Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fold Forming- Pleats-plaits-tucks-rolls

Wow. It's been a while since I wrote in the blog. My apologies. I'll offer you a bribe of sorts to make up for my lack of writing. Consider this your Thanks Giving present. Yes I'll have one for Christmas for you also, but that's next week. I do all ready know what it is. Let me say this. I love Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is a wonderful idea, we should do it more often. But I love this holiday for two other reasons. First of all there's a parade! Secondly there's a concept us country kids understand. It's about looking at one thing and seeing something else. Turkeys are pretty disgusting, stupid critters. But to look at a turkey and see a feast is an amazing thing. That ability to look at one thing and see something else gets into fold forming a little bit. We are going to work with some metal but we're going to do it by thinking about fabric. This you've heard of a pleated skirt. you've seen accordion folded curtains. Here's a link that will fill you on on the terms of the pleat world.
Your present is a demo!  Pretty soon you're going to want something to hang on a tree. How about something fold formed?  caption
 You're going to need some things. A straight edge, scissors or a sharp knife, maybe some tape, perhaps a few paper clips, and most important fingers..Oh and a roll of aluminum foil. Hey it's metal!
 I've taken an 18" by 36" sheet and box pleated it the long way,
It was then accordion pleated-folded at 90 degrees. I cut this into two sheets 9" long.
 With a little unfolding and finger work it should look something like this. But we have to join the edges together.  
Here comes the epic fail part of the demo..I got a better idea. I at first thought I could use a slip tab A into slot B approach..Bad Idea..Didn't work. Every good demo I've ever done had it's epic fail moment. Such is life.
Instead of doing that do this. Another type of pleat! A rolled pleat as the join.
Much better join. Push this area inward creating a valley  fold. Now comes the fun part!
This pic shows a mountain fold. The dots show areas where metal has been trapped by the box pleat. We are going to pull 1/2 of these trapped metal areas open. That's how we create our form!

Fun part! ( understand we are going to open the mountains not the valleys)

Work all the way around the form opening 1/2 of each side then the other 1/2 until it looks like this. Proceed to open up the others.

These are the two forms I created during this demo. Could you do them in copper? Sure, just find some copper foil. I had too many pleats to get ball shapes. You'll figure it out. I used 3/4 " spacing..too big for ornaments?  For thanksgiving you recieved the gift of seeing a possibility, Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Doing It All Over Again.

     If I had it to do over again or more likely if I had to start all over again there are a few things I'd do differently. I suppose we can all say that. I'm not saying I wouldn't have the second margarita or that I wouldn't  seek the warm sandy beaches, somewhere. Let me try to explain.

     When I opened my first store the landlord suggested strongly that If I had an engraving machine I would get all of his companies presentation plaque business. A thousand dollars later I had purchased an engraving machine, five fonts and various jigs for it. A few hundred more bucks and I had a stack of little brass plates to put on my landlords GD plaques. I purchased engravable items and offered them for sale. This business looked like this I purchase ID bracelet, Sell ID bracelet at 2x mark up, engrave it for free! Sometimes we spelled the name wrong, sometimes things slipped in the machine. Mary did all of our engraving, Mary was one of the nicest people I ever met, she was a devoted grandmother. Engraving turned her into a mumbling, grouchy person. One of the happiest days in my jewelry career was the day I gave another jeweler, in an other state, my engraving machine.  So if I had it to do all over again, I'd have the second margarita and skip the engraving machine experience.
     My current projected business model takes into account more of me than just making jewelry and doing metalsmithing. Step one acquire some land 3-15 acres. Rural setting. House 1000 to 1200 sq ft. build it if I have to. Shop minimum 24x24 that's a 2 car garage size. Build a greenhouse connected to the shop 20x 40 to start. Use the greenhouse to do aquaponics, ie. raise fish and food. Produce organic vegetables. Sell excess. Use a combination of solar and grid provided power. Wood heat. Goal is to become a self sufficient small farm.
     This approach makes it easier to do the art side of things. It removes the have to sell jewelry aspect to survival-prospering. Almost all jewelry marketing would be done on line or at two large by invitations at the farm studio events.
A copper fold formed deep flower, "Fantasy Flower"Add caption
    There is an amazing thing that happens on purpose with aquaponics. The fish eat plants, algae mostly, the plants enjoy the nutrient the fish produce, the water stays clean. There is a certain synergy created. It's that synergy I want to be a part of. I'm seeking a balance. The fact that most of it happens in a greenhouse is an added blessing. No engraving machine, no grouchy people. Enjoy  Food for thought for some of you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Changes In Doing It.

