Sunday, May 22, 2016

Thank You

by Patti Vanderbloemen

First off...many thanks for the comments made on my last blog post ---I truly do appreciate it!

Second...I am SO TIRED OF THIS RAIN! It seems that we have had only 2-3 days of sunshine since April - and not consecutive days either. It is so depressing! Okay..rant over.  

Anyway, one of my very best customers asked me if I could create a bangle or a bracelet for her cousin. The only requisites were that the bracelet have a horse theme and possibly have the name of the horse appear on the bracelet.

I really wanted a silhouette of a horse and somehow make a focal, but I had doubts about my sawing capabilities. But then I said, "what the heck", and I did.

Forgive this blurry image taken from my cell phone...but I was so pleased that I did not wreck the design or my fingers on this tiny little piece of copper that  I neglected to check to see if the picture was clear.

I then cut a brass oval and sweat soldered the copper horse silhouette to the oval. I was going for some dimension in the focal. I kept my fingers crossed that I did not use too much solder - nothing worse than excess solder bleeding onto that brass, which I would not be able to camouflage in the final design. I cut a piece of heavy gauge sterling silver, stamped on the beloved Horse name, and soldered the brass oval to the silver.  Two jump rings were added for connectors.

I have not used brass in a soldering project in quite some time and forgot that one of the components of this lovely metal is copper. Lots of sanding involved after pickling to bring the gold color back to the brass - which looks just like copper when heated.

If I am not given an exact wrist size, I prefer to make bracelets that are adjustable. I also wanted to use a lobster clasp, which, though not handmade, provides the most secure closure.

So, I made a chain of tiny double wrapped loops and wired this to to one side of the focal. To the other side, I added a few jump ring links, soldered closed for security.  This way, the clasp can attach to any of the soldered rings for a perfect fit.

I wrapped a tiny sterling silver bead added to the last link.

My customer told me her cousin loved the bracelet....always so very happy to hear that! Custom orders do not always go well! :)  Here is a picture of her cousin wearing the bracelet and judging from her tiny wrist, I am so glad I made it adjustable!

I am so happy my customer contacted me - it was the creative outlet that I needed!

Thanks for stopping by today!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Not My Normal Cliche..

by Patti Vanderbloemen's been a while since I have blogged.  And, I am not going to revert to my old cliche of "been too busy"... "not much going on".  

I am not one who tends to voice her opinion via social media.  Political diatribe?  Not for me.  I rarely even "like" those types of posts on Face Book. I tend to keep my opinions about the political arena (it is a stage..right?) to myself.

My blog has almost exclusively focused on jewelry. I am always excited to share new designs.  But, there has not been too much coming from my studio lately.

So, today's post is very different for me. I thought I would share what has really been going on with me. I will probably never bring this subject up again. So, here goes.

Two years ago, during a routine physical with blood work, I was diagnosed as having Hypothyroidism accompanied with Hashimoto's Disease.  It's a good word - just means that my thyroid is confused and is literally trying to kill itself.  It is a very common disease and is treated with a pill.... forever. 

Last Summer, I began to have bouts of dizziness/vertigo, along with a terrible neck ache, a weird rash on my neck, and total exhaustion and fatigue.  So, I went to see my Primary Care Physician. Hypothyroidism can cause lethargy and dizziness. But, my doctor was concerned with the degree of fatigue and vertigo, along with my other symptoms. In the months that followed, I have seen more specialists and had more tests than I thought possible.

