Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Writing 'energy'

I am an author. I write.

But I'm not very disciplined, so I write when I can in the day, and try to write every day, even if it's not on the current novel.

However, I've noticed that I only seem to have a certain amount of 'writing energy'. By which, I mean the amount of time I can write for without my brain getting fuddled and needing a break on some other creative project.

That's part of the reason I've not been blogging so much recently. It's not that I've not been up to anything - far from it! Writing-wise, I've been putting together the text for a website, dealing with the history of Charnwood International camps (I wrote a couple of blogs about it after Charnwood 2016). I've also been editing Rurik-Reeka-Tilda for the umpteenth time - a task I set myself voluntarily which has now become rather more urgent as I've had some interest from a publisher and need to get it finished. Add to that sorting out NIBS writing exercises, tweaking some short stories for a couple of competitions, oh, and everything else that makes for a busy Squidge household, and the energy to write is spread too thin and becomes rapidly depleted.

I know it's all getting too much when I start to 'flit' from one thing to another, not really making headway on anything. 'Jack of all trades, master of none', isn't that how the saying goes?

What should be my priority? If I don't crack on with the current WIP, I won't have anything else to publish (fingers crossed). If I don't enter comps, I won't stand any chance at all of maybe, possibly, getting placed. And if I don't get the history finished, I'm letting someone down who's relying on me.

So, if I'm a little quieter on here over the next couple of weeks, you'll at least know it's because my writing energy is needed elsewhere, and not that I've given up blogging! Normal service should resume about Mid-March...

And just to prove I do do things other than write, here's a pic of me and Mr Squidge (along with George the dog and his owner!), planting hedgerow in a field. Cos, y'know, sometimes you just have to be doing something different...

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Diary of a Rookie Silversmith: Part 3

This is going to be a short one.

I'd got as far as succesfully soldering my 'tree' onto the base disc of my pendant, and choosing a stone in Part 2, and then things stalled a bit.

In two further sessions, I've made a stone setting and soldered it to the pendant. Which doesn't sound like a lot, and isn't, really. I'm discovering that a lot of the time is taken up by waiting to ask a question (I'm not the only person there, and everyone else had questions too!), waiting to use various bits of kit (I do try to organise myself so I can get on with something else, but that's not always possible) or getting to grips with a technique.

For example...

I made the double-skinned tube setting for the stone;

Cut the sheet metal...

Cut one portion slighter narrower than the other and
file them both even (thin one for the inside)

Solder the two sheets together, form a ring, and solder again...

But - it stood really high on the pendant, so I knew it needed to be filed down. I started with rough sandpaper. Took an age. Lex saw me, and introduced me to a small vice which I could clamp the setting into, and a metal file. Lovely - potential to file a lot quicker. Except the setting kept jumping out of the vice (I was filing it in the wrong direction!) and I didn't seem to be making much headway in reducing the depth of the tube. Cue Lex again - she asked if I wanted some help. After about half an hour's filing with no real impact, I said yes please... I could see straightaway that she was removing a lot more silver than I'd managed, with just one swipe of the file - what was her secret?

It turned out to be strength - she showed me how much force she was using by pressing against my hand; it was a lot! I admit that Lex ended up filing the tube down to the right amount in the end...but I didn't mind. I was still learning by watching her, and to be honest, my frustration at my own lack of progress was beginning to impact on what I was achieving.

So I am learning as I go along - learning lots! - but it does mean that everything takes so much more time than I thought it would, and I'm having to rein in my expectations of what I can achieve in the time available to me.

I did manage to get the reduced depth stone setting soldered onto the base disc (and Lex tells me my soldering is improving - hooray!), so next week's tasks are filing the top edge of the setting so it can be bent over the stone, soldering a bale onto the back, actually setting the stone, and polishing. I might actually get it finished...?

All set to solder - spot the little blue squares inside the setting?

Friday, 2 February 2018

Dairy of a Rookie Silversmith: Part 2

This really ought to be titled 'Part 2, almost' because I haven't got as far as I'd have liked to by week 4 of my course, thanks to an inability to solder. 

You might remember I'm on a silversmithing course, and in Part 1, I described my first project: a pinky ring. 

I'd collected images of things I'd like to try for my second project, so I talked a few over with Lex (the tutor) to see which she thought would be best to tackle as a rookie. Have to say, Lex is willing to give anything a go, so I settled on making a pendant, and went home at the end of week 2 to produce a life sized template of my design. 

I'd already begun to play with the original abstract design I'd found, turning it into a recognisable 'tree', I was able in the back end of week 2 to assemble and prep my materials. I chose a 'pebble' textured rolled silver sheet for the base disc, and cut lengths of different thickness wires to use for the 'branches' and 'trunk'. 