Aluminum has potential as a jewelry medium. These pieces are resting on a sheet of textured aluminum stock.
"I found time to learn the night sky, so that it was calendar, clock, & compass. There are knots to learn, puzzles to solve: how does one reckon the tides? Need a sundial? The arithmetic of ratio & proportion are at the root of trigonometry & algebra, whoso can reckon in fractions has a firm grip of all else. All of these were in the reach of folk in days gone by, if they bothered to learn them. There is nothing like going for a walk, to loosen the bindings of habit, & so open one to new thoughts & feelings. Learn your surroundings: one can figure the direction & distance of a sound at night, especially a branch falling from a tree or the like, if one has taken in his surroundings. If one looks at what is over the hill, or around the next bend, they are no longer unknown territory; one can picture what is going on from the sounds made there. It is good sense to know that this or that can be found here or there, one may need it at a moment’s notice, even if, until then, it was only stuff. Every day holds something new, or gives an answer to an old mystery; when it comes to living without the plugged-in things being switched on: when boredom calls, it calls for change; so make a change." The preceding long quote is from a writing by Christopher Ellis titled "Somethings on what to do when everything is  turned off" 
     Today you and I are facing what seem to be ever increasing precious metals prices,  increasing energy costs and higher food prices. Today I'd like to suggest some methods- techniques we may find ourselves doing as a result of these changing times.  "it calls for change, so make a change."
    I think PMC has an advantage when it comes to copper and brass clays. by combining a glass approach called miliflori or caining. it's not mokome but it's cool looking stuff.
    The process of filigree uses surprisingly little metal. learn about a tool called a millgraining tool.

    Casting is still an excellent method to produce multiples, But so are photo etching, and die cutting.
    Electro-plating uses very little metal. Electro forming is a little different.
    I highly recommend that any of you wanting to have a career in jewelry become gemologists. The value of most $10,000 pieces comes down to a mounting less than $1,000 and $9,000 for the center stone. The profit is made on the stone. Put your knowledge where the profit is!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We Can Do It!

It just wouldn't be right if I didn't include the most famous "Do It" person, the American icon, Rosie The Riveter in a series about "doing it" The painting by Norman Rockwell is now the property of Walmart  and hangs in their gallery in Benton-ville Arkansas. I did almost forget to include her. I was joking with a friend yesterday, she by the way has a striking resemblance to Rosie, about never being able to find a screw driver. Though I know for a fact I haven't made all of them into chasing and repousee tools. I must confess I really don't use screw drivers very often, It all goes back to Rosie!  Rosie the famous riveter needed holes to put rivets in. The tool of choice was a hand held power drill. One of the other things you could do with this drill was to put a screw driver bit into it and have a powered screw driver! Rosie's of the day were known to take their drills home with them to use for home fix it jobs. A market for power tools for the home owner was discovered. The maker of those drills was Black and Decker, amazing. When I was a kid I learned about the power drill. Today my power drill is battery operated and I have fifty screwdriver-bits to fit almost every situation.  Thanks Rosie, for bringing the tools home. If you are a lady-smith consider Rosie as a roll-model. A can do it American girl.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Doing It The Wabi-Sabi Way

Well yesterday was an experience in frustration. I wrote and typed the blog for the day twice. Each time it failed to post. This is the third attempt. Believe me when I say that this version is almost completely different from the other two attempts. My thoughts seem clearer.
    I’m not going to pretend to completely understand the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. I have a western view of the world my understanding may be limited by my perspective. I do like what I see and hear. The concept draws me in. Here’s a long quote from Wiki, I find useful. "if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi." "[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."
     How do these three realities help us? They help us by providing a focus on the natural. They ask us to meditate on an object rather than just glance in passing at an object. As makers of objects we have to understand that subtle changes become areas of wonderment for the viewer. That area of wonderment has transformative power for the viewer of the object.
     The westerner will simply say "I don't know anything about art, but I like it." Others will say, "This piece speaks to me."
Some days it's as if through some happy accident, a serendipity, I discovered I could speak a language I didn't know existed, And I just discovered there are people that understand it!
     A synergy has formed.   Enjoy