  • Extensive blood tests - including Lyme Disease, which were negative.
  • Ophthalmologist - I have been seeing an ophthalmologist on a regular basis and advised her of my vertigo - she found no issues with my eyes.
  • CT Scan - normal
  • Cardiologist - EKG, ECG, Echo Cardiogram, Heart Monitors, Stress Test.  Except for slightly elevated cholesterol - everything is hunky dory.  And yes - I am now on a low dose cholesterol medication and my levels are back to normal.  While I am grateful that everything going on with my heart is fine - it was a long, 2-month testing period that literally scared the life out of me as I did not any answers until the very end.
  • Physical Therapy - I went through two solid months of PT for my neck, twice weekly. While the PT helped during the actual treatment, the neck pain always returned.  The Physical Therapist - who I actually liked - thought that I could be suffering from Anxiety and suggested I contact a Therapist.  Although I did not believe I had anxiety, I was willing to try anything. Well, that proved futile--I attempted to contact three separate Counseling office.  Not one single return phone call or email. So much for Mental Health Care in 2016.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon - I had an X-ray of my neck, which showed normal deterioration of cartilage, etc...for my age. In fact, this was the worst appointment - lasted a total of 3 minutes! Once I said "I am not looking for surgery as an option", he basically shooed me out his door. Shame on him.
  • Dermatologist - The rash is simply the result of sun damage  -- probably from a bad sunburn I had when I was 8 years old. Typically, I avoid the sun like the plague - I remain pale and proud!
  • Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist - Vertigo is typically associated with an inner ear ailment.  So, I had multiple tests that all proved normal. I even had my hearing tested just for grins, which I am happy to report, is perfect.
  • Endocrinologist- He simply confirmed my Hypothyroidism and associated Hashimoto's Disease and that my Primary Care Physician is doing everything correctly (blood work check every 2-3 months).  My TSH level is is on a constant roller coaster ride of high and low - and my medications are adjusted accordingly. Once the TSH level achieves a normal rate, they have a mind of their own and tend to rise.  So, luckily I do not have an aversion to needles and blood tests, as this will continue forever.  And he reaffirmed that these with the thyroid are so very common and can cause some dizziness, and fatigue,  He reassured me that every patient has different experiences. And, that I am not nuts.
  • Neurologist - EEG of the brain, MRI - without and with contrast - everything is fine. However, she ordered a certain blood test to check for Anti Nuclear Antibodies (ANA). This is a blood test to check for a variety of auto immune diseases.  The results were returned with a flag - so I went to my Primary Care Physician, who ordered a subsequent comprehensive ANA blood test. The results of this blood work also came back with a flag for a horrible autoimmune disease called Scleroderma. I DO NOT recommend doing a google search of this disease, as it is awful. I was referred to a Rheumatologist.
  • Rheumatologist - My abnormal ANA test was probably due to my Hashimoto's Disease and Hypothyroidism - NOT Scleroderma. Basically, it is a disease that affects the skin (rash is an understatement here), and I had zero symptoms. He also stated that the abnormal ANA Level for Scleroderma was not all that high - but to have my Primary Care Physician perform the same blood test every 6 months to a year. 
I am sure I left something off of this list. But, 10 months later....I still have all the same symptoms from the beginning and there are days where I do not get off the couch or out of my bed. It is not every day - thank goodness.  

Through all of this mess, I have gained many valuable lessons.

  • I have to be the advocate for my own health. Doctors do not know everything. Some are good - and some should rethink their career choice. 'Nuff said.
  • If I am going to use the Internet for research on health issues - take every word with a grain of salt. The old adage "a little information is dangerous" applies. 
  • My symptoms and ailments are real - I am not a paranoid hypochondriac... no matter who insists they are imaginary.
  • I count my blessings every single day. It could be 100 times worse than it is, and I am truly grateful that it is not.
  • I have always had empathy for those who suffer with chronic illness - now, more than ever.
I did not write this post to gain sympathy - I wrote it mostly for me and for the very few people who have contacted me via email or Face book...wondering where I have been (a sincere thank you to those lovely people, too!) There was a point during these past 10 months where I questioned my mental health, as I was not getting any answers, the time between making an appointment with a specialist and actually seeing the doctor was ridiculously long, and quite frankly, I was depressed, But I am not depressed anymore. I have learned to deal with everything and rest when that it what my body is craving.

And on those days where I am symptom free - there is metal, hammers, fire, and beads waiting for me in my studio.  For that, I am forever grateful!

If you hung in until the end - thank you for listening. And, as always, thank you for stopping by today! Next time...I promise...the post will be back to jewelry!



Monday, March 21, 2016

It was the Middle of Winter...

by Patti Vanderbloemen

The last time I blogged (6+ weeks), it was Winter.  Yesterday was the first day of Spring.  My how time flies! :)  

Well, I have managed to create a few things here and there. The little series of photos to follow were taken from my I-Phone, so not necessarily the best quality!

I made another ring with a cone-style setting with a beautiful CZ (cubic zirconia) in a flashy clear color. The band is made from some leftover silver that I previously etched.  Although I will probably never wear it (I am lucky if I remember to shove a pair of earrings in my ears before I leave the house!), I made it for my personal stash.

There is a little, 10mm sterling silver concho soldered to the bottom.

Next up - again, for my personal stash, is a pendant made with a pretty malachite gemstone.  I had never bezeled anything other than a round or oval stone, so I considered it "practice".

I managed to saw a little heart in the backplate, and the bail is a piece of sterling tubing that is large enough to change out the chain.

The collage below features pieces I have made which incorporate patterned sterling silver wire.  I just wrote a blog post about these pieces for Love My Art Jewelry (link here, if you care to take a gander over there). This wire is quite substantial, and to be honest, it has been in my stash for well over a year, waiting for me to make a ring shank.

Other baubles that have crossed my bench include a few pair of earrings.

Last week, I made a series of five sterling silver hollow beads, graduated in size. These have been stamped for texture.