The raw materials of a tree pendant

I needed to cut the base disc, so I had a practise on a little bit of copper first, because a curve is rather hard to achieve smoothly. I was very pleased with the end result of my practise though, and got the knack of turning sharp corners - even though there shouldn't be any on my disc!

Practising on copper

Then it was onto the silver - and boy, was it hard work. You just have to keep on sawing, because it's hard to take the saw blade away from your work. I think it took me about 15 minutes to end up with this;

My base disc
And these!!

Fingers covered in silver dust after my epic sawing session!

At home, I played around with my designs for the 'tree' and settled on one. I added colour to indicate stones, but as that's one of the last things to attach, it didn't have to be (no pun intended) set in stone at this point. 

Week 3 saw me preparing everything I'd need to make my tree. The trunk was a 2mm wire, flattened along it's length to a variety of widths. I learnt that depending on how you place your wire, you'll either get an increase in width or in length. I got a bit of both! And it gets to a point where the metal starts to 'ting' when you hit it instead of making a 'thud' - which is an indicator that you need to anneal the metal to soften it up again. It's also easier to put any curve into wires before you flatten them, as it's too hard to do it afterwards. The branches, cut to length from 1.8mm wire were also slightly flattened at one end, which I filed flat so they'd sit snugly in line with the trunk...

Playing with designs and bits of 'branch'

The end result - looks a pretty good match

Even better when placed on the base disc

The base disc was annealed, flattened, and then it was on to soldering.

I am terrible at soldering! Three times, I tried to solder just the trunk to the disc, and three times it didn't work properly. Lex had to help me in the end, and there were still gaps. It might be because the base is quite thick, so heating up the silver to soldering point is difficult to get right, and it might also be because I've not really soldered anything other than one joint in my pinky ring, and I simply need to improve.

Whatever the reason, I began week 4 by revisiting the soldering of the trunk and adding the branches. After the first attempt, two branches fell off. 

All set up on the blocks, ready to heat from underneath

The frustrating thing is that whenever you solder, you have to pickle your piece again before resoldering, which takes time. Anyway...between me and Lex (mainly Lex!) and with extra pallions, we finally got the branches on securely and the whole thing pickled.

The finally-soldered, pickled piece
(which is why it looks white)
Now I could really crack on. Next step - doming. I had to use a small wooden peg (not metal, as it would've flattened my blood-sweat-and-tears soldered bits!) to bash my pendant until it took on the shape of the dome mould. You can see in the second pic that it has a lovely shallow curve to it.

Ready to hit...

The finished dome

There wasn't much time to do any more metalwork (you might have spotted that my trunk's a bit long, and needs to be sawn or filed down, for eg) but there was time to choose stones.

Now my original design had three, dotted around the branches. But in light of my poor soldering skill, I decided to cut it down to one. Lex allowed me to look through her stone box, and I made the mistake first of picking cabochons, not faceted stones. But eventually I found these two beauties; I just couldn't decide which to go for.


...or clear?

In the end, I went for the clear stone, because I wear a lot of colour and would not want to limit myself to what I can wear with my finished pendant! 

So that's where I am at the moment. Next week, I'll be making a setting for the stone, soldering it into the base (eeek!) and also soldering a bale on the back before polishing it up. I hope so, anyway...

And meanwhile, I'm beginning to think about my third project. I want to make myself a silver ring with a clear stone in it, to wear on my wedding finger permanently to mark my silver wedding anniversary. Not too much soldering in that one, thank goodness!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Back on the Wagon

For the first time in weeks - maybe months! - I'm writing again. Still working on the oldie, but beginning to get a feel for the voice of the MC, now that I know who she is.

It's been a while, and I admit to having procrastinated left, right, and centre while I've tried to work out the HUMUNGOUS plot problems I discovered re the MC's motivation.

I have procrastinated with quilting. With knitting. With facebook. With looking up vicar job descriptions (No - not me! Ours is leaving after nearly 20 years with us and as I shall be standing for one of the churchwarden posts later this year, I could be involved in the process of finding a new one). With jewellery making (Part 2 of Diary of a Rookie Silversmith will come soon - but it's taking me a LOT longer to complete the pendant I'm working on than I expected, thanks to my inability to solder properly.) I have written a short story. And I have read.

All of that's fine, but it took me away from the WIP in terms of writing time. Did it help any? Don't know really. I have had time to think about the story and the new MC, so perhaps the break did me good. But the sense of frustration in knowing that I'm NOT writing and I ought to be has been difficult to overcome. A 'can't see the woods for trees' kind of moment, where you know you need to crack on, but don't quite know where to start.

Hopefully, now I'm back on the wagon, I'll stay on it.