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Doing It "Advantage"

 aluminum fold formed pendant concept.
 Copper Fold formed boats. upside down ear ring design
 Became a pair of Fold formed copper earrings
 Fold formed coils about the size of a nickle
Unfolding is the best part of fold forming!
One of the Doing It Advantages is that all of the play is my property. I get the benefit of having done it. That benefit is the next ideas and concepts.
     I know you have probably never heard of Union Whiten, Iowa. Let alone Dows, Iowa. If you're not from Iowa you've never heard of March Madness. If you are from Iowa, you know about Girls Basketball, and Cinderella State Basketball Championship Teams. For a good many years the state championship could come down to some little school that was hardly on the map VS one of the large cities. Denise Long was the star of the 1968 Girls Basketball team from Union Whiten. She scored 111 points in that game!  There's a park in Whiten in her honor. Yup,  the park has a basket ball hoop! Why do I mention that now? Because it's about this time of the year, when the nights get a little cooler, that the girls in Iowa would hit the driveway courts, dust off the basketballs and begin practicing!  You couldn't pay people to do that! But you can't stop them either. It's their advantage, and they know it!
     Tomorrow I'll some more things for you to consider. Enjoy

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Doing It Against The Odds

 A series of "Evidence"

     If you have considered starting your own business, jewelry of other wise, no doubt somebody  has informed you that four out of five small businesses will end in failure within their first five years. That's a staggering failure rate! If that were the whole story no one in their right mind should ever want to own their own business! We should accept it and move on. But wait a minute, It's not the whole story! What about that 1 in 5 gal. Well the odds are pretty great that she was a 4 out of 5'er at lease once and pretty high she was a 4 out of 5'er twice. What happens is each time she tries is she learns more about what works and what doesn't work. There's another thing that happens. I got my first bank loan, in my name, no cosigner, when I was twelve years old! I bought two pregnant sows, Raised the pigs, kept two more sows, bread them, raised the pigs and sold the rest. By the time I was sixteen I had a dozen sows and  semi truck worth of bacon and pork chops.   I sold out of the hog production business! Had I failed as a hog producer? I was a solid 4 out of 5'er. I just lost interest in farming.
     I watched a family owned liquor store set up a barbeque grill, out their back door. It didn't take long for a  barbeque catering and wine tasting company to spin off. They basically became their own best customer. I watched their Bingo Parlor transform into the catering business. Yup they would have qualifies as 4 out of 5'ers. So I'm going to tell you what they never do. If you've tried and failed, ponder a while and try again. The odds are changing in your favor. One of the things we need to do is stop believing the "sort of" information people keep giving us,
    I spoke to the plant superintendent of  rather large electronics company a few years ago. He said that in his industry people are  only accurate about half of the time. I was pretty shocked with his 55% figure. He went on to say that anyone in his industry anyone that was accurate 85% of the time would be considered genius level. I started thinking, There is no way I could be wrong 15% of the time and still be in business. You won't be able to either. Here's how to get your accuracy rate up. Most people fire back answers at questions like they have a machine gun, professionals at automatic fire, fire in short bursts. We are going to add a pause and a question from us between their question and our answer. Goes something like this. Your kid in the back seat of the car says, "Dad, Are greyhounds yellow? Instead of your usual fast all knowing answer of "No" you respond with "Why? Your son says"'cause if that's not a Greyhound, then it's a schoolbus coming directly at us."  Pause, clarify the question.
    I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Very few people, just a couple of close employees and imediate family members, know this about me. I'm really two people! There's the amazing can do anything at the jewelers bench guy, according to the standing behind the counter talking to a customer me. And there's the "Holly buckets of grease Batman, What have you gotten me into this time? How cheap am I going to have to do this little bit of wonderment?" guy, when I'm seated at the bench. I swear my IQ goes up ten points when I sit at the jewelers bench.
   This week I'll blog some more on this making it-doing it stuff. I'm pretty solidly in like with destination marketing,  selling directly to my own retail customers and a synergistic approach to being artist-designer-craftsman. Hope you enjoy

