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Week 27: Creative Challenge 52

How to make a ring

A friend came over yesterday to learn a bit about jewellery making. I taught her how to make her own ring and, while I was at it, I thought I'd show you too. You can make gorgeous pieces with some basic equipment and for very little cost.

make your own ring

If you've followed this blog or looked at my photo galleries, you'll know that I love bold, signature pieces. My friend Kayleen does too, so I thought we'd start with large 'urban edge' style rings. I taught Kayleen how to make one version, and I made a different version myself using the same techniques to show how versatile a basic method can be.

make your own ring steps 1 and 2

Step 1: Cut your silver to size. Silver comes in sheets of different widths. Kayleen and I used silver that was 0.8mm thick and we cut it 2cms wide so the ring bands would be fat and funky. The final step involves cutting your silver to fit the diameter of the finger you want to wear it on. We cut Kayleen's silver to 59mm and mine to 62mm. Note that you need to add an extra 1mm in length when you make wide rings, otherwise they won't fit.

Step 2: Before you do anything else, you need to soften the silver so it's malleable. You do this by applying heat. I use a jeweller's torch now, but I used a cheap propane torch that I bought from Bunnings for a few years before I upgraded my equipment. You'll need a honeycomb or charcoal base with a large brick underneath to place your silver on. Slowly move the flame back and forth over the silver until it begins to glow red. Plunge into cool water and then jeweller's pickle to remove oxidation (this is cheap and easy to obtain from a jewellery supplier).

make your own ring steps 3 and 4

Step 3: Add texture to the silver. Kayleen used the round end of a hammer to create texture on hers and I made scratches on mine. Because my silver was only minimally handled, it stayed nice and malleable, but Kayleen's hardened and needed to be heated again as per step 2.

Step 4: Use pliers to twist the silver so the ends join. Make sure the join is flush or your solder won't take.

Step 5: Your rings are now ready to solder. Apply flux and 'easy' solder (readily available and inexpensive from jewellery suppliers).

Step 6: Heat the ring carefully under dimmed light (so you can clearly see the process unfolding) until the solder flows.

Step 7: Shape your ring on a mandrel. You can use a piece of round dowel if you don't have a mandrel.

make your own ring steps 5 and 6

Step 8: File any added shape you want around the edges of your ring. Kayleen shaped the back of hers so it would be more comfortable to wear, and I created a flowing shape around both edges of mine. Once you're happy with the final shape, file the inside of your ring and the outer edges, starting with coarse files and using increasingly fine files, until the edges are nice and smooth. Take care, also, to file off any excess solder at the join.

Step 9: Soak your ring for a couple of minutes in Liver of Sulphur to get an aged look, then brush the patina back with 0000 steel wool until you get the finish you want. If you take too much off, just soak it in the Liver of Sulphur and start again.

Step 10: Wear and enjoy!

Kayleen's finished ring

Kayleen's finished ring

Scarlet's finished ring

Scarlet's finished ring

Telena Routh

telenas felt dress

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has been experimenting this week with different colours of prefelt, creating this gorgeous two-toned dress.

She's also been making felted hollow beads, cones and flat felt for jewellery. She's building up a collection of these so she can make some colourful accessories to brighten up her winter wardrobe.

Telena's final piece this week is a felted bracelet with slits to reveal the inner layer.

With her daughter's wedding only two weeks away, it's a miracle Telena found time for any creative output at all.

telenas felt jewellery

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been at an indie book fair this weekend with an Allaboutwriting exhibit. Their short story book,  36 Hours, was delivered to the fair on Friday and Trish is pleased to report that quite a few copies were picked up by interested readers. Richard gave a talk about the contract between reader and writer, and he also moderated a panel discussion. So...a successful weekend!

36 Hours

With the book fair consuming much of her time, Trish found herself with a creative challenge at an impromptu supper she and Richard held on Friday night - she needed an emergency dessert. Trish had bought some Brie and Camember, but after the main course, she thought the plain cheese seemed boring and she wondered how she could make it more special and festive.

