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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Treasure Hunt

Now that I live on the South side of Des Moines there are all kinds of fun new places to explore. This is where we lived when we first moved here five years ago, but after a year or so we moved to West Des Moines where chain restaurants and strip malls rule.  Now, we're back in the old town (and, with the best view of the skyline.) There are a lot of old shops, thrift stores that actually charge thrifty prices (sorry Goodwill), run down little hole in the wall places and a couple of permanent flea markets where people rent spaces to sell their old "junk."

  I love these places. One day while wandering I discovered a glass enclosed cabinet filled with fossils, geodes, different cabochons and polished stones, semi-precious, and lots of other goodies underpriced and just begging to be wrapped up in copper wire. I've been back three times.  One particularly great score has been dyed agate slices. I'm not usually one for...unnatural or dyed stones, but these have proved very popular and once they're wrapped I love them too. And, they're so fun to work with.

 I came up with this design on Thursday and sold the piece that very night.

The next day I went back and bought a few more including this purple agate slice.

If you're interested in any of my handcrafted jewelry, please check me out on Facebook or send me a comment. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
Click here and give me a thumbs up! Leah Hoffman Jewelry Design on Facebook
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I'm also on Pinterest:  Leah Hoffman on Pinterest

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Work in Retail...

I've been aching to get my jewelry into a retail setting for a while now.  But,  I wasn't really sure if anyone would want my jewelry on their store shelves.  I can be so afraid of rejection.
 I asked a friend if she knew of any retailers locally that did consignment for artisan jewelry.  She mentioned a place in downtown Des Moines, a little boutique called Green Goods for the Home (however, if it were me I'd call it Green Goods for Yourself as the bulk of their merchandise seems to be accessories, jewelry, lotions and really cool bags to keep your stuff in.)  They specialize in fair trade items, local art, natural products that are earth friendly.

So I decided to take a chance. A cold call, if you will.
I sent the shop owner an email along with a few pictures of some of my latest work.
I quickly got a response.  A very positive one. Her sister-in-law is the in house artisan jeweler and she wanted to talk it over with her.  As luck would have it, she loved my jewelry as well. She asked me to come in with my jewelry and we agreed on a time.  That evening, I went to a craft store to buy a few things for my display when I was approached by a nicely dressed woman. She asked me if I made the jewelry I was wearing. I told her yes. She explained that she owned a store and that she loved my style and thought my jewelry would be a perfect addition to her shop.  I gave her my card.

When it came time for my appointment at Green Goods I brought all of my jewelry to the counter and I talked about each piece.  I got a lot of positive feedback.   While I was talking to the shop owners about my jewelry a woman came up and bought one of my Viking Knit bracelets.  I think that's a good sign. They took me upstairs where I was shown a lit display cabinet where all of my jewelry would be displayed. It was far more than I ever anticipated. I spent the next two hours setting up my display. RAGBRAI is coming through Des Moines this week, I hope I can sell some jewelry to some of the folks who are passing through.

If I can keep this momentum going, I will be a very happy lady.

Some FACTS About Copper (Courtesy of Oak City Gallery)

I ran into a great site, Oak City Gallery. It's the website of artisan jeweler Julie Teeple and she's carved (literally) a niche in the metal clay jewelry market.   One thing in particular that I wanted to share was her Q/A about copper.  As you know, copper does tend to tarnish and it does tend to turn (some people's) skin green with prolonged contact.  I do not coat my copper, I leave that to the customer. It's a personal preference. I have found that using lacquers take away from the natural patina and shine that I work so hard to get.  If my customers want to coat the inside of their ring bands with clear nail polish, that's their decision, but I've found that coating the jewelry itself it just tarnishes under the clear coat, and looks dull and it eventually flakes off.  With wire weaving, the clear coat can settle in the intricate pattern and bubble. It ends up taking away from the beauty of the piece, and when it starts to wear off those flakes can get stuck in the weave.  That's why I don't coat my copper.  HOWEVER, I'd love to try the "Renaissance Wax" that she speaks of in the article.  This stuff seems like it would be awesome.  Anyone have experience using "Renaissance Wax" please comment below.

From Oak City Gallery:

Copper is antimicrobial and doesn't harm the skin in any way. What's "antimicrobial"? An antimicrobial is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoan's, as well as destroying viruses. Copper is also an antibacterial as well as an antifungal agent and used in the treatment of skin disease and wounds today as it was thousands of years ago. Of course thousands of years ago they didn't know all of this; they simply used it because it helped. Copper is also used in UD's for birth control because of its factors.
Copper is a trace element needed for healthy growth and function of bones, collagen, the brain, the heart, the skin and immune system. Copper is contained throughout our bodies and in our hair.
Fabrics have been impregnated with copper and used in everyday applications.

Hospital uses
Bandages, dermal wound products and gauze. Used in bedding, gowns, uniforms, towels, catheters, gloves, curtains and masks.

