Here is one more spring inspired submission, an up-cycled spring bouquet.  It's about 1.25" long including the bale.  The flowers are actually some sterling silver spacer beads I've had sitting in a drawer since my bead-stringing days.  They are hammered and placed in a ruffled copper basket like a Mother's Day bouquet.
**This pendant is a giveaway choice** 

Now we have the six choices I promised for the giveaway, so the drawing winner will be able to choose from a variety of styles.  I will probably add a couple more choices, but now there is no pressure :-) 

If you haven't entered the drawing yet, think about Mother's Day.  One of these might be the perfect gift for your mom.  I'll ship it in plenty of time.  Good idea?
Check my March 1 post for details about the giveaway, and how you can enter.  
So far, the giveaway choices are days 256910, 12; possibly with more to come.

Let's get back to foldforming tomorrow.  I'm starting to have withdrawal symptoms!! 
Happy New Year, everyone!

Since I am still on a short jewelry-making break, I thought it would be fun to show you some Christmas ornaments I made years ago.  These were for my first tree in my first house, and many of them were made while I was expecting Michelle, my first child. 

I wasn't making jewelry yet, but these ornaments definitely helped set me on a path leading to jewelry design.
I realize it's after Christmas, BUT the reason it's perfect to share on New Year's Day is because I photographed them WHILE PUTTING THEM AWAY.  Yes, Christmas got packed up today at my house.  Good start for a couple of my top 2012 New Year's resolutions... get organized and don't procrastinate!
__They are styrofoam balls are covered with fabric, trims, pinned beads, and my favorite magic ingredient -- vintage jewelry parts.  Vintage WAY back then, so triple vintage now.  The kids all had their various favorites, but they all agreed on one thing -- the WORST one.  Scroll down to the very last ball, the one affectionately named "DorfBall" by my sweet little children.  Every year we would hang our ornaments together, and they would trick the littlest sister into hanging the DorfBall... the one no one else wanted to hang. With four sisters, they all got their turn before wising up.

Over the years, the kids and I have made lots of different ornaments for our tree.  We only hang candy canes and handmade ornaments.  It's been a fun rule.  These are some that the kids made:
And these are two that Michelle made for me later, when she was older.  Pretty sweet.
This is my Wednesday post a couple days early.  Everyone have a wonderful 2012!!
Here's a fun up-cycling project for you crafty peeps out there.  Or, just read along to see how I turned a coat into jewelry.  This the finished product -- a charm pendant featuring a hand-stitched, up-cycled leather heart.  (The other charms are handmade too, but that's a lesson for another day.)  
Photograph by Robyn T. Skowronski,
The first order of business was shopping.  I really enjoy hitting the thrift stores for up-cycling supplies.  Great vintage beads are my usual target, but this time I found this sweet black leather coat.
Sorry about the lighting.  The leather looks brown in the photo but it's a nice black color.  It's not too thick, not too thin, and also very soft.  There are a few paint splatters on it, making it less desirable as-is, but a great candidate for an up-cycle rescue. 

These are the supplies I used to make the leather charm:
I cut two 1" heart shapes from the belt using a paper template and some very sharp household scissors.  Then I glued wrong sides together using craft glue, and let it dry.  Next I punched holes all around the heart about 1/8" from the edge, to allow for easy stitching.
A quick note about punching holes.  After breaking one drill bit and getting leather tangled around another one,  I tried this scratch awl.  It went through both layers easily when hit with a heavy hammer, and the holes were nice and clean.

I'm not a leather expert, just adventurous :)

I stitched around the heart using sterling silver wire.  For your project, cut any shape you like and then stitch with any strong thread.  Some thread ideas might be thin leather cord, ribbon, embroidery floss, or upholstery thread. 

After fastening a jump ring to the stitching, I hung the heart on a sterling silver chain with hand cut sterling silver charms and a red coral bead.  And there you have it.

In my last post I showed you the hard way to recycle silver.  This is the easy way -- and definitely my standard choice.  I mail my scrap to a supply company (Rio Grande), and they pay me cash for it -- or give me a little bit more in credit toward purchase.  (And no I don't work for Rio Grande, I'm just a happy customer.)  This is a photo of the scrap I am mailing tomorrow.  In exchange, I will order a beautiful sheet of sterling silver like the one shown on the left.  It is SO much easier than melting it myself.
You might have silver to recycle, too.  A few things in my pile are just rejects from my jewelry box.  One is a heavy sterling chain that has never laid flat.  It's just a poor design.  I'm also sending two ugly charm-bracelet charms I've had forever.  You might want to check your stash and see if you have any rejects of your own just taking up space.  This is a good time to sell!

