Thursday, May 14, 2009

Staff Development Day 2009-the project!

We had a great time last week at our Staff Day. It was a bit rainy but we (or at least, I) pretended we were in Bali and that made things better. We made earrings with textured brass strips and riveted plastic flowers to them with sterling wire. I really did try to channel the Bali vibe as we were sitting there, hammering by natural light while the rain drummed down.

After the projects were finished we all enjoyed some amazing Tex-Mex from Chubby's Tacos. We ordered food for 20 people and they sent food for 20 NFL linebackers. Plus their trainers. We all took home the leftovers and my family ate tacos for two days. Their special Guacatillo sauce was great on every food I tried it with...

Our project was a pair of earrings made with brass strips and sterling wire. We textured the brass strips with hammers or punches. Jane wrote a phrase on hers and Tracy created a lacy pattern with the ampersand (&) that I have to remember for future decorative use.

The hammering noise was amazing as it echoed off the inside of the stone-and-wood picnic shelter. It was a light tapping, but the amplification of the stone surface and the sound of the rain outside created a waterfall rushing sound. Our voices were like birds or monkeys over the hammering!

After we textured our strips we cut them into the two pieces we needed for the earrings. This was a simple thing; just measure and snip with tin snips. You'd be amazed at how many of us had to measure and re-measure. My strips were each about 3 inches long.

The sight of all of us making jewelry in the park attracted a few curious on-lookers and at one point I found myself answering questions about what, exactly, we were doing. I probably could have signed some folks up for the 'class' if had an empty seat!

We used a two-hole punch to make two holes at one end of each strip, and one hole at the other end of each strip. This was easy but we had to take it slow. The 20 gauge brass sheet we used was at the very maximum capacity of those two hole punches. Since we were crafting au naturale we couldn't use electrical tools.

The double holes at one end of the strip were for the ear wire and the riveted flower. There was a tricky wrap that took me several tries. I don't think I did too bad, though. The wrap keeps the head pin in place and makes the earwire secure.

After we got the earwires attached it was time to make our first rivet. We used the 18 gauge sterling wire and an anvil to create a smooth rivet. Then we stacked up our flowers and riveted them in place, trimming the wire end and reserving it for the other rivet.

This was where the cursing began; rivets can be tricky and for many of the folks that day this was a new experience. That was the nice thing about us all being there, though, as we talked each other through the sticky parts.

After the flowers were riveted in place we had to carefully bend the earwires. The headpins we used were 20 gauge sterling and so they needed only minimal hardening, a few whacks with the hammer did the trick. Then we each carefully bent them around a ring mandrel to get the right curve.

There was a good bit of joy at this point. Some us were done and already wearing our new jewelry (or at least admiring it!) while the remaining workers were anxious to finish.

Many of the folks treated their brass strips with Liver of Sulphur to darken the brass and bring out the patterns stamped on the surface. The earrings had a very mechanical, steampunk-goes-flowerchild feel to them.

I have worn my pair at least three times. I call them my Bali Souvenirs.