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sometimes I Do It For Grins and Giggles

     Look I'm going to be honest with you. I've worked for free. I've worked for 85 cents an hour. I've worked for apple pie!  I've worked for exposure and I've worked to keep warm. I've watched other people work, I kind of enjoy doing that. I was very lucky during my college years to be able to watch two guys work.. The first was Jon Coiner, potter. the second Don Mattingly, painter. Ok so their real job title would have been professor, They would like my descriptions. Both became good friends of mine. They did not know each other, they taught at different schools hundreds of miles apart. Do you remember "Winnie the Poo " Christopher Robin and ti-double- gr-r, Tigger, too? These guys were Tiggers. They didn't just walk places, they bounced! If you watched them go through the snow drifts you would see them bounce above the drifts every couple of steps. They would hit the front door of the building whistling, and bounce up three flights of steps. They were infectious. Both confided in me that they did their teaching jobs for "Grins and Giggles"  That phrase stuck with me, kind of had special meaning.
     So when the Superintendent of Schools came to me and said. "For "grins and giggles" I'd like you to do a lecture for the Social Studies Classes.." I knew it was time to get my bounce on. There were five social studies teachers. Every kid in the high school was taking social studies, they couldn't escape it. That school used a large group- small group system. What this really meant was I was going to give a one hour presentation to 150 kids then turn around and do the same thing over again to a different group of 150 kids, five minutes later. Ok It's American Art History time in 60 minutes. It wasn't just me,,it was me four slide projectors, A film strip, two super eight short films, one segment from a movie, background music, remote controls all over the place, five screens, a motorcycle, and me. Hell it was choreographed! 
Beads for which
I was paid
in grins
 and giggles.
A piece titled "Inside Herself"
Around here we know her as "Pretty Full of Herself"
    So why am I telling you this? Because a rather unusual thing happened, twice on the same day! Students applauded!   Gee I guess I've worked for applause, then? Not my goal but nice any way. That presentation was done for grins and giggles. What if?
     Ya I know you make jewelry. In fact you're good at it. What if you made some of it for grins and giggles?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Doing It Constantly

 Bracelets can take on many forms.
On Fridays  Things get bigger.
100 feet of flattened braided copper wire!
      My guidance counselor in high school insisted that if I wanted to be a jeweler I would have to become a watchmaker. He was wrong! My wrestling coach, he would go on to become the athletic director for the University Of  Iowa, had two absolute rules to live by. "Never ever back up" and "shoot"  Oh that college kid that came over on holidays to practice with us in the wrestling room, the guy that never stopped skipping rope, yeah, that kid. That was Dan Gable! I only mention that 'cause sometimes we are surrounded by greatness and we don't know it. I listened to them!
     I'll bet that right now you can't name a single famous watchmaker. Jacques Cousteau was not a watch maker, Where do you come up with this stuff? But you will know these two, your parents will know them and your grand parents. Richard Warren ....... was the son of a blacksmith-wagon maker and a watch maker. He hired an excellent watchmaker, Alvah Curtis ...... to repair any broken watches they sold. The two of them would create a retail revolution.
    A lot of mom and pop jewelery stores started from the watchmakers bench. The repair work paid the bills and then some. They took the excess and purchased all kinds of other things to sell. Perfume, razors, electric razors. new fangled toasters, clocks, all sorts of dustable things and jewelry, as well as watches. Those stores were amazing places of wonderment. The word entrepreneur hadn't been invented yet. They followed the "six at the bench,  two away from it" rule. I learned it from a watchmaker.  It is a key to surviving. Times change, I discovered I could hire watchmakers, then that I didn't need to mess with watches, at all. My bench is a jewelers bench.  Oh those two famous watch makers, your kids will only know of one. you'll know them by their last names.  Sears and Roebuck   What you do during your two hours a day is extremely important.
     In order to get to have your two hours a day you have to make the most of your six. It's a choice! 
Let's look at the ear rings they represent slightly over 1/2 of that weeks production. They are my lowest selling point item. they represent slightly more that 1/2 of my gross annual sales! First of all they are all very simple. This batch all started as various sizes of disks. I can wamp out several hundred disks in fairly short order. I use a system of thought here: I'll call it jewelry through unit construction. I need a lot of units. I might pre-texture several sheets of metal ( material units) and make those into disk units. Then I start playing. I love my job. But ear rings are a pain in the ;okuh  'cause you have to make two matching things...That's a lie! They have to share very similiar design elements but they don't have to be mirror images of each other. I saw a pair of ER yesteray that illustrate my point. Circular disks  on one it was stamped  " In One" it's mate said "Out The Other" 
     I have a tendency to make things complicated. I fight with that. I try to simplify, I'm getting better. I must confess that after a couple of weeks of making ear rings I can get pretty sick of them..After all you make two things but they are only counted as one thing, bummer! So I switch to pendants for a while.No No No you don't get to only make just 100 pendants, I have thought of that.
     The most frequently asked question by people that actually get to enter the studio part of my shop is. "Why is there a naked lady manikin in your bathroom?" Now the answer to that is this, "This is a jewelry store! We make jewelry here! We sell jewelry here! If I wanted to own a gallery or museum, I'd fill it with naked people statues and charge admission!"  My right hand person saw her and said, "99 to go?" My wife said, "I'm cutting your allowance!"  My mom brought her a hat! I never get bored. Enjoy

