Sunday, January 30, 2011

ME: Learning Why Upholstered Furniture is So Damn Expensive

Another damn snowstorm, a class canceled. Just one of those things to get used to when living in New England. But even without class, I still got a few things accomplished this week.

The first thing I managed to squeeze in (between snow storms) was buying the basic supplies to start upholstering the chair. My first stop was New England Upholstery Supply to pick up my magnetic hammer, tacks, jute, ruby twine, foam, muslin, and a bunch of other stuff. That first stop was pricey, around $250, but I bought some expensive tools and supplies for both chairs (and enough for probably a 3rd or possibly a 4th.)

Then I headed up Zimman's in search of the perfect upholstery fabric. The great thing about Zimman's is the fact that they sell designer fabrics to the public and for reasonable prices. Now, the interesting part is that Sal wanted to come join me because these will be living in our house and he, well, questions my style. After 2 hours and a time-out, we picked the fabric.

We went with a natural tone heavy woven cotton (similar to a linen weave) with French script fabric and a complimentary deep tea colored linen for the seat. Total on fabric... $200 for 2 chairs (the top of my budget.)

The funny part is the fact that I was a little worried about the French fabric being too busy. I would hate to do all this work and be sick of the chairs by time I was done. Well, while doing a Google search for 'fabric chair' to just see what is out there, I came across an image of the fabric I bought! So, when I clicked on it, I found this...

... an ENTIRE chair upholstered in the fabric! And it's not horrible! It's actually really nice! Very classic, rather neutral but still whimsical.

And it's an $850 chair to boot! So, I can't feel so badly spending $30 for my two chairs plus another $150 each in materials.

I did get a little more work done, but that's for another blog post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

GS: Little Bits of This & That

Along with the engagement rings and pieces from my Etsy shop, during the holidays I got a few orders for some small custom pieces. They are all very specific to the clients that they were made for, as are all of my bespoke pieces, but these few pieces had very particular subject matters.

My first was a pair of sterling silver dragon cufflinks. The dragon pattern was designed to be an "S" shape for the client's name. We went with a distressed/antiqued finish to give it that Mortal Kombat vibe. I think we were successful!

Next was a gold pendant with the profile of a Newfoundland dog. A high polish finish on top an engraved pattern helped create a natural texture. Also, the pendant has a tear drop bail hidden in the back to accommodate multiple sized chains.

And finally, a pair of 4 leaf clover cufflinks. Simple and clean in sterling silver... and hopefully lucky.

Don't be surprised if you happen to see these offered on my Etsy page for Saint Patty's Day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

GS: Sometimes love isn't up to me

I always say I love to make love happen. Unfortunately, sometimes it's not up to me.

Every once in a great while an engagement or marriage doesn't work. It's a fact of life. And unfortunately, this weekend I found out 2 of my client's relationships are over. And I was devastated. I know this is strange, but I invest a great deal into making these marriages happen. I know, I know, in the whole grand scheme of things, this is a drop in the bucket. But I spend so much time with either one or both people in the relationship that I like to think I helped move their relationship onto the next step in their lives.

I get to know them on a personal level. I hear stories... about how they met, what they do, where they live, trips, family, what they love about each other... it goes on and on. And all of this is taken into consideration when I design and build their piece of jewelry, their something special. And I'm not sure how or where, but during this whole process of building my jewelry company, I became really empathetic.

So, when a relationship ends, it effects me. I think it really just comes down to the fact that I think my clients are very special. You have to be a special person to want to spend weeks designing a ring... getting everything just perfect. I'm not saying that they care more than people who buy rings out of the case, but lots of them pay attention to the little details.

Please don't get me wrong... I'm not completely self absorbed. I know the universe doesn't revolve around me. I just feel for these people. Everybody deserves to be happy, and that's all I want. Is that asking too much?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ME: Changing Things Up

Sometime we all need to change things up. Whether it's a different brand of cereal or a new haircut or a new car, we all need a something different in our lives once in a while. When I need to shake things up I either move to a foreign country or I take a class. And seeing I'm married now I can't really run away... so, by default, it was time to learn something new.

This may seem odd, but I always wanted to learn how to upholster furniture. While you all know that I love working with my hands, sometimes I just don't want to work in metal (I think that's why I enjoy baking so much) and that's larger than a nickel. So, I signed up for this upholstery class at the Eliot School in Jamaica Plain.

The funny part is the day I signed up for the class I popped over to Goodwill to donate some clothing and I spotted a chair.

Actually, a pair of chairs. Horribly ugly 1950's goldenrod yellow slipper (roll back) chairs. And after having read the restrictions on the piece of furniture to bring to class (no couches or chaise, strongly suggests no arms or wing-backs for your first project, etc) and it has webbing and springs and padding and wood and fabric and so many different parts to fix, I knew this was the perfect match. It was fate! I knew I had to have them. AND they were $15 each! How could I pass that up?!?!