She whipped through her cupboard and found preserved figs, quinces and ginger. Trish poured the syrups into a pan and added bay leaves, black pepper, star anise and cinnamon. She let the syrups bubble away for a while, then added the fruits and heated them through. Then she simply poured the whole lot over the cheese and added some almonds. Delicious!

Check out Trish's fabulous food blog for more of her exciting food adventures.

Trishs Festive Dessert

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been up to his impressive sequin tricks again. He's loving his creation this week, largely for the unintentional irony he generated. The choice of sequins for this delightful project initially gave him some concern - too pale and pastel. Three letters in and he feared an unpicking was on the horizon, but then he had a change of heart and thought, 'what could be less intimidating and more ridiculous than this t-shirt in pastel sequins?'

So Kanen persevered and he felt happier and happier as he neared completion. Now he thinks it's a masterpiece of understatement, irony and glamour.

kanens sequined shirt

What the photos don't show is the gorgeous opalescent sheen on the sequins which really catches the light with a pale blue/green flash - perhaps not so understated after all.

Kanen thinks he'll wear his creation to Jacqui's Aida opening night next weekend, possibly even with the gold lapel jacket. 'Too much of a good thing?' he asks. Never!

Security in Sequins

Keryn Clark

keryns floral shoe fetish
keryns babys breath

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, decided, this week, to get creative with some vessels that were lying around the shop, and also with a few bunches of baby's breath from the fridge. Remy argued that they needed to keep the baby's breath in the fridge in case an order came in. Keryn insisted it would be better out forming some kind of display. Ad break for clash of the titans - Keryn won. No sooner was the baby's breath fluffed out and in the vase when someone walked in and said 'I have to have them'. The five words retailers most like to hear.

Keryn has appealed to Kanen's shoe fetish for her creative challenge with this artistic interpretation of flowers on the soles of her foot. One foot sold within moments of being put on display. That leaves just one more to go...

kanens floral feet

Stephen Bennett

Steve was very excited to find a Lubitel Twin Lens Reflex roll film camera (1960) for $35 in a secondhand shop last weekend, and he couldn't wait to put it through its paces. Fortunately, Georgia was all dolled up with a new outfit and fresh from the hair salon, so she agreed to pose for a series of photos. The camera worked perfectly and here are a couple of the shots of Georgia.

singer songwriter Georgia Bennett

Steve also found time this week to process films shot in the Blue Mountains a few weeks ago. These photos are of the Cathedral of Ferns at Mt Wilson, taken with his beloved Hasselblad.

Cathedral of Ferns

Week 17: Creative Challenge

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, abandoned her kitchen in favour of other creative pursuits this past week.

Trishs Landscape Panorama

She's been holidaying with family in Magaliesburg, and she took the opportunity to take some awesome photos of her surrounds. You may remember that developing her photography skills was one of Trish's goals when we embarked on the year-long creative challenge. She's certainly succeeding on that front.

Trishs Sunset Diptych

Trish had a problem to solve when she returned home to Johannesburg. Richard needed to use their newly renovated office for meetings and the weather was unpleasantly hot. No problem for a creative like Trish. She whipped up this impressive awning in the blink of an eye. She says she was tempted to take a leaf out of Kanen Breen's book and paint stripes on it (note that she didn't go as far as sequins, glitter and seed beads), but it was too hot to faff about with decorations. They needed a cool office and they needed it fast. Nice work, Trish!

Trishs Awning

As the office window faces out onto their vegetable garden, Trish took a few quick snaps in her garden too. She often throws some marigold and nasturtium seeds into the garden when she's planting cabbages in the hope that they'll deter some of insects that love chewing away on her cabbage crops. This year they've self-sown in an attractive line at the base of the passion fruit and are flowering and looking beautiful. She also reports that her gem squashes are flourishing and that she's got enough tomatoes to regularly enjoy tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella salads. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Trishs Garden

Kanen Breen

On the rebound from another two sell-out cabaret performances at The Vanguard in Newtown, opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has renewed his passion (or should I say, fetish) for shoes.

