Well, today was the last day of Rio in Motion, and my last class for the trip. The class was called “Cold Connections” which, for those who aren’t jewelry-savvy, really means “What to do if you can’t solder a piece together” in layman’s terms. There are some times, like when dealing with a patterned piece of metal, when soldering it could potentially ruin the finish, so having ways to connect up your pieces without the use of a torch can be a handy thing. I had the knowledgeable Mark Nelson again for this class – the instructor who taught my Flex Shaft 101 class from Monday. Similar to Monday, he had some tips and tricks to share to help keep the students from having to buy every tool in the shop, but at the same time I managed to have at least a couple more things I’ll be adding to my “have to have” list later tonight. Here are the pieces I was able to conjure up today:
The ones at either end are the projects we were assigned, and each of them makes use of the backing metal to clamp down on the other components of the piece and pull it together securely. The center piece was designed as a pin, but we were left free to do whatever design we wanted to on the front of it. They had some lovely dyed tagua nut to work with, so I carved into a bit of that and made a little bird, all excited to do the tube rivet as the eye… It was going great until I didn’t have the right gauge wire for the three holes you see down the back, where I was going to make some standard hammered rivets instead. I acquired a drill bit to match my wire, but then the tail of the bird snapped off when I went to finish up the rivet. Yikes. Since there wasn’t going to be time to start the piece again with the other metal we’d been given, I did what I could to recover the design, using one of the cut pieces from the center of one of the earrings to fit into and embellish my little bird’s tail. I have jokingly entitled the piece “Bird with Tail Prosthesis.” I expect the next one I do will look much better and… not be a pin, as I really don’t know many people who wear them. But… lesson learned – no hammering rivets in quite so close to the edge. I see a lot of potential for some of these techniques in my future designs though. I like to cut my own cabs and this gives me more flexibility in how I choose to use them and cut them.
Mark also showed us how to make our own teensy-weensy screws and screw-holes (no dirty comments from the peanut-gallery please!) so that, if I purchase the right set of tools to do it with, I could potentially make some really awesome stuff for my steampunk-enamored friends. I’ll have to think about what all I might want to do and measure it against the cost of those supplies…
I have mentioned the instructors I’ve had over this past week, but I don’t want to go without mentioning the “assistants” who were there to help each of the instructors with keeping things running smoothly. They were there to show us to the classroom, make sure that we had everything we needed to complete the projects we were given, and otherwise be as helpful as they were able. I will admit that I never got the name of the sweet woman who helped with the Flex Shaft 101 class, but Shelley, who helped with the Swanstrom Pliers class I was in, was very friendly and when we ended up talking about the setup and features on the web site ordering process, she was quick to jot down our comments and ideas. The thing that I’ve been learning about this company, and it’s employees, is that I know that she will actually share those ideas with the right people. That’s just how the people at Rio seem to work. From the tales I’ve heard told this week, they not only listen to the input of the customers, but also from the employees too. What a nice change from the usual Corporate America I’ve seen…
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the one “assistant” who was there for most of my classes. I’m not sure if they were assigned to a classroom or handed out classes to handle in some sort of straw-drawing selection process, but every time I was taking a class in the Tiger Eye classroom, this wonderful man named Brian was there to help. I was able to easily remember his first name, since my husband is a Brian too. This Brian was quite knowledgeable about all the material we were learning, and friendly and helpful the entire time. Not only was he able to rustle up missing supplies for the class on a couple of occasions to keep us from stalling out, but he seemed to know the products and catalog extremely well and was easily able to help anyone who had a question on where to find something so they could potentially order it. Additionally, he had a sense of humor – always a good thing for someone put in the position of having to think on their feet as problems arise. And I’m not just saying that because he mentioned today that he’s one of the ones who’s been following my little blog burst this week – I was planning to mention him anyway! Thanks for all your help Brian – you rock!
By the end of the class today, I was full of mixed emotions. On one hand, I am exhilarated by all of the new knowledge I have soaked in throughout the course of the week and I have to say that this has been one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in a very long time! That, of course, leaves me feeling sad that the week is at the end and I’ll be heading back home tomorrow. I’ve felt very “alive” this week, taking the classes, interacting with other jewelery enthusiasts of varying degrees, and taking little bits of time here and there to get lost in the beautiful scenery Albuquerque has to offer. Phil Scott, who taught my Intermediate Stone Setting class, stopped by my blog and left a comment about one of his favorite spots to view the mountains from and I was able to go to that general area today and snap some pictures. I was not able to be there for sunset, as he had suggested, as my stomach waged a war with my desire for a sunset photo and sadly the hunger won, but I did get some great shots nonetheless. Here is one of the best from today:
You can see the Rio Grande River in the foreground, with the city beyond it and the mountains watching over it in the background. I wanted clouds and I got them, so there’s some