Monthly Archives: September 2011

Finally Launched the Store!

Well, there’s still plenty of clean-up to do but the store guts are in place. If you want something special, if you want something changed, if you want a discount that you think I promised you, well, please go ahead and write me. Thanks for being patient. As you surely see, I’ve so far only added 64 items so there is still a lot to go in a variety of categories. I’ve only posted some jewelry, so there are still candles and soaps and more to add. Hope you like it.

Now to enjoy my birthday with Caitlin.

Oh, and I watched a great zombie movie yesterday, which is sadly less common than I’d like. It’s called “The Dead” (2010) and it’s perhaps the first African zombie movie I’ve seen, filmed in Ghana and Burkina Faso (post-production is done in the UK). The slow greyish zombies have a sort of voodoo African feel (and some icky-great effects of one zombie stumbling along on a gorily broken leg), but are still very much the slow stumbling Romero type. When the outbreak first happens, there are some nighttime scenes that are brilliantly shot, really capturing the chaos and confusion of the outbreak as everyone runs and tries to escape, but can’t even figure out which way is the least dangerous to run. Most of the movie is themes of confusion and hopelessness, and it has a nice slow depressing desolate vibe that puts it in the same class as films like The Road. Anyway, I was surprised at how much I liked it and wanted to tell zombie fans to keep their eyes open for it.

PS. If you’re wondering why I did end up going with Etsy, it just seemed the easiest to deal with and the most likely to be able to drive traffic to me. Ultimately I just played it safe I guess.

Dr. Zoidberg Skull Ring + Harry Potter Glasses Ring

I just got back from a nice visit with my daughter. I was a little nervous because it was my first time crossing the US border in half a decade, and I was traveling with lots of liquid and both opiate and cannabinoid based controlled medications. Thankfully it was a complete non-issue and the entire travel and TSA process was as irritation free as possible. I did get scanned with one of those nudie-x-ray machines but it was the dumbed down version where the operators only see computer interpreted images (a generic humanoid with boxes drawn at “points-of-interest”, with no actual images from the scanner shown) so when I asked to see what the scanner could see they had nothing to show me.

Tomorrow being both my birthday and the promised release day for my online store, I have been and continue to be madly chugging along on getting everything posted. I was waiting for a battery charger to come in the mail for my nice-lensed SLR camera but to no avail, so I rushed through all the pictures today on my normal point-and-shoot. They leave something to be desired but there can not be any more delays. I don’t really know why I’m bothering with this… I just don’t see surviving long enough with a body that can keep making jewelry for long so pessimistically I worry that I’m putting a lot of effort into something that’s just going to become impossible soon. But it keeps me occupied with something fulfilling, and I think that is important even without the rewards that a business can bring.

Anyway, I wanted to take a brief break and post two of my newest designs. These will be in the shop tomorrow, but I’ve only had time to cast one copy of each so far — the Futurama Dr. Zoidberg skull ring is being done in a series of twelve (in a variety of mens sizes), and the Harry Potter glasses ring is being done in a series of just nine. The latter are all in size 7-3/4 since unfortunately there’s not much room to play in that design but if there was a demand I suppose I could make more (or just upload the design to a service bureau like Shapeways perhaps — if someone wants to knock off the design an post it to Thingiverse public domain — as PD as one can get with a character trademark — be my guest). The Dr. Zoidberg inspired skull ring is in a polished-like-crazy pewter that has been copper plated, and the glasses are done with a lightly blackened antique patina.

I’m very happy with how both of these turned out. I have a Nibbler ring on the go as well, and I’m also working on re-sculpting the series of Robocop jewelry, and of course I have a bunch of my own (as in 100% my not-inspired-by-fandom creation) on the go as well, including three more zombie rings to flush out that series.

Various Jewelry Finishings (Good news, bad news)

First the good news. I’ve spent the last couple of days experimenting with new jewelry finishing techniques. In addition to the polishing and blackened patina that I normally use, I can now do ceramic enameling (which for a limited few items looks really amazing) and elctroplating in gold, silver, copper, and bronze. I can plate with other metals of course, that’s just what I have here. I’ve also been practicing doing stone setting, as you can see in the pictures below. The “Brainiac” skull rings have 8mm stone settings by default (in the photo are citrine, emerald, and black spinel if I remember right), and I’ve experimentally put little 3mm CZs into a pair of zombie rings and an ET ring to see how they look. I’m not sold on the zombies (which to be honest don’t really look that great in the gold and bright bronze plating anyway so I was willing to risk a sacrifice — they’re better in dull colours) having gem eyes, but I am totally sold on it for ET. Later in the month I might head downtown and pick up some different gems (when the store launches you can request a specific stone).