Military Use
Used by the military and police services worldwide in their uniforms.

Used in underwear, socks, and other items which need protection against degradation by fungus and bacteria and thus reducing odor, stains, and deterioration which is caused by fungi and bacteria.

Copper is used in many cosmetic products, as well as in cosmetic applications.
Copper bracelets have been worn for hundreds of years in the belief of reducing or helping Arthritic and Rheumatic diseases. People also look to copper for its healing properties in improving the circulation of blood, increasing energy, detoxification, reducing inflammation, stabilizing metabolism and improving oxygen use. While research information I checked numerous medical sites and found that copper is used extensively for the aforementioned.
Understand that I lay no claim to being an expert on the healing properties of copper. I've simply gathered a few reverent facts about copper to help you feel at ease with wearing copper jewelry.
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Let's review some basic information about copper or any other metal turning your skin green.

If it hasn't happened to you yet, sooner or later a piece of jewelry that you may wear will turn your skin either greenish or some other unsightly color. The worst jewelry that stains your skin is plated jewelry, especially gold plated. It's because base metal (mostly the inexpensive kind) is plated with gold or silver, or copper. The plating will eventually wear off the metal; it's the metal which begins to oxidize. The better or thicker the plating the more time it will take to wear off.
So why can or does your skin turn green while wearing copper? It's known as the oxidation reaction. The copper reacts with oxygen in the air, your sweat and skin oils creating a green layer of copper carbonate on your skin. Relax; it shouldn't be anything to be concerned about, it just looks terrible. Most likely you're not allergic to the copper, very few people are. Simply keep your copper clean and dry and remove any oil or sweat which may be on your jewelry. It's as simple as that.
If your skin does turn color from jewelry, you may notice it more on different parts of your body. Rings which are worn close to the skin are the worst because of no air circulation between your finger and the ring. Your finger sweats and produces oils which are trapped between your finger and the ring.
Bracelets have air circulation between your wrist and the bracelet thus doesn't seem to produce as much discoloration of your skin. If you wear a copper bracelet or cuff that is tight against the skin, then most likely you'll have discoloration much like a ring.
Pendants worn over your clothes won't discolor because they aren't in contact with your sweat or skin oils. Pendants worn against the skin tend to move causing air circulation between the pendant and your skin. Unless you're a sweaty and oily person and jewelry tends to stick to your skin, you shouldn't have any discoloration.
There are plenty of people who wear copper pendants, chains, or bracelets almost every day and everywhere including the shower and seldom take their copper jewelry off. It doesn't turn their skin colors, why? Simply put it's because they are keeping the jewelry clean by showering in it; cleaning off any oxidation caused by your body.
Keeping your jewelry clean will help in the prevention of oxidation turning your skin green. Take off your copper jewelry every night. Wipe your jewelry with a clean soft cloth when you remove it. Doing this will clean any body oils or sweat off your jewelry. The cleaner you keep your copper jewelry the less likely your skin will discolor from oxidation.
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There are several recommendations on "coating" copper jewelry to prevent skin discoloration. Here's my opinion on some of them.

Applying a thin coat of clear nail polish to your jewelry
Don't do this; it looks terrible, it's time consuming, and the nail polish will flake off making your jewelry look cheap. Over time applying layers of nail polish over existing flaking polish will look and feel so bad you won't want to wear your jewelry any longer! If you must, this method does work, for a while.
Spray your jewelry with a clear sealer
I don't recommend this either, it's just like applying clear nail polish to your jewelry. This method does work if you choose to use it.

Apply a coating of car or jewelry wax to the jewelry piece
This works very well. It also prevents your copper from tarnishing and keeps your copper jewelry nice and shinny. Eventually it will wear off (not flake off) depending on how often you wear your copper jewelry. Simply reapply the wax, let dry then buff your jewelry with a soft cloth.
Wipe your jewelry piece with a soft cloth before you put it on or after you take it off
Yes! This is the cheapest, easiest way of keeping your copper jewelry clean and to protect them from oxidation. Oxidation is what turns your skin colors. Keep your copper jewelry clean, it's as simple as that! Treat your copper jewelry as you would your expensive pieces of jewelry; wipe it with a clean soft cloth before putting it on or after taking it off. This helps remove the sweat and oils from your skin which causes oxidation. Keeping your copper jewelry clean will prevent it from turning your skin colors.
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(Leah Hoffman says:  I do not recommend cleaning copper jewelry that is patina'ed in this way. Those dark crevices are what adds visual texture to the pieces, and by using lemon juice or vinegar you may completely change the appearance of the piece. I keep my patina'ed copper jewelry clean by using a polishing square or buff/polishing block, or rubbing with a jewelry cleaning cloth.)

Wet your copper jewelry piece with lemon juice, sprinkle with a bit of table salt then rub with either a soft cloth or your fingers until tarnish is gone. Rinse with water then dry thoroughly. To maintain a beautiful finish and protective coating after cleaning, you can apply a thin coat of car wax, let dry then buff with a soft cloth. The car wax is an excellent method of avoiding tarnish on silver and bronze as well.

