown, white and yellow....Maybe I need to get over my dislike of brown??

Photo by Gidzy

The wren is a tiny little backyard bird with an upturned tail. I love their little tails - such a distinctive sign of a wren. The house wren has 130 different songs in its repertoire and the Carolina wren sings all year long.  Guess I should do lots of singing this week :=D

Wrens are busy, energetic birds who build their nests in just about anything - a hat, mailbox, tin can. The male will build up to 5 nests to see if the female likes his work.  Hmm... don't think I'm looking for a new house right now...but I am just moving into my studio.  Guess it's time to make sure it's all just as I want it.

Jumping Fairy Wren by dicktay2000
Wrens are persistent, especially when building nests and are often seen trying to fit long twigs through the nest hole until they give us.  This suggests "don't give up".  If something doesn't fit, find another way to make it work.  Maybe this relates to fitting everything into my new studio?  By trying a different approach, success will come?

I love the message of the wren : Success is believing that you make a difference in the world. That will be my focus for the week...along with singing lots, and not giving up. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy New Studio

Well I'm all moved in  (apart from my books and magazines but I'm waiting to get some shelves first)!  However, I bought two new work stations yesterday so we assembled those today. They didn't have the same "platinum" color ones I had before so I went for white.

Remember these photos - as I can assure you, my studio will never look this tidy and clean again!!! Or maybe I will be lucky enough to have studio elves who come and clean up after me every night??? What do you think? Wouldn't that be great?

And it's a good job I'm all moved in, as I have lots of stuff to make.

Oh yes - and two little birdies took up home on the new white work stations! They can watch me do my aluminum and wax modelling.

Just a shame I am out all tomorrow morning so will have to wait until the afternoon to have my first play in there.  Wanna come and visit?  Yes, the work is done - now you can just come and play ;=D  Come soon before I mess it all up!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

7/52 Bird a week - Bluebird of Happiness

My bird for this week's bird-a-week challenge is the bracelet I just made for a new customer - "the bluebird of happiness":

The bird is hand sculpted in silver and then his wings are painted blue using colored resin.  A word tag is saying "...of happiness" then hangs alongside the bird on a bangle.  The result is a little "bird with words" - and simple and cheery charm bangle.

There are a group of us all doing the "bird a week" challenge - where our goal is to make a different bird each week of the year.  If you want to check on what the others are doing - click on the links below:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Studio!!!

Yippee-yi-ya!!  Today I started moving into my new studio!!!!

While we were in San Miguel and I was trying all these different media, we decided that we just had to get me some more space for my studio! It's well over time...and we've been trying to figure out how best to do it for ages now, as I've been expanding from my little attic room into other rooms and generally taking over lots of places. 

So we've jiggled some rooms around and now I have a much bigger space! And much more light.

Today was the tough day of moving things.  My "old" studio is accessed only by a little attic ladder. Just climbing up and down it is quite precarious but when you are trying to carry loads of things - it's is even more dodgy! Luckily, John, my hubby was around all day to help!!!  Let's hope he is tomorrow too :=D

I have more to move in tomorrow and need to buy another couple of work surfaces like you see in the above photo.  My goal is to have 4 work surfaces in total. One for metal clay and one for finishing jewelry (those are the ones shown above).  Then one for aluminum and one for wax sculpture and anything else I might try! Then there is a soldering space and a space for my photography. 

And my birdies began to move in too. They took a liking to a spot, just their size, by the window seat!

If you are in the neighbourhood tomorrow and feeling stop in! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love in the lemons

You may recall that last week I had a couple of unusual bird sightings in the vineyard.  Turns out they were friendly birds, and after a little warming up in the kiln, they decided that they wanted to hang out in the kitchen with us for a while.

Pretty quickly, they found the bowl of all our citrus fruits that we've just picked off our trees in the garden and started to investigate.  I think it was the scent of all those lemons, limes and oranges that attracted them.

However, after a little while, we noticed that their attraction was not all centered on the citrus...but they started to notice each other in a new way....across the lemons!

 In no time at all, it was "love in the lemons".  Our two little birds have fallen for each other and clambered over all the fruit to be near to each other. Now they are inseparable.

What lovely Valentine's.

I hope you have a lovely Valentine too and wish you a happy day - and life - together.  Happy Valentine's Day.  So how did you meet? Was it in a fruit bowl?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bluebird of happiness

The bluebirds are back in the vineyard, flashing their wonderful color and eating lots of bugs.  It seems early this year...and in no time, they'll start building their nests - hopefully in our birdhouse with a camera inside, so that we can watch them again this year.

It was timely then that a new customer asked me to make another of my "bluebird of happiness" bangles. At the end of 2009 I did a series of "birds with words" but I haven't made them in a while.  So for Jennifer - I hope this little bangle brings you happiness.