Anyway, I have everything ready to go for the store. I have a decent pile of finished stock that’s all packaged (I even got nice ring boxes) and measured. I’ve tried to do the rings in a broad section of sizes, although I am a little concerned because the handmade nature (and for many designs, broad band) makes it difficult to size perfectly. But I don’t have a problem taking returns or exchanges in a worst case scenario. That said, I am going away from Thursday until Monday, so I’ll spend Tuesday and Wednesday on final touches and then the store will launch and go live on next Thursday — September 29th, which also happens to be my birthday.

Now some bad news. I mentioned that I am starting to lose my hands. Not only are they weaker and weaker but they hurt all the time using them is more difficult all the time. Heavy use like carving is extremely painful and light use is unpleasant. If I overuse them, in addition to pain they get especially weak and I find myself dropping stuff the next day and unable to hold some things at all. So I was looking forward to coming away from today’s doctor’s appointment with something useful — preferably an improvement in pain management, which has been held up as we wait on test results from a sleep study that was done about two months ago (I’ll spare everyone the whining about how long it took).

The good part of the sleep study was that I have 97% sleep efficiency which I’m told is good. I guess that means that I sleep solidly and get good results from the time I spend sleeping with plenty of REM and all that. But I knew that. Other than being woken up in the morning when pain catches up to me I sleep quite well. The concerning part though was that in the duration of the night I had about a hundred and fifty periods of apnea — that is, periods where I stopped breathing. A small number of these were due to what I presume are normal physical blockages. I’ve always known that I snore a little and that doesn’t concern me (or the doctors as far as I know). The concerning part was that something like 125 of those times when I stopped breathing were due to central nervous system problems — my brain simply stopped telling my body to breathe, and isn’t telling it to start breathing for quite a long time. Long enough that my blood oxygen levels are going scary low, well into the region where brain damage and body damage is a risk. I am off to an expert shortly of course. Odds are strong this is medication related or at least being made worse by medication, but I’m not so sure.

The reason I’m not so sure is that the part of the apnea I am aware of predates this medication. It’s not as common but I’ve had a few cases of central apnea while awake as well, and have for many years, although I never really gave it much thought and just assumed it was normal and happened to everyone from time to time. It’s sort of scary and I =feel myself on the edge of a panic attack thinking about it (luckily I’m self aware enough to recognize the signs and thought it’s an unpleasant sensation it is not troubling). Anyway, the way it manifests is that I’ll be sitting watching TV or whatever, and I’ll notice that the room is getting darker and darker, as if someone is dimming the lights. My vision starts to constrict and it’s about then that I notice that I’m not breathing, probably haven’t been breathing for some time, and although I can feel myself fading out of consciousness I don’t feel any instinctual urge to breathe. Just an intellectual understanding that breathing is a necessity. So I take a deep breath, and I feel a kind of crispness and the room brightens, as if there is some direct connection between breathing in and some cosmic dimmer switch. It takes a minute or so for things to go back to normal. It’s an odd thing trying to guestimate how much you should be breathing. I mean, how many breaths do you need? How big should they be? It’s surprisingly difficult to put something that’s normally autonomic under completely conscious control. Someone needs to make a “breathing coach” cellphone app that tells people with the problem when to take a breath. I will try and keep my paranoia to a minimum but I have to admit a certain cloud hangs over me at night as I wonder whether I will wake up with obvious brain damage (some would say I already have, haha) or if I will even wake up at all. Could explain why I’ve had a few days of really horrible pounding headaches, which are not something I generally have. I suppose it could be worse — I do not envy the paranoia of sleeping next to me in the morning wondering whether I have slept in or if you’re in bed next to a corpse. Yipes! It would give me nightmares.

Well, enough of the depressing stuff. I have two more jewelry experiments to do tonight, then I think I shall wrangle myself some supper (Caitlin is visiting her mother for the night so no one has fed me — I am shamefully reliant on her, and both my heart and my belly miss her terribly), and then go read some comics. Since installing a comic reader on my tablet I’ve been devouring comics, for the first time in my life (before now I read the occasional indie comic by Jim Woodring or Chester Brown, but recently Walking Dead pulled me in deeper and the tablet put it over the top). I have one of the small screen Samsung Galaxy Tabs, and while it would be nice having the big screen like Caitlin’s iPad has and not having to scroll, on the whole I think I prefer the little one because I can just barely fit it in the side pocket of cargo pants/shorts, making it more portable than a full-size tablet can be. Maybe I’ll upgrade if they ever come out with a viable colour e-ink.

