Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A proper lifestyle blog and some writing exercises.

What is a "proper" lifestyle blog?

My wife wanted me to switch over and form a lifestyle blog with her.  There are numerous problems with this and they all stem with me.  First and foremost being: I get tired of talking about myself.  It isn't egocentric but the lack thereof.  I dislike talking about myself and think of what I do or think about, most of the time, as being boring.  I've never had a lot of people interested in what I do or what I think so the idea of my writing on and on about something does quickly bore me.

What I think I will try, is the start of a lifestyle blog, like an online and public brainstorming session. As a writing practice, I will write about things that start with each letter of the alphabet.  I think it may help.  Also, one of the things I love to do, is think of things in my own past memories and write them down.  I have enough family members that started to or did lose a lot of their memory and it comes to a point now that even I, as young as I am, may get to an area and forget what I did on the weekend.  It may be because we have a busy lifestyle or that it is because we have kids and my brain is mentally exhausted by the time Monday comes around, but for whatever case, I do tend to forget some things or my brain just deletes them. I don't forget my wife's birthday or my kids' favorite color or things like that.  But I will forget what I had for dinner on Saturday night.  So, this blog will start with this exercise.

A

So, let me start with the first letter "A".  The letter A, stands for the word "Amber", which is not the hardened sap of a tree, but is actually the name of one of the first psychological thriller games I played when I bought my own PC, as a kid.  My parents always provided my three brothers and I with the things that we needed to survive.  So, we had televisions, VCR's and plenty of food and so forth.  My parents were never really into technology which seemed strange to me because my mom had always told me that she used to do computer programming, at the federal reserve bank, downtown, using punch cards.  How my mother went from a math major doing a technology job to someone who didn't want their family to move forward in the world, was beyond me.

So, anyway, I saved up money from working at my teenager job and paid out $3,000 for a computer, a nice Windows 95 machine.  With it, I bought a cool game, called Amber.  The premise of this game, is that your partner, was experimenting a new technology at a haunted house.  This new technology was called Amber and it was a headpiece that allowed the wearer to slip their subconscious into the spirit realm to see ghosts.  Your partner is stuck in the spirit realm because each spirit had something that had to be solved in order to 'move on' and when all spirits were resolved, the player could rescue his partner.  It was a strange game with a lot of scary elements but what made it the most interesting to me: was the main faux science research behind it.   The main research idea was that since all matter is composed of energy, in time, human beings could impart their memories and energies to an item, so that item has memories.  Those memories, with enough energy behind them, could produce visible memories, which is what we mistake for ghosts.




That idea, although with no scientific proof, is something that I think about when I see or touch an antique.  My grandmother had a buffet chest in her house, when she got married.  This thing is huge and made of Cherry wood.  It is massive and beautiful at the same time.  Still though, the thought of this item, and the memories that are attached to it.  What dishware must have been kept inside of it? What was placed on top?  Was there candles, lights, books, or even cards or letters from loved ones? Was there valuables or every day objects stored in the cabinets?  What did this see?

These questions, are always in my mind when I visit antique stores and look at strange things that must have been or meant something special to someone.  When I started to collect old watches and antique things, I thought of what stories they must hold.  My pride and joy is a pocket watch that I paid $35 for at a flea market a few years ago.  I took the back case off, cleaned the main gear and then it started to tick.  The serial number puts it with a 1889 production year!  Think of how cool it is to have a working watch, over 100 years old.  It has lived through 100 years of war, economic rollercoasters and time, so much time has been counted by the hands and dials.  It is amazing!  This is the kind of thoughts that make me think of that game.  What energies could be encased within this object?  Who held it first?  Who owned it?  Where was it purchased?  The thoughts that travel through antique items are the biggest things that cause my love for those past histories.


B   

The letter "B", to me, stands for a movie called "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."  You are probably wondering why this movie has any meaning to me, since I'm not Greek and my wife isn't Greek and I don't actually know anyone who is Greek; well maybe one guy in college.  This movie was very interesting because we both rented and watched it while my wife and I were engaged and it was a good example of our lives at the time.