He bought these converse sneakers because he liked the zipper effect, but they were originally a camouflage design which had no appeal, so he painted them green with his trusty fabric paint. He never really liked the colour he chose (too forest green and he has nothing to wear with that colour scheme), so he rarely ever wore them.

After a couple of years in Jacqui's garage where nature took its course with damp as its ally, and they went even greener - mould green to be exact. Kanen made a half-hearted attempt to resuscitate them, but the paint started coming off and he was going to consign them to the bin when he suddenly thought...'Now come on, don't give up, get creative!' Fabric glue, glitter and masking tape later and we have a re-born pair of shoes just gagging to get grooving. Kanen has a feeling these little lovelies won't have any time to gather moss as they stride out with pride and just a hint of gay abandon.

He says, 'I'm back, baby. How I've missed the shoe transforming caper. More to come, methinks...'

Brace yourselves, people.

Kanens Shoes

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, is on the move tonight, at a farewell function before she flies out of Perth at 5am tomorrow morning to her new home in the Gold Coast. Safe journey, Keryn, and we look forward to seeing you back in full creative form next week.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has had a painful week in more ways than one. She's been unable to create new textiles - ouch! - because she took a slice out of the middle finger on her right hand on a rotary cutter (with the blade protector in place).

Fortunately, she has a very impressive body of work to draw on while she's incapacitated, and she's showcasing some garments from her own collection this week.

The good news is that even with her injured finger, Telena is still able to knit, so she's planning to mass produce squares and blankets for Wrap with Love. Perhaps there really is a silver lining in every cloud.

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been in Sydney this week, enjoying her last holiday away from home for this summer. Inspired by the gorgeous clothes she bought while she was away - shopping mostly in Newtown's alternative boutiques - she came home determined to create a sewing nook in her bedroom that she can leave set-up and ready to go. Her first project is to make a pattern from this cute little fitted skirt, and then to make another skirt in stretchy black fabric.

Georgias Sewing Nook

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a fiddly week organising (and ordering) tools to finish the kitchen re-build. He's finished the painting this week and properly installed the range hood. He's fitted skirting boards behind the stove and put up architraves around the door. So, nothing glamorous, he says, but lots of necessary finishing up. His next task - once the router bit he's waiting on arrives - is to build the timber cupboard doors.

Kitchen Before
Kitchen After

In the midst of building our kitchen, he also found time to set up a portrait shoot for me. I needed a new head shot for my work, and I'm fortunate indeed to have a live-in photographer at hand. One man, five minutes. Sorted!

Scarlet Bennett

Scarlet bennett

I've been busy on a number of creative fronts this week. I finished a necklace that I started last week. The choker is made from blue sky jasper, all the findings are sterling silver, and the pendant is a mixed media creation featuring a dried nigella flower from my garden. If you look closely you'll see a subtle industrial edge - the border embellishments on the pendant are star washers from the hardware store.

Blue Sky Jasper Nigella Pendant

I've also been drying flowers for use in future jewellery creations.

Scarlets Dried Flowers

I've been flat out in the garden, getting rid of summer weeds, planting fresh batches of lettuce, beet, radish, silverbeet, chia, celtuce, sugarbeet and basil. And I've been harvesting, harvesting, harvesting... You can't imagine how much produce my garden is currently producing. The sample below was just what I picked for today's lunch, and it's an understatement to say that this didn't make a dent in my available produce.

Summer harvest

I was fortunate enough to receive a Sedona food dehydrator for Christmas (just in time to turn our ripening stone fruit into delicious fruit leather), and I've been experimenting with lots of different recipes using this extraordinary machine. A particular highlight this week was my homemade muesli bars. Full of nothing but pure, life-enhancing ingredients, these bars have to be tasted to be believed - so much better than anything you can buy at the supermarket. Here they are half way through the drying process on a Sedona tray, and served with a nice cup of tea at the end of a busy afternoon in the garden. Just the ticket.

Scarlets Muesli Bars
Muesli bars with tea