As you may know, at this writing sterling silver (925) is at $25.95 a troy ounce.  Recently it hit $30.00.  If you aren't sure how that compares historically, first take a really, sit down before you fall down... and then absorb this ten year chart.  Ten years ago an ounce sold for $5.00!
Chart from
I also promised to show an example of my jewelry using each of the three silver recycling methods I've used.  After turning in scrap metal, I used that company credit to purchase sterling wire and sheet.  This piece was made from sterling silver wire, commercial sheet silver, a single freshwater pearl, and  a heavy dose of imagination. 
This is a story about the silver used in this pendant.

The story begins with a  scrap jar full of tiny sterling silver leftovers.  Check out the 1/21/2011 blog post for a snapshot of my typical scrap.  On this day, I also raided my jewelry box for old sterling silver jewelry that was broken or unwearable, and topped off my scrap heap with those.
Let's just take a moment to say DON'T try projects at home that require a torch unless someone teaches you how.  This isn't a lesson! :-/  I will write about some fun recycling projects later in the series that you can try, ok? 

So this is approximately what the melting process looked like (file photo): 

A heavy crucible is coated with a borax mixture that creates a glass coating when fired.  Scraps of sterling silver are dropped into the crucible a few pieces at a time while the whole thing is hit with a very hot torch.  The pieces start melting quickly, but it takes quite awhile to melt the entire bunch of scrap into one big molten puddle.

Next, the crucible is tipped over a fireproof pan to let the molten silver flow out.  It starts to cool and harden right away.  The flow is adjusted out across the pan to avoid making a mountain of silver, since the goal is to create a sheet. 

The resulting sheet is very thick, so the next step is to run it through a rolling mill a gazillion times until it's thin enough to use.  This process hardens the metal again, so after every couple trips through the mill the metal is annealed -- or heated with a torch until it's pliable again.

This is a cheater picture of the rolling mill process.  The piece is already finished to 18 gauge and cut for the project, but you get the idea.  The dials at the top control the gap size between the rollers, and the handle on the right gets the rollers moving.  The piece is squashed as it goes through.
The final sheet of sterling silver looked like this.   It's already cut apart, but I put it back together for you to see.  It measures about 3.75" x 3.5" at its longest points.  The upper right piece is a partial photo of the pendant, above, so you can see where the silver fit.  I thought that corner of the natural poured metal was beautiful, so I cut it off as-is and worked it into my design. 
The two vertical strips in the middle will be rings someday.  As for the rest, who knows?  I'll keep you posted!
Yesterday's blog entry featured a photo of scrap sterling silver that I've collected over time during the process of creating jewelry.  The first recycling method I described is called fusing.

Fusing is what happens when pieces of metal are heated to their melting point.  They start to combine like two drops of water where they touch.  Eventually, the metal will combine to form a perfect ball.  The trick is to stop the heating process somewhere in between, when the parts combine but the design has not melted away.

For this pendant, I chose some interesting pieces from my scrap sterling silver pile.  After arranging them in a stacked, overlapping shape that I liked, I hit the piece with a torch flame until they fused.  And by the way, that melting point is a toasty 1640 degrees (F).

Let me know what you think of it!
This is not a precision technique, but it's great if you're after a fun, artsy, free form piece.  (Usually, silver is connected using tiny pieces of silver solder that melt at a lower temperature than the silver it is connecting.)   Metal tends to take unexpected shapes during the fusing process as pieces start to melt.  Smaller wire will shrink up quickly, curving or balling up.  The curve at the bottom of this piece was an unexpected bonus, perfect for hanging a couple of pretty Swarovski crystal beads. 

Stop back soon.  Next time I'll show you what scrap sterling silver looks like after being melted in an in-home studio, and a pendant made from that recycled silver.

I use recycled and up cycled materials in a lot of my work.  I thought it might be fun to share what that means, and what it looks like. 

There is fair amount of scrap that comes with working metal.  One of the most common types of scrap is barely the size of the head of a pin.  When any wire is cut, one half is cut flush (flat) but the other half is left with a point.  Before the pointed wire can be used, the end is usually flush cut -- leaving a tiny bit of scrap silver on the cutting room floor (a.k.a., the scrap jar.)  Other scrap is just made up of odds and ends that get cut off during assembly, or they might result from mistakes or mid-process design changes. 

Over time, these tiny pieces really add up.  This is my scrap silver at the moment:
What can be done with scraps like this? 
1. The scraps can be incorporated into pieces as-is, using fire, guts, and creativity.
2.  They can be shipped off to a metal supplier, where the scrap is analyzed, melted, and poured to create brand new wire and sheet metal.
3. The scraps can be melted at high temperature in a home studio, then poured to make sheet metal.

I prefer option 2 but have dabbled with the other methods.  Tomorrow I'll post some examples of each, and later hope to post photos of completed pieces using each method.