So, when we saw this movie, I was engaged to my wife.  We both went to the same college and even in the same classes.  My wife was the hottest girl in the school and when I say this, it isn't just that thing that some guys say.  My wife really WAS the hottest girl in the school and it was a thing of mine to watch the nerdy guys in the Computer science class, hit on her and watch her tell them 'no'. It was odd that she said "yes" to me, but she said it was because unlike the other guys who asked her, I was the only one in which she saw potential.  It isn't in a mean or nasty way, but I just wasn't the same person, back then, some 13 years ago.  I would wake up, and get dressed for school, in an old sweatshirt, some cut-off jean shorts and black combat boots with a hat.  It was like a mixture of grunge and skater.  So, as time goes on, much like the movie, I see that my wife is Lebanese and her family is huge, much like the Greek family in the movie.  They hug, kiss and everyone eats and shares food.  The first thing they do after they meet you is ask if you are hungry and would like some food.  Then they bring you in and they talk to you, then say something in Arabic to the other family members, and the say something in English again.  Her family is large, loud and very 'in your face' about everything.  If you have seen this movie, then you can have a good idea as my wife's family, was very much like the Greek family in the movie.  Also, in the movie, the Greek family's patriarch, believes that the Greeks invented everything and every word has a root word in Greek.  My father-in-law believes that the Lebanese, (the Phoenicians), are responsible for everything that we have in this world.  We know that math and science holds some origins in the Arabic world, and as such, they could have come from the Phoenician peoples.

So, Ian's family, which is just his mom and dad, are very quiet, and reserved, much like my family. While my family doesn't deliver a bunt cake, when they first met my wife's family, the similarities between the two in-movie families and my wife's and my families, are very close.  This movie is what I thought of first, because it reminds me of our lives as soon as we decided to marry.      

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It was a good idea...

We have all done it at some point and even I have done it too.  When I was first putting jewelry together and placing it at the St. Louis Curios Shoppe to be sold, I would put any pieces together that I thought even remotely looked nice.  Considering myself a "God of Rings", I would take any item and stick it to a cheap metal ring, thinking that the concept of me taking 5 minutes to make a ring out of $2 worth of materials and list it for $5 was a huge boon.  My labor and cost per ring would have been about $3.67.  Thinking I would cover all of that and some.  What I didn't think about was my cut, my 60% would had given me $3 out of $5 and that meant for every piece I sold, I was actually losing money. 

I tried my hand at making bracelets and what I had on hand, no pun intended, was a bunch of old watches.  My idea was to take a bunch of old watches, invert the band so that the watch crystal was actually the bottom base for my bracelet and keep the adjustable band as an adjustable bracelet.  I thought it was a brilliant idea.  But then again, even good ideas have a bad execution.



































This is what I thought was a brilliant idea.  My wife's grandfather had bought one of those cheap $20 watches at Wal-Mart and then it broke.  I liked the band how it had these rivets or bolts seen in the top casing, which was all metal against the plastic band.  The plastic band, was huge and brighter than bright yellow, which you can clearly see here.  What could I do with it?  Well, before I even had the bracelet idea,  I made a necklace pendant.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I took an antique Elgin watch movement, slapped a metal colored, plastic dragonfly on it and sealed it all with resin.  I then attached two metal wings and punched a hole in both wing tips, with which I then clasped a jump ring and used that as the way to hang the necklace.  Now, after no one at the Curios Shoppe bought the necklace, I kept reducing the price of it down more and more but no one would buy it.  I originally had it listed at about $60 but when I reclaimed it from the Curios Shoppe in December of 2013, it was down to $20.  I had no idea of how to price my items at the time and while it wasn't made with the better quality materials I had now, I still should not have lowered the cost at all.  Anyway, I then cut the jump rings off, ditched the chain, and slapped it onto a larger piece of round metal.  That in turn was then super glued and attached to this giant watch band with resin.  The piece, as you can see from the above picture, was not only large, huge and bulky, but it was yellow and with so many compliments on how nice and beautiful the watch piece looked, I received an equally amount of "ewww's" when they say the yellow plastic band.

Last night I destroyed it.  It may strange for an "artist", which is what people have been calling me, to deconstruct their older pieces in order to recycle them for future ones, but I have to do it.

I guess there are 3 classifications of artists: 

1.  There are those who make art to express themselves and their ideas and thoughts.  These artists make the art for themselves and they do not care about criticism or opinions of others.

2.  There are those who make art for the public, be it to be sold or shown.  These are the artists who listen very closely to what everyone says and what they think.

3.  There are those who are a hybrid of both.  I have been told that the reason that I am successful is that I listen to the feedback and then make pieces and adjust them accordingly.  Feedback has given me some of the standards I use today like using watches or antique pieces as the base or using stainless steel or gold chain instead of the cheap craft store ones.

