Chainmaille Jewelry

I’ve been puttering around teaching myself how to make chainmaille (or chainmail) jewelry. Online tutorials, books, purchasing of tools and cheap jump rings, practicing making various types of weaves. It’s all been great fun, except for when the pliers slip and I jam my own hand with the pointed ends.

I finally couldn’t wait any longer, bought some sterling silver jump rings, and made my first actual bracelet, in what is called an orbital ring weave. I’m so pleased with how it turned out. I’ve included a full picture and a details photo below. Looking at them, I think maybe I should learn photography, since they are oddly shiny and fuzzy. Ah well…

Detail of sterling silver chain mail bracelet Orbital Ring Chain Mail Bracelet

My New Brain

I’ve been searching for what feels like eons for a way to organize everything I want to remember and be able to search and find things again. I used to have the perfect system for this type of organization and retrieval of data.

It was my brain.

But, as time has slipped by and I get older, I find that my brain is no longer as reliable as it once was, so I went looking for a replacement.

I may have found it in the online service called Evernote.

Evernote is, essentially, a great big database that you can use to store just about anything. The motto of the service is Remember Everything.

  • Got paper you want to scan and store online? Evernote has your back.
  • Got web pages you want to keep as reference or inspiration? Evernote has a web clipping feature that lets you save entire or partial web pages.
  • Got email you want to keep and be able to organize and search? Forward it to Evernote.
  • Want to take a screenshot of something on your tablet and store it in Evernote? Can do!
  • Want to create a note to house an image? Evernote can handle it, PLUS it comes with a way to add annotations directly on the image. I’ve already annotated an image of a floor plan I created for a room in the basement and it was so easy!

These are just a small sample of the types of things Evernote and store and organize. Evernote lets you organize in two main ways… you can create digital Notebooks full of individual notes. You can create a master notebook, with lots of sub-notebooks, each filled with notes. You can also index the content you are storing with tags.

So, for example, say I have a notebook for Home Repair. I can have individual notebooks within for every room or system in the house. Inside the notebooks, notes on repair people, supplies, wish lists, etc. And each note can be indexed with tags. So if I know I’m going to do a bathroom remodel, I might have a note about tiling the floor, which I could tag with words such as bathroomtileflooring. I could go into Evernote at any time and search by tags to locate all notes in all notebooks with those tags. So if I search for bathroom, I’d get all notes I created with that tag, no matter what notebook they are stored inside.

I’m actually so impressed with tags, that I’m wondering if it’s even worthwhile to create notebooks to organize at all. Of course, planning your tag strategy is important, because you want to be consistent with the tags you add, so that you don’t end up with multiple tags that mean the same thing… you want to have tags, but not so many that you can’t remember them, or that you have to search for several tags to find all the information you need.

As you might imagine, it’s a big job to get all the information I have stored in various formats using various systems into Evernote. And it’s a big job to map out how to organize and tag the info. But once the main input/organization is completed, and the systems and habits are set up, my replacement brain will be so helpful.

Evernote can be used to set reminders in notes. It can be used on Windows or on Macs (although I believe it has more features for Apple users), and on some mobile devices.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more on how to use Evernote in the coming months, as I begin the task of transferring so much into it. I think the key is to commit to it as the one place to store everything.

I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Painted Canvases Decorated

I held onto the three painted canvases for a while, trying to decide what to do with them. I knew I wanted some texture on them, but that they would probably not be able to support having anything heavy glued directly to them.

I ended up deciding to wrap them randomly in white raffia, and for one of them, the yellow one, I also glued that air clay flower I made earlier to the raffia. I painted the flower first, because the white clay got stained and dingy as I worked with it.

I tied the raffia behind the canvas, rather than gluing it down, so if I ever change my mind, I can remove it easily without damage to the canvases.

yellow painted canvas with clay flowerpink painted canvas with wrapping of white raffia

How to Sculpt Plaster

The title of this post is a question, definitely, not an answer. I’ve been in love for ages with all sorts of Moroccan design… such amazing patterns, colors, tiles, fabrics. But oddly, for me, the very most amazing things are the incredibly detailed white plaster carvings.

Apart from just a couple of videos of artisans at work, using the Internet to learn to carve plaster, even crudely, is not a good method, since it’s such a tactile thing to learn. So, with nothing much to go on, I just plunged in. I bought some craft plaster and some cheap carving tools from a local shop and gave it a whirl.

plaster carved celtic knot design

My first and rough effort at plaster carving

I mixed the plaster according to the package instructions, put it into an empty metal lid left over from a package of food, cut out a simple Celtic knot design from card stock, added some crushed green chalk into an old sock, laid the pattern on the plaster, and pounced the chalk-filled sock on top, to make a color ‘tracing’ of the design.

I then carved and carved, using the card stock design as a reference for when the ribbons of the knot should go over and when they should go under. The lack of an outer edge of my pattern was a challenge. And I learned that once the plaster hardens completely, it’s obviously hard to work with it, ha, ha, but yet perilously easy to carve too much from the wrong spots.

I really want to keep trying to learn this craft properly, but I’m at a loss as to where to find a teacher.