Quick teaser: Zombie Rings!

You knew I’d do these eventually, right? Here are the zombie rings that I finished carving today, fresh out of a test mold. I haven’t cleaned them up or anything so they’ll still be a little improved in their final form — plus I did some successful testing today doing copper plating (as well as bronze and silver) so I’m looking forward to being able to give them more character with that. These are currently in a size 7.5 and an 11 if I remember correctly.

It was actually quite difficult to do these. I’ve been working in wax for a while — soft stuff — and only in the last couple days went back to clay. I was dismayed to discover that my hands aren’t strong enough to carve clay any more, so I had to do the majority of the shaping on these rings with a Dremel. I had to carve the big zombie’s hair by hand, and I really wrecked myself. I ate supper like an ape, with no thumb, making a fist around my fork. The delicious meal that Caitlin made was more than enough distraction. It is a little depressing though that just as I’m starting to find my footing with all this that it’s being taken away… it actually feels like that’s the story of my life. I guess I should be thankful that a great many things are interesting to me.

Learning lost wax casting

So I’ve spent the last little while teaching myself lost wax casting at home. It’s taken me a bit of experimenting to get a process that I can do in my oven, since with an oven that maxxes out around 500°F you can’t do a burn out (let alone a “melt out”) on standard jeweler’s wax. The outer surface of the wax will soften, but it’s such a good insulator that it stays totally solid and unaffected. And since the oven isn’t hot enough to liquify or gasify that thin layer enough to get rid of it, you can leave the wax in the oven as long as you want and when you remove it, it still pretty much looks like the moment you finished carving it.

So my solution has been to use an extremely soft microcrystaline wax. It’s sort of like trying to sculpt with something the consistency of soft plasticine that is also extremely sticky. You certainly can’t carve it, and sculpting it is difficult, limiting you to grotesque outsider-art organic shapes. But it has the advantage of burning out at around five hundred degrees, which not only means that I can do it in a home oven, but also that I can do stone-in-mold projects where I sculpt the stone(s) I’m setting along with the wax, and then leave the stones in when I pour the plaster around it. The temperatures are low enough that I haven’t had any stones crack in the oven. Oh, and because the wax is so soft, it’s impossible to make a ring without a jig, so I have a series of ring-sized cylinders that I use as “scaffolding”. I cast these out of the same plaster (Satin Cast 20, which is the best material I’ve found for the main mold, is too soft and crumbly I think so I use a cheap gypsum cement called Hydroperm) so they just go in the mold when I create it and are broken apart afterwards along with the rest.

Anyway… My results aren’t anything earth shattering, but it’s been a good learning process and I feel confident that if I had something I wanted to make that I know how. It would be nice if I had a kiln that could do a high temperature burnout because that would greatly expand my sculpting options, but because I don’t intend on doing much with this method commercially, it’s not going to pay its own bills so I shouldn’t really spend any [more] money on it. I do however have a big bin of “real” rings for the shop, so when I’m done posting this entry I’ll get back to work.

Those are all cast in pewter, but when I’m done some of them will be silver and copper plated in addition to the patina’d pewter that I have been posting. Anyway, here are the rings I’ve made recently. From top to bottom they are: shark’s tooth, crystal shard, citrine (crystals around a tumbled centre piece), tumbled rose quartz tree, star crinoids, quartz exclamation mark, citrine geode, 2 pictures: bloodstone spike ring and quartz crystal (which broke as you can see), a silly paperweight that I made for my daughter, and a ring made of a mix of leftover bits.

If you’re wondering why there’s so much citrine, it’s because I had a big chunk of citrine crystal that I got for a couple dollars at the CNE and I hit it with a hammer. The cost on these rings is almost nothing. Including everything — even the supplies for the mold — the per ring cost is just a few dollars… Like I said, I don’t expect to put these up for sale because I don’t feel like they’re mature enough talent-wise for me to feel comfortable staking my reputation on them, but if someone is moved by one of them I’d be happy to accept any reasonable offer. The last one in the picture set is just horrible and embarrassing aesthetically. I should have melted it down instead of shaming myself. They’re in a mix of sizes between 7.5 and 12 if I remember right. Most are too small for me, so I had a temporary scare when one got stuck pretty solidly on my finger while I took the pictures!!!

Anyway, enough of this diversion. I’m also carving a couple of Futurama-inspired ring masters, and a pair of zombie rings that Caitlin suggested I donate a set of as prizes of this year’s zombie walk if Thea likes them.