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Doing The Fun Stuff

But on the fifth day I continue making things A fold formed tray.

A fold formed copper bowl Add caption

And I assembled a bouquet.

More of the 100 pair of earrings
All in all that's 30 hours of labor. using less than $30. worth of materials for a total of salable product valued at a minimum of $2,750.00 Notice a couple of things. None of the pairs of ear rings are the same. They are variations of one or two common elements. Each piece is a hand crafted original. Notice something else, to me,  my week just keeps getting better. I enjoy the free flowing creativity of the ER's but I can get excited about the bracelet forms and I love making vessels. At no point in time does the concept of making a one off product ever cross my mind. It just happens, hundreds of times! There is a difference in my approach from most other people. For instance: how come I said on the fifth day I assembled a bouquet? Because on previous days I made 100 flowers bodies, 100 stems 300 leaves Hint: each flower has 10 parts! Here's the part no one will tell you! I get to work 6 hours a day because I'm there 8 hours a day. One third of the time I'm not producing product! That's pretty much average to better than most. An aside: One of the most enjoyable things I ever purchased was an employee to, among other things, answer the phone!
       Now Do the math. Fifty two weeks in a year.  E gad that's 140,400 dollars worth of product a year! Let's look at some possibilities. in two years I could produce 10,000 pair of earings, no sweat. Would the ladies be interested in a store called Ten Thousand bet! Suddenly I have some options! Suddenly somebody better sell something!  What about that girl answering the phone? What about me there are two hours a day I'm not working? 
     Here are a couple of mistakes I 've made over the years. It's easy to make them.One is the idea that,  I'm young I can out work the competition. Rather than doing for 8 hours a day, I could do it 12 hours a day...Rather than just doing this for five days a week I'll do it for seven. Those are real bad ideas.
    Here's another subtle lie the world will tell you. Go look at your calender. What month is it? Calender says it's the end of August, Brad, Is this a trick question? Yes...Because though the calendar says it's August, you better be thinking December. You better be producing for December. right now! You need to change your thinking from reactive to proactive. Remember yesterday I said the only two people that made money at the Art Faire were the promoter and, even though he also paid to be there, the hot dog vendor. The hot dog vendor knew something and took some proactive action. He knew there would be a crowd of people at the event and they would want his hot dogs. If your jewelry business is like most other jewelry businesses 30 percent of your annual sales will happen in December!  It's December baby!! heat up those buns!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Still Doing It.

I'm a firm believer in every blog having pictures, These are more of the 100 earrings

The question then becomes on the next day would you make 30 fold formed bracelets?