So, today was my first day of class. The first step is to strip the chair of the horrible goldenrod fabric...

... lo and behold it is NOT a 1950's chair! It was re-upholstered in the 1950's but it is actually from the late 1800's or early 1900's. There were many different clues once you started stripping away...

... like multiple layers of fabrics...

... and horse hair stuffing...

... and stitched (not stretched) webbing...

... and layers of straw stuffing...

... and LOTS of tack holes!

I'm at the point of the chair being nearly stripped and so excited to learn what comes next!

The hard part is repeating all the steps on the second chair at home... fingers crossed I don't destroy anything!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

GS: What happened to the Oscar Challenge?

I know, I haven't mentioned the Oscar Challenge in a while. Well... what can I say, I scrapped the idea. Literally.

It basically came down to the fact that the price of gold is so damn high! My original budget that I came up with was completely blown out of the water as the price of gold kept rising. Now, I did buy a good portion of the stones & about 1/3 of the 18K needed... and I did start building it. But then I became really concerned with the fact that I couldn't afford to buy more of the materials... so I sat on it.

It is just really difficult because I didn't expect the price to go up even higher than when we started. Yes, I know the market is constantly in flux, but I just didn't expect it to spike to an all time high. Ugh.

So... just like many other pieces of the past, it was worth more dead than alive. I was still hesitant about scrapping it, but after many talks with Sal, he reassured me that I will have another chance to build this because the metal market is a bubble and it will burst sooner rather than later.

And with that, I bit my lip, added everything to the scrap pile that was sent in for refining and tucked away the design for another day. I did save a few pieces for a couple funky rings to put on my Etsy and I already started using the sapphires for other projects. Oh, and I got a nice chunk of change from my refining that I can invest right back into the business (and put towards my student loans.)

But don't worry, there are plenty of projects coming up! I have a bunch of designs in the works (and I'm a little afraid that all of these projects will have the same deadline... but it will keep me moving!)

And, one day, I will build my bracelet.

Monday, January 03, 2011

GS: A Royal Knock off

Years ago, an Industrial Design Prof. once said 'If you are going to steal a design, steal a good one and make it better.' But apparently this isn't the rule with knock offs.

I was doing cardio at the gym, attempting to ignore Fox News on the tv in front of me, when an ad for a 'Royal Ring' that caught my eye. And even from my elliptical I could see that the only thing it had in common with the Princess Diana/Kate Middleton engagement ring was a oval blue rock and some white stones surrounding it. The ring was missing major details that would make it a replica.

Now, maybe these are details that only a jeweler would notice. But I think this could be a good way for everybody to learn a little about jewelry design and the anatomy of a ring.

The ring to the left is Diana's ring and the right is 'replica' ring.

So, the overall look is a blue oval stone surrounded by white stones in a white metal. Can those 3 design elements make a replica? Notice the white stones surrounding the center. On Royal ring there are full cut round white diamonds, 14 to be exact, while the replica has 8 oval cz's.

Unfortunately I cannot get a close up of the royal engagement ring, but even from this distance you can see that the original has a thin/dainty band. The replica has a wide split shank. The original actually has a split to the shank too, but it is to add height to the band in order to support the height of the head and stones.

Finally, the last obvious visual difference is the type of prongs. On the original ring has a good amount of prongs that have a 'claw' like feel. The replica has typical rounded top prongs that is on most jewelry today.

And then there are differences in the specs of the rings, as in:

Princess Diana Ring Royal Ring Knock off

Centre Stone Genuine Ceylon Sapphire
12 cts Deep Cut
Oval Faceted Faux Ceylon Sapphire 5.65 ct

Surrounding Gemstones 14 Brilliant Cut Diamonds 8 oval cz's 3.6cts

18kt Silver
Made By Garrard, London. The World’s Oldest Jeweler Who the hell knows

Price 1981 Price thought to be £30,000 or $48,000. Reported to have since been valued at £250,000 or $400,000.00 $19.90

So, overall, this is a fairly poor replica (even though it comes with a certificate of authenticity and a decorative velveteen ring box.) But if you are looking for a fun piece of costume jewelry to wear for a few times before it fall apart or is lost, twenty bucks isn't a bad deal.


Apparently I found one of the BETTER knock offs! This one, offered by QVC is nearly double in price & much worse quality.

When you look at it closely you will notice the THE STONES AREN'T EVEN SET! It's glue! There are fake prongs to add the appearance of being set, but they aren't pushed over the stones... and there aren't even fake prongs around the center stone. Also, the shank is completely wrong because it is too heavy and with milgrain added to it. But, worst of all, is the fact that the center stone isn't even close to the same color of blue.

These replicas are just getting worse and worse!
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