Saturday, December 26, 2009

When You Think You've Heard it All

I got a Bargain Books catalog in the mail. I found these two gems while I was parusing the 'Mysteries & Detectives' section:

Three Bags Full: a sheep detective story, by Leonie Swann. (novel).
One a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, the members of the flock gather around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George had always cared for the sheep, and now they set out to find his killer.
I actually thought this sounded cute, and I bought it when I was out today. The beginning few pages were fun to read. I'll let you know.

The second one is one I will not be looking to buy, but I wanted to share with you anyway:

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo (novel)
Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier. He came back a vampire. Now he finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue when an old friend prompts him to investigate an outbreak of nymphomania at the secret government facilities in Rocky Flats.
Boy, I need to be careful! We have several secret government facilities around here!

People write this stuff? And get published???

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First Kiva Loan

When I started my business, I decided that as of January 1, 2009, I would start giving something to charity. I'd decided on 5%, which isn't a lot really, but I wanted to start small and then if/when I could I would increase the amount.

Since then I stumbled across Kiva is a microfinance aggregate. They take information from microfinance organizations all over the world, list the information on the loans/individuals, and then you and I can donate as little as $25 to an individual or group.

When I found out that Kiva's lowest cutoff amount was $25, I decided that if I didn't have enough to donate I would just, you know, do it anyway. So I did.

Meet Edith. She is from Peru, where the average income is in the $6000 ballpark. She is asking for a loan of $300, which she will use to purchase used clothing to resell. She also is the coordinator for a program that supplies milk to low income families. That's why I chose Edith, I thought it was kind of a double-whammy in the doing good thing. I also chose her because she looked happy, if a little bashful.

Currently (as of this morning) 58% of her $300 has been raised from people in the US as well as Luxembourg, Canada, Spain, and Belgium. Watch for updates on Edith as money is raised and as she repays her loan, which should be paid off by May 2010.

This is the coolest part about Kiva: after the loan is paid off I will be able to re-loan it to another person. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. In fact, I'm giving out a few Kiva gift certificates this year for Christmas.

Also, in the section that lists donors on Edith's page, check out William from Washington. If you click on his picture, it will take you to his portfolio. He has....1853 loans either raising funds, paying off, or paid off. Go William!

I just stumbled across Manvel in Armenia, too. He's a beekeeper. Doesn't he look proud of his field? I think I'll donate to him, too, as a personal thing (not business). That way I'll have two. It is addictive....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Etsy Sale!!

I made my first sale on ETSY!!!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

PMC Class

Over the week of Thanksgiving, when I was laid off (furloughed) from my job, I signed up for a jewelry class. This is the first jewelry class I have ever taken. Seriously. Everything else I’ve taught myself. I’m one of the lucky people who can look at something and figure out how it was made. I credit my dad with giving me an overly-analytical mind, almost photographic memory, and a 3D perspective…which didn’t help him at all recently with the truck incident, but still.


About a year ago I purchased some silver Art Clay through Fire Mountain Gems. I’d been seeing a lot about precious metal clay (PMC) for the past couple years. PMC is a cool newish product to come out of Mitsubishi. In the process of making something, Mitsubishi had a lot of silver and gold dust as a byproduct. Why they couldn’t melt it down and reuse it is beyond me, but they didn’t and instead they hired a bunch of people to find a marketable use for the dust.

PMC is the outcome. Basically, you have a grayish very dense and heavy playdoh-like clay that can be molded, rolled out, cut, dried and carved, and then fired either in a kiln or with a torch (depending on the type of clay). The outcome is 99.9% silver, which is higher than Sterling (92.5%). So you can call this ‘fine silver’ jewelry when you sell it because it is. Gold PMC is 22K. They are also making PMC copper and bronze now.

Like I said, I’d purchased some and thought I could just ‘pick it up’ by reading some tutorials, watching some video, etc. Didn’t happen. The clay I bought was crumbly right out of the package and I got frustrated and put it away.

Time passed.

This class popped up on my radar and the time was right so I signed up. Turns out I’m the only one who did. Apparently, word had gotten out (she said, ominously).

First, the negative:

--If you are going to be teaching a class that is scheduled for 2 hours and you KNOW it runs over, change the time to 3 hours.
--If you know the class is going to run over, don’t schedule the class to run over into the time you have to pick your kids up from school.
--If you know the class runs over, don’t hold a 30 minute conversation with another woman about another class that may or may not be scheduled on Sunday, February 1.
--If you are looking to see what day of the week February 1 falls on in 2010, don’t look at the 2009 calendar. Ahem.

Also, I must say that I have taught crafts classes and, while I know there were problems with my classes, I have always found it better to actually have a project for a beginner class that will teach the basics and produce a finished product for the students to take home. She did neither, and basically said “Here’s the stuff, there you go! Now, what am *I* going to make? Hmmm….” I learned what to do by watching her, not by any instruction. Wouldn’t take a class with her again. If there had been others in the class it would have been a disaster.

In a more positive light, though, I did learn what I needed to know, and had the chance to make two items that I’m fairly happy with as beginner projects. She was big on plastic texture sheets for clay (any kind of clay) and rolling the clay between two sheets so there would be a different texture on each side! Imagine that!

So, that’s what I did for both of mine. Basically getting a feel for the clay and what I can do with it. As it dries out a bit you can mix in a bit more water to make it more pliable again. After you get the design where you want it, you must let it dry before you can fire it. She accomplished this with a hot plate, and it worked well. Then, you can file and sand it down to get the rough edges off (this helps a lot because after you fire it it is SILVER and needs to be filed with metal files forever to get edges off).

For the firing, this type of clay was PMC3 so you can use a torch to fire it. She used a crème brule torch. I fired the pendant at home (because we ran out of time!) and I used Matt’s propane torch. I thought the propane worked better, got hotter faster, etc. In semi-darkness, you place the item on a fire brick and start torching it. It will smoke, then it will actually flame quite a bit. This is the organic clay binder burning off. Then, you need to bring the piece to glow. It turns a pretty whitish-cantaloupe color. You need to keep it there for at least 5 minutes. Then, let it cool about 30 seconds and push it into a mug of water. It hisses.

When you take it out it is coated in a dull white gunk that you need to scrub off with a brass brush. Then, you can file it where it needs filed, drill it, and polish/burnish it. Done!
Earrings shown here, this was my first project. I’d had the wire-wrapped stone beads done on my beading table for a while (another technique that I’d wanted to learn and taught myself from pictures). I thought they went together well. The holes are drilled before firing, she made sure to remind me to make them bigger than I think they should be because the clay will shrink about 10% during firing.
The pendant is similar to a few pendants she had done. I drilled some holes before I fired it and added the copper wire because I wanted to play around a little with some embellishment. I think what she taught is (quite frankly) kindergarten stuff compared to what I know people are doing with PMC right now. I know she was really impressed with what she was doing, but I really wasn’t. Sorry. Rolling clay between textured sheets is not much compared to this and this and this.
It turns out the most likely reason the clay I bought last year was crumbly was that it was Art Clay brand and not PMC. Also, it may have just been old when they sent it. I’ve since rehydrated it and am hoping to try a few new projects when I get some extra time (ha).
This technique and skill set has opened up several new creative doors for me, I’m so tickled with it. I have so many ideas floating around in my head to try. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Silent Monks Sing the Hallelujah Chorus

When I was in the high school concert choir, we used to sing this. We. Were. Good. Really good. This is better.