Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wire Rapt

I have a new hobby. Well, no, that's a bit of a lie. I have a new variation of an old hobby. It's all about rocks.

Pretty ones.

Sparkly shiny colorful ones.

I was always the kid walking along nose down looking for a pretty rock to pick up. Not always even pretty. Sometimes just uniquely lumpy, or stripey, or textured in a pleasing manner. To me, anyway. Mostly they'd be kinda ugly, especially in retrospect, like when Mom would be "helping" me clean out my room.

My biggest impediment to the hobby was growing up in the one small bit of Minnesota without agates. I see them all over these days, but never found them when I was young. Minnesota agates are characteristically narrowly striped in shades of reddish brown and white. I brought home pocketfuls of quartz, or feldspar, even chert, hoping that they would somehow redefine themselves as agates overnight, but they never would. Eventually we moved, and suddenly agate chips were all over the place. My best find ever was a spot along Lake Superior - nevermind where - that was/is easy to access by the public and where every square foot of tumbled rocks yielded at least one agate, some as big as a cubic inch!


On occasions when there was spare change to be spent, I'd buy polished agates. When older, I'd go for agate/geode bookends, or agate slice mobiles, and drool over the truly fancy, pricey stuff. Once the kids were grown and gone, I had a bit more money to spend, and in my wanderings on line discovered snuff bottles carved from rocks. They seemed to be exclusively made in China, and back in those days were quite inexpensive on the whole. Then the Chinese rediscovered their cultural heritage at the same time they developed a capitalisted middle class, and prices skyrocked. 

The bottles were my education in various rocks and minerals. I'd never before heard of all the different jaspers, or agates defined by something other than state of origin, like Minnesota or Montana. New terms like dendritic, plume or drusy entered my agate vocabulary, along with rhodonite, labradorite, malachite, pietersite, charoite, chrysocolla, sodalite, azurite, and on and on.

But snuff bottles are hard to display, and nobody else seems to appreciate them, much less know they even exist. So I was more than receptive when a friend offered to show me how to properly string beads together. If nothing else, it offered me a whole new way to collect and enjoy rocks. There was the added bonus of being able to make presents for others. Eventually, however, there are only so many ways to string rocks and glass together. I needed to find more options, or some way to expand the jewelry making. Using up my rather large supplies of beads would be a bonus, and finding a market would be even better.

I thought about learning wire wrapping, but the local classes were offered during working hours, and I was not going to take time off work. But then, of course, retirement forced its way into my life. Suddenly I had an abundance of time. I just needed lessons.

Somehow I was smart enough to relocate into a retirement community that provides lots of activities - for a modest price - including a club called Sterling and Stones. I can make everything I could possible need to make jewelry. Major equipment is available, along with training, supervision where needed, classes, ideas, networking. I can see other people's products, buy - or even sell - on site, or off.

My first class was wire wrapping, using relatively inexpensive copper wire. Class taught us how to make three projects: a bracelet of all wire, plus a pendant and a ring each incorporating a stone cabochon. One thing our instructor stressed was the availability of free patterns for different kinds of projects on line. I started researching those, found other kinds of wrapping, other styles of projects. I suddenly had a bazillion ideas, dozens ways of implementing each, ways of incorporating stones, wires, crystals, varieties of metals. I can start with cabochons, or a single bead, go anywhere. Pendants appeal the most, but now I can even make my own earrings. If rings appealed I could do those, but I was shown how to cut through the band of a ring and use the cut wires to integrate the mounted stone into a wire bracelet.

I'm fascinated. (Go figure, eh?) Tools are being located, ideas being hatched, cabs and wires ordered. It's much cheaper if they come from, say, Hong Kong or India, using economy mail rates. Translation: next month or even March. So I'm chomping at the bit, imagining all the projects I can create, while waiting for supplies. I've gone through the two cases of already acquired beading supplies, seeing how this works with that, what still might be needed, how leftovers gain new life. I see projects while I'm trying to read, or flick through commercial breaks, or prepare a meal. I go back over plans, finding new questions, new possibilities, toss out ideas for others, and pretend I'm still normal.

I am, simply put, wire rapt.

(Oh, and those of you on my X-mas present list, be warned for next year. I'm thinking about you!)

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