 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The shiny of things

I like my pieces to be shiny.  There is this bad stereotype of steam-punk artwork or of the genre itself where people think that it has to be dark, brooding, colors with frills, lace and a required pair of goggles.  But the steam punk culture and genre has nothing to do with that and still has some of that all at once.  The genre is supposed to encompass a specific period of time and a way of life and technology.  So, it is uncommon to see it but not uncommon to the genre to have bright colors, even whites, in a steam punk style or outfit.  While my artwork is considered steam punk inspired, I still try to leave some elements of other things.  In this case, a reused style and favorite 'shape' of mine is accented with some opals, which have a rainbow coloring to them and if you look up "steam punk" in goggle images, I bet the last thing you will see is a rainbow.



































We have a Republic Watch, probably made in the 30's, judging from the size and style of the movement.  Those white-ish rainbow items on the movement are opal cabochons.  They lend an instant "brightness" to the piece and I like how it is not a more darker tone like others I have created.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Etsy part 1

I wanted to show off some things that I have on my Etsy store and will shortly have more things to come up here as well.  I will have a picture of the items as well as a complete description.

My Delton Watch piece is a nice one.  This is a good sized piece, most likely for men.  It has a pocket watch plate as the base.  Like many watch companies in the turn of the century, 20th century, they came and went with almost no records.  I have not been able to find much of any history of the Delton Watch company.  On the piece that has that name, I also have two red Swarovski crystals across from some of the original rubies.  There is an etched spring case in the middle, a gear at the bottom and a metal dragonfly at the top.  I use the wing and dragonfly theme a lot in my jewelry and in this case, a large metal wing is affixed to the side.  This hangs from a brown, braided leather chord.

 
This pendant hangs from a thick brown leather chord.  The metal piece on the top, has a star and moon shape, which were used by the Waltham Watch Company before the year 1900 as a way of dating their items.  Those symbol place that piece as having been rolled off of the factory in 1887. That metal piece has 4 red Swarovski crystals on it.  Then, it was attached to a copper cog and then that was placed on an antique porcelain coated copper watch face. Then the large metal wing is on top and the whole thing is coated in resin.  I like the look of that 127 year old piece.


As I had mentioned before when I talked about using natural materials, this is an oval of crystal clear and smooth resin.  Inside of this oval is a flower from a garden mint plant.  The flowers are normally purple, but as soon as it was completely covered in the resin, it lost the color and turned an almost white/orange color. 


I'm calling this me "steampunk American" ring.  You have a metal ring base with a copper wheel on top of that.  Then a silver colored cog goes on with a bronze colored metal eagle.  There has been resin applied to this to help protect, seal and make it shiny.


Everyone who sees this bracelet loves it, but only some truly love the color.  This was built using a thick yellow wrist watch.  The wrist watch had rivets around the face and it is a square shape.  I used it as a bracelet base.  It doesn't tell time anymore, but looks cool.  It has a metal base and on top of that are two metal wings.  Then the watch movement, complete with exposed gears and wheels can be seen.  A watch stem, originally used for winding the watch, is still attached at the top. The metal dragonfly has an enamel green wing color which is inside to add a pop of color.


Monday, April 7, 2014

What about bracelets?

I admit that making pendants for necklaces is the easiest thing ever.  However, making bracelets is something that I need to work on and get some more finished. When I first started making bracelets in 2012, I found it difficult to make a bracelet that could be one side fits all, so what I started to do was gather old watch bands, particularly the ones that were made of metal links or bands.  Reversing the watch bands, I was able to take the watch 'guts' out of the bezel and then use that as a base for an adjustable bracelet.






















The serial number on the watch movement shows that it was made in 1889 and half a metal wing attached.  This was placed in a watch bezel, which was then turned inside-out, with what was the bottom as now the top of the base.  The interlocking metal band is adjustable.

I have to say though, while I loved it, in terms of wearability as well as the look and shape of it, some were saying that it was coming off as cheap looking.  Since then, I have specifically been looking for pre-made bracelets and then changing them.

Here we have a gold shielded brand and a small bezel on top where I placed a tiny 1920's watch movement and coated it with resin.  "Gold Shielding" was a brand name of a company in America which started in about the year 1987.  They made that name to indicate that they made gold coated jewelry. So, the spring-like adjustable band is coated in gold as is the small jewelry bezel, which has the watch piece inside. I love the way the gold looks with the colors of the watch movement.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

A few of my favorite things

The below images are some examples of items which I have created. 