I went back and forth on what to make with these. I really had a necklace in mind, so I pulled out all of my artisan lampwork and ceramic beads, then I had gemstones laying all around the sterling. Nothing spoke to me.  So, I made a bracelet instead.

The first attempt included highly textured sterling silver spacers, flanking the three larger beads...but I did not like it.  So I took it apart and now, just hollows! This was also the first time I made twisted silver link chain. 

I will always struggle with taking pictures of my sterling pieces - if you look closely - my mug shot appears on those beads!  50 pictures - that's how many shots I took of that bracelet, and my face is in every single picture! :)

I spent some time shopping online last week for new cabochons, and this hit my mail box on Saturday (sorry again - quick picture with my I-Phone). Look at the flash in the Labradorite and Abalone! I have never had good luck buying Labradorite (with flash) online - usually, the stones do not have that flash-just an abundance of gray. These are from Irene's shop Iwooshop on Etsy (link here). That is not a large cabachon...maybe I will get that ring made!

If you have ever read my blog, you know that my heart belongs to animals. Well, Miracle Horse Rescue suffered a loss last week - Levi died peacefully in his sleep - he was almost 33 years old.  He had been with Stephanie and Rob for the past 12 years, so you know he was loved on daily. Rest In Peace, sweet Levi!

On the bright side, Millie is in foal and is about to have her baby ... any minute now! Stephanie loves on her daily and has reported that she has the sweetest disposition! She is a recent arrival at MHR, taken in from not so perfect conditions. My deepest gratitude to MHR for taking care of each and every horse at their facility.

So...that brings me to this...I am hosting a sale on both my sites (my website or Etsy). Need to raise funds for MHR and this is the only way I know how!

Thanks so very much for stopping by today - I hope to not take as long to blog again! :)


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

All New....All Sterling!

As I type this post on Wednesday evening, I realize it has been a bit more productive week than I had originally thought. I have not been venturing to my studio as much as I would like these days - still a bit under the weather.  But, when I finally make it down there, I realize that it's quality not quantity (at least..that's what I keep telling myself)!

First up is this nifty little ring I made.  I wanted to make at least one more bezel in a cone shape while it was still fresh in my memory from making the sterling silver cuff with a similar focal, back in December.

The ring features a faceted, 10mm Cubic Zirconia - great flash in that stone!  It's really a simple ring - but that focal truly makes it a statement least for me! I soldered on a little concho embellishment at a slight angle on the bottom of the ring.

I hate taking pictures when my own hands have to serve as the model! Macro shots of my skin just make me cringe! :)

The next two pieces were inspired by a technique that Carol Dekle-Foss wrote about on the Love My Art Jewelry Blog - you can read that post here.  Carol is an amazing artist with a repertoire that encompasses metalsmithing, ceramics and porcelain, metal clay - her sand blasted pendants are drool-worthy! (You can see more of Carol's beautiful designs here).  Anyway, her post, which includes a brief video, demonstrated reticulation silver techniques AND Reticulation Silver onto Copper. During the process of melting sterling silver scraps onto the copper, the silver fuses to the copper and produces the most amazing textures!

I started by cutting out two little ovals from copper sheet.  The end result was so tactile - I did not want to punch a hole in the tabs and ruin all that perfect texture.  So, I soldered tiny little jump rings to the back of the tabs, to serve as little bails.  

I recently acquired some amazing Sparkling Rocks lampwork beads from GlassBeadArt, and I think they complement those silver tabs quite well - understated sparkle!

Then, I took a scrap of silver about 2" square, plopped on some silver scrap, and went to melting.  After LOTS of polishing (this technique creates a lot of oxidation which has to be buffed away before you see the beauty of the texture), I saw a free form heart shape! So...without even using a sharpie to outline my shape (EGADS!), I went at it with my jeweler's saw.

I still cannot get over all this texture!

Last, but not least, I got out some of my recently purchase handmade stamps, and made a sterling silver cuff.

It's funny...I have made quite a few spinner-style anticlastic bangles.  The cuff is a constant repetition of forging the cuff into it's oval shape, start the forming of the concave curves and more cuff shape!  I have a new appreciation for this cuff, as it took more concentration on maintaining that classic cuff shape, while still achieving a concave curve.

I  only oxidized the interior to accentuate the stamping - I kept a mirror finish on the outside of the cuff and I really do like that contrast.

That's it - I am spent! :)  Looking at the compilation picture though, at least it is a complete set of jewelry!

I hope to continue visiting new techniques and incorporating them in my work.

Thank you so much for stopping by today!  Have a wonderful rest of the week!


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

And the winner...

by Patti Vanderbloemen

...of this "Two Hearts are Better Than One" necklace


Angela Mullis!  Angi, I have sent you an email with a request for your mailing address! :)

Thank you all for your lovely comments, and for stopping by today!