Easiest method
Fill a small glass or plastic (don't use metal) cup with white vinegar, place your copper jewelry into the glass of vinegar making sure the vinegar covers the jewelry. You can add a sprinkle of salt to the vinegar if you'd like. Walk away for several minutes. After several minutes remove your copper jewelry from the cup, rinse with cold water, dry your jewelry with a soft cloth. You may then apply a thin coat of car wax, let dry then buff with a soft cloth.
Cheap but messy method
This gets a bit messy but it works fairly well. Use a dab of ketchup on an old soft toothbrush. Apply to your copper jewelry and rub lightly with the toothbrush. Rinse clean and dry with a soft cloth. The acid in the ketchup dissolves the tarnish. After cleaning you may apply a thin coat of car wax, let dry then buff with a soft cloth.
Commercial cleaners
Using a commercial jewelry polishing cloth is a good way to keep your copper jewelry shinny and clean. If your copper jewelry has an added patina, avoid using the commercial polishing cloth as it may eventually rub the patina off the copper depending on how the patina was originally applied.

Commercial copper cleaner especially the powder types, aren't made for copper jewelry and may be abrasive leading to scratches in your jewelry; we suggest you avoid commercial copper cleaners unless it's made especially for copper jewelry.
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Yes, absolutely! Each of our copper jewelry pieces is specially coated with a specialized protective wax to prevent oxidation and discoloration; which in turn prevents your skin from discoloration. Each piece is treated with several coats of Renaissance Wax. Renaissance Wax polish was originally formulated in the British Museum research laboratories in the early 1950’s. It is free from acids (pH neutral) and will not damage even sensitive materials. Renaissance Wax has a unique quality and is ideal for protecting copper surfaces from environmental attack and handling. It dries hard and does not, like oil, remain sticky and attract atmospheric acidy making it ideal for copper.
With prolonged use Renaissance Wax will wear off however, you can maintain a comparable finish by simply applying a thin coat of good quality car wax; either paste or liquid to copper jewelry. It will leave a beautiful high polished finish as well as protect your jewelry from your body oils and prevent oxidation. The lack of oxidation will prevent your skin from turning green. The key is to keep your copper clean, wax coated or not. Dirty copper means eventually your skin may turn green. Not to worry; it’s not harmful in any way; just annoying and can be avoided. By following our suggestions on keeping your copper clean you shouldn’t have a problem. Keeping your copper jewelry clean is the key to keeping your skin from turning green, period.
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Flickr Flickr Flickr

I have a Flickr account!

  I just started it today.  I posted a bunch of pictures of my jewelry for all the world to see.  Please add me to your contacts.

Click here:  Leah Hoffman Jewelry on Flickr

AND, please don't forget to follow me on Instagram.  There I regularly post pictures of jewelry as well as some personal pictures.  I'm @Leahhoffman78

Mixed Metal Wrapped Intarsia Pendant

I've had this intarsia bead laying in a drawer for a couple of years. I've never felt inspired to do anything with it.  It's a rhodochrosite surrounded by obsidian.  Suddenly I had an idea. I had to do something that wouldn't overshadow the natural lines of the rhodochrosite, something that would compliment the rectangular shape of the bead. I decided to go for a very feminine form, the curve of a hip, the wisp of a waist.  This is the result.  The pendant features both upcycled copper as well as .925 sterling silver.  Its suspended on a fine 2mm leather cord. The clasp is handmade hand forged sterling silver and the eye hook is hammered copper in 12 gauge.  Everything but the bead has been hand crafted by yours truly.  It's one of my favorite pieces so far. And, it hangs beautifully.+

Monday, July 15, 2013

Up-cycling (Letting the Cat out of the Bag) and an Ode to Iowa

Did you know that some of the copper wire that I use to make my pieces is actually scrap copper that my  contractor father-in-law gives me? It's called "upcycling" and it's about taking something that would otherwise be discarded and breathing new life into it. He brings me buckets of old cords and wires he pulls out of construction jobs. I strip, clean and measure the gauge of the wire. Then, I use that wire to create the very jewelry you see here on my site. It's Earth friendly. At first I was advised not to let my customers know this, but in my heart I know that most people will appreciate will actually think it's really cool and appreciate that in another life your necklace, viking knit bracelet or Bold Swirl Ring might have had a current running through it, giving power to somebody's home.

Here is a new creation, a Geode pendant on a handmade viking knit chain.  The Geode is the Iowa state rock.  Being an Iowa girl, I thought it'd be great to make a necklace featuring this beautiful stone.

I am also posting a picture of the wire Iowa 80/35 Des Moines pendant I made.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Bold Swirl Rings and a Super Rosette

 All of these rings have been spoken for, but if you're interested please send me a message. I'll be happy to custom make a ring in your size and metal.