You get to make the display , also.  I'm getting older I only work 6 hour days.
Two thoughts for today. In my college years I the only grade I ever received in an education class or an Art class was an "A".....Except once. I remember it well. Changed everything. I got  a "C" in my first jewelry and metalsmithing class from Edgar. John and I waited somewhat patiently outside Edgar's office the next morning, about as patiently as two angry pittbulls could be expected to wait. Edgar was friendly as he greeted us with "Come on in guys, I've been expecting, both of you."  He reached into his desk drawer and took out two small boxes, each with our name on it. Then he said this, "If I had graded each of you on a curve with the rest of the class, you two would have hands down received "A's" in this class. That isn't what I did, because I think you two deserve more from me. What I did was grade you in comparison to what you to what I think you are capable of doing!  If you'll accept the challange to become as good as you have potential for becoming I have a present for each of you. If you don't, so be it, I'll change your grade to an "A" I just want a promise from you that you will never take my classes ever again. We both took the presents. The presents were Engraved Keys to the studio and office! Jeff got a key a few days later. Between the four of us that studio was open almost 24-7 for the next three years! Lesson learned:
You are not in competition with them, you are in a competition with you.  Hint: it's not a sprint race it's a marathon.
     Second thought: totally business related. I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in this world. Brilliant boys and girls. short and tall. have and have-nots.  lol and wtf  No  Either you're a party thrower or a party goer. Business observation: party throwers attract a crowd and make money. Party goers follow the crowd and spend money to keep up. Walk around an Art Faire. Notice something: the Artists paid to be there. The hot dog guy paid to be there, too. So how come the only two people that made any real money, for more than a days work, are the promoter and the hot dog guy? 
New song for you, perhaps it will become your mantra.  I'd rather be a thrower than a goer
                                                                                     oh yes I would, if I only could
                                                                                      I surely would.
                                                                                      Cause I'd rather be a thrower than a goer.
Third thought: perhaps related, more of a question, How long will it take some people to realize that there never was a box to think outside of?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Doing it!

If you had to, would you make 100 pair of ear rings in three days?
     Cathy asks: "so then I'll ask you that same question. How do you handle the "making a living "aspect versus staying true to your craft and taking "as long as it takes". I'd like to know because I would love to move in that direction, but unfortunately I MUST sell my jewellery or quit making it. Right now I sell a lot of jewellery- but my customer base (through the stores I'm established in) are in the $100 to $350 range. Can't work weeks on a piece and price it at a retail of $300."
     My response was:
"Cathy no short answers to your question. Ill blog on it next week. Short answers. Don't do what everyone else is doing. Do better work than most of your peers. Do more of it. Invest your money in the things that stand the greatest chance of... showing the highest percentage of return. Buy the tools of your trade. Concentrate on the dollars not the pennies. Making money and making art are not the same thing. making a living is a hell of a lot easier. Own the store. I retired about two months ago. Now my fun can begin."
     I once asked a similar question of a couple that had just moved their retail art supply ceramics business to a new location. The new location would open in another couple of days.  Vic and Mary Ann were my seniors by about ten years. Both had degrees in art. Both were very good. I think I was a senior in college at the time. Their short answer has stuck with me. They were both on ladders painting the store. It was really funny at the time because they answered in unison, "By doing what ever it takes!  
   I know that's another short answer, heck it's almost a cliche. I'm sorry about that. Let me state this a little differently.   Vic and Mary Ann answered in total single minded agreement, with a staggering amount of determination, they would succeed.  (that probably sounds better in four part harmony) Buried within their statement was a passion and a belief or realization that if this current plan didn't work they could and would create a new improved plan.  Most people wash out Right Here. And it's ok.
    I'll blog on this everyday this week, 'cause there are no short answers. Your question deserves a greater answer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

From The Press

Conversations of late have turned to the hydraulic press and it's use.  Thought I'd have a little fun and show you some things that have come off my press. First there is the lid to the current Tea Pot. The bottom shot is an interior view. It's pretty much a 1/4 sphere. Pretty basic.
Oh but things can get more complicated.Here are a couple of lid ideas I've worked on.

When I'm not working on Tea Pots I play around with some other possibilities.  The experimentation finds it's way into finished pieces. The base to Super Bowl "Bowl of Bowls"is the result of press work also.