The New York Times had an article in 2001 about how the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired a crew of artists to create a Moroccan courtyard, which features just stunning video and images of the artisans at work. Obviously, to become a master at this would take a lifetime that I do not have, but I’d still like to learn as much as I can.

The Clawed Paw of Doom and Other Challenges

photo of catI was thinking just last evening that it’s odd, but the biggest obstacle, the greatest challenge to completing any projects in my home (especially ones involving sticky substances like glue or paint) is in fact my cat.

Yes. A tiny tortoiseshell domestic American Shorthair is my Nemesis.

Meet Elemauzer the Terribly Inquisitive.

General Mauzursky the Crafty Strategist and Destroyer of Projects.

Mauzer the Beloved But Often Annoying.

Wherever there is activity she’ll be there and right in the middle of it. Is it crucial that a drying piece not be disturbed? She’ll find it and knock it askew.

cat hiding in wrapping paperIf I’m working on something, she’s there, walking all over the gold leaf, brushing up against the wet paint to smear it, shedding into everything. She’s like a kid that wants to scrawl her name in wet concrete.

If I lock her out of a room to work, well. There is a reason the word caterwaul exists, isn’t there?

Other challenges to getting things done include:

  1. Fear of failing.
    I’m always worried that I won’t be able to complete the project correctly and will waste money and time. I always have to remind myself that this will indeed happen with some things, but that there will also be fun successes along the way.
  2. Dislike of shopping.
    I really dislike shopping, hate going to stores, and I find that in order to do projects, well, there’s a lot of shopping needed. I need to really gear up to go in search of any needed supplies.
  3. Lack of patience.
    I always want to skip a step or hurry things along. Waiting for the drying, the sanding, the curing, the application of many thin layers is a challenge, because I like to work fast and have things done, but, of course, there are almost never any effective shortcuts.
  4. Laziness.
    I used to be a Type A person, and was always doing something. But after years of that nonsense, I really feel quite lazy and tired. Once I start a project and get absorbed into it, there is that lovely sense of time slipping away and being totally present in the job at hand, but getting started is the tough bit.

It’s a good thing that I generally enjoy myself once I’ve gotten past these hurdles, or I’d never get any stuff finished. And it’s a good thing the cat can still manage to look dignified, even after rubbing against wet paint and coming away with half her whiskers purple.

Framed Fused Glass Piece

framed piece of fused glassI’ve always had a fascination with glass and the amazing way it can be melted and molded and blown and fused into amazing shapes and useful items. When my girls were quite young, I took a class on how to create glass beads and had an absolute blast doing this for a while. The main problem was lack of time (gee, full time job, twins, chores, wonder why time was an issue?), but I also found that it seemed like a craft that really needs a safe, secure location to do, and we didn’t have space either. Three years ago, I saw an ad for a class on glass fusing, and I snapped at the chance to take it. It was a very fun and informative class and an amazing glass art studio. Since it was a beginning class, we only got to make a few pieces, but I did come out of it with some nice glass coasters, a vase, and a couple of little practice pieces. I’d had my favorite little fused thingamabob just hanging out in a box for quite some time, and it struck me that I could frame it. If I can mount and frame spray-painted plastic animal heads, why not a pretty piece of glass? As you see from the photo, the fused piece is white and pink, so I took a piece of heavy white card stock, painted it with some left-over Benjamin Moore latex Coral Essence (2007-40) eggshell paint and then glued the glass to the card stock with a bit of Weld Bond. I found a nice white square frame with a mat, and put the glass into it… I left the glass front inside the frame behind the card stock and glass, to lend support and fill the space properly. And now it’s hanging on my office wall and I love it!

A Screwy Experience

I’d been on the hunt for a super cheap table of a certain size, to go in my daughter’s room to get her Cage Full of Rats off the floor.

Imagine my happy surprise when driving down the road recently, I noticed a table top with a big “FREE” sign on it sitting on the sidewalk, along with its four detached legs.

I stopped, measured, and yes! It was exactly, and I mean exactly, the width, height, and length needed to fit the available space and to support the Cage Full of Rats. It had the added advantages of being sturdy, and also really, really ugly, so I wouldn’t mind having rats living on top of it. Plus, free!

With a cheerful sense of undeserved accomplishment, I put the table top and legs into the car and drove off.

I reasoned that even though no screws were included with the table, that it could certainly not be that difficult to find four replacement screws to attach the legs. (I’ll pause here while more experienced free furniture scavengers laugh.)

Because, as it turned out, it took trips to three hardware stores before I finally found the solution. The problem seemed to be that I needed screws of a slightly larger girth than the original ones, so that they would bite into fresh wood as I attached the legs. But, and this is the crucial part, they needed to be 2.5 inches long, and, apparently, of all the hundreds of available screws, the vast little baskets of screws filling vast walls, none came in that crucial slightly larger girth, with the proper length. All screws of larger circumference were too long.

I was a bit puzzled by what to do next. Luckily, a fellow at the last hardware store suggested shoving a few toothpicks into the hole in the leg, breaking them off, and then using screws of the original (and happily available) size. He said the toothpicks would make it so that the screw had something to bite into and would work a treat to re-attach the legs.

And he was correct! The table is re-assembled. You really can learn something new every day. Also, isn’t it amazing how some stuff that seems as if it would be simple to accomplish can take so much time?

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