Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mendocino Village

I teach workshops, and occasionally I get to teach at a really great place. Mendocino, California is one of those places. It's in northern California on the coast. You go through redwood cedar forests and rolling volcanic hills filled with vineyards to get to it.

This was the view as I stepped out of the studio from the Mendocino Art Center.

This is the view of the cove from the headlands. Notice the volcanic rocks? Notice the fog? It's often foggy, and there are several impressive lighthouses along the coast.

Most mornings I would go to a little local cafe, called the Bay Side Cafe, and eat my breakfast there. Everyone thought I was nuts because I would eat out on the balcony. It was September, often foggy and chilly to the locals, but hey, where I come from, we'd already had a foot of snow, and it was downright balmy on the balcony.

Pretty soon, I'd have a chum. If I didn't watch him, he'd be more than happy to hop right into my plate and sample what I was having for breakfast. If he was really lucky, he could snatch something big before I shooed him away. By the end of my stay, it was a staring contest every morning, with him waiting for my attention to be diverted just momentarily so he could swoop in and rob me of my breakfast. Absolutely no fear!

Also while I was there, I could go every day across the little area commons to see the sculptor working through the day. This is "Three Ages of Woman" sculpture by artist John Fisher. He didn't quite get it finished by the time I left, but it was amazing to see the progress while I was there. To see him carve this rough stone into smooth features, wavy hair, sea anemones and star fish on the sides of the sculpture, was just fascinating. One day there would be a vague form with rough linear grooves, and the next day it would be smooth and refined.

If you ever want to go to a pretty place, I highly recommend Mendocino. It's quaint, picturesque, relaxing, beautiful, colorful...and if you run out of things to look at or you can't bear to be in any of the little shops full of exquisite work anymore, then there's still a dozen or so villages along this stretch of the coast that will be equally as beautiful.

Copyright 2011 by Katherine Palochak

For the Metal Heads--homemade punches and stamps

Sometimes the best solutions are the ones you make yourself. If you need to hammer set a bezel or prong, a couple of hand made tools will help that along. Even though I have a hammer handpiece, sometimes it's still safer to set by hand, especially with a delicate stone like an opal or emerald.

Two things I use are horseshoe nails, also known as cut nails at a hardware store, and a flat nail set (doesn't have a dimple on the end). The cut nail has a rectangular profile, and the corner makes it easy to get into tight spots. You can even make that profile smaller by carefully (don't want to lose the temper!) reducing the size by grinding it down. The nail set is good for general setting. Before using them, be sure to polish any rough edges, then use some 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the bottom slightly. This keeps the tool from skidding across the metal, but won't mar your metal.

Using cut nails, plenty of water dipping to prevent losing the temper in the metal, and you can cut easy straight line patterns for stamping. Use a gray separation disk to remove material. Keep dipping the nail into water as you're cutting to keep it cool. Polish off the rough edges and rough up the bottom slightly. Try it on a scrap piece of metal, and refine it if you need to.

Look for other postings like this in the "For the Metalheads" sections.

Copyright 2011 by Katherine Palochak

Monday, May 2, 2011

Stone shopping at gem shows

If I'm not buying directly from a lapidary artist (someone who cuts stones), then I go to a gem show and buy LOTS of stones at once.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have a hard time resisting deeply saturated colors, and especially if they're BIG. Aren't these amethysts beauties? Other than the two round ones in the back, these are too big for anything other than pendants or necklaces, or an occasional focal stone for a bridal tiara.

Here are some Swiss blue topazes:

These are mostly the right size for earrings and rings, and a couple will look spectacular on a neckpiece. Topazes are among my favorite stones because they come in just about any color under the sun, even colorless. In fact, most topazes begin their lives as colorless. To bring out the colors, they can be heated, irradiated or diffusion treated.

Another stone I like are garnets. The come in various tones of red usually. But they also come in a lot of other colors, like a lovely orange. The garnets below are a sample of the most common red tones--Mozambique, pyrope and rhodolite.

These are mostly in sizes people would consider normal.

Later, I'll show some of them in finished jewelry. All of these are just so yummy it's going to be a joy to set them in something lovely!

Copyright 2011 by Katherine Palochak