Back in 2012, I created a piece, similar to this one, for me to wear as my own necklace.  It had a thinner watch movement with a few Swarovski crystals and metal wing with resin.  Well, it was nice and then I had lost it in my busy world of day-to-day activities, work and kids and etc.  So, I was a bit saddened about that and created this one to replace my lost one.  Then, as fate would have it, I found my original piece.  That meant that this piece could be sold.  This is an American Waltham Watch Company movement from 1921.  It is a bit thick but looks great.  The resin helps seal it and protect it. 























This is a ring, made from a heart shaped mold.  Resin was poured in and then a large pinch of some antique watch pieces were sprinkled inside.  What you have, is a resin heart with all of these interesting pieces inside of it, seemingly trapped inside, motionless.  The heart rests on a silver, metal, adjustable ring.
























This is a necklace made from a metal 1920's watch face for a pocket watch.  On top of the metal dial is a metal cross.  Then the cross has blue Swarovski crystals on the inside lined up and then a coat of resin over all of it.  I like this piece especially because of the 1920's font of the numbers on the watch face.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Organic follow-up

As a chef, when I see something or think of something I do it.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.  Sage flavored blondie brownies worked but a sugar free gooey butter cake did not.  Strange things can work or not depending on the technique used to make them.  Now, the same goes for making jewelry.  I could have all of the pieces to make some wonderful items but if I glue them the wrong way or even make the resin improperly, the whole thing can go into my scrap pile.  This was one of my biggest problems with organic items.  Organic items are just so ... natural.  They defy constriction, preservation and resist resin.  Here are some good examples of what I have learned over the past 2 years when dealing with natural and organic items.

Wood:


































I got this wooden circle at a craft store and thought that it would look awesome with a big, clunky, mechanic piece in the middle.  I thought it would be an awesome pendant.  There were some problems I didn't think of.  First of all, even though the wooden piece was purchased at a craft store and already sanded and stained and sealed, it still would suck in some moisture.  This meant that the moisture in the air in my work area, whether it was in the garage or in my room, would cause the resin to not seal and cure properly.  Also, the wood piece was convex, so the resin would not stay on it long enough to cure and instead slowly flow downwards, creating areas of different thickness.  This way, several coats of resin were needed and thus several more chances for air bubbles and uneven-ness and a general "not working" characteristic.

Leaves:


































I thought it would be cool, again, to use a leaf.  I grabbed a leaf from one of the Mint plants in my garden and coated it in resin over 48 hours; 24 hours per side.  It didn't really work.  The Mint leaf has natural oils in it which do not mix well with the water in the resin.  So, you would have the resin not sticking and basically forming air pockets between the leaf and the resin.  This made tiny air bubbles, large air bubbles and even cloudiness.  It may have just not been the right kind of leaf or the right technique, but it just didn't work well.

Butterfly wings:
 
The above picture is a piece in progress.  It needs at least another coat of resin.  I went and purchased about 100 butterfly wings from an ebay seller from China.  So, I receive a bunch of butterfly wings from Asian butterflies.  They are beautiful and clean and most of them are intact so I don't have holes or broken parts.  I learned from making a Cicada wing brooch, that you need several coats of resin on natural wings, or else they become brittle.  Wings, like these, are not very thick, and cannot even bend.  They are still however, see through, as you hold them up to the light.  I love working with butterfly wings but like the Mint leaf, a butterflies wings have an oil on them and are resistant to water or liquids.  When you try to resin them, the resin rolls off in beads like water off of a duck's back.  So, there is a hidden technique I use to do this.  (Its a secret.)  Still, you cannot guess what resin will do on a natural object while it cures.  I do these resin coats at night and then go to bed and check on them when I get back home, from work, the next day.  So, these pieces are left alone for almost 16 hours.  Regarding the above secret about resin and butterfly wings let me allude you to this much: a single coat of resin takes about 16 hours to completely cure in my home.  I need to do something to prepare each wing, which takes about 20 minutes in total for front and back.  Then a coat of resin on each side, so that is already 32 hours.  After this time, if the wing was placed flat on something it could be ready.  If it will be suspended, like this brooch from the picture above, then you will need at least 5 coats per side.  That comes to 10 coats total and a passage of 160 hours.  So, if I do resin, each night, for a week, by the end of the week, it will be ready.

The above piece will work and will look much better when finished.  Part of it is my camera phone and the other half is the resin which will be fixed.  This is a full set of Blue Crow butterfly wings, on a teardrop shaped lapis lazuli gemstone, with a single watch spring on the back. 

If you have any questions about using natural items and resin or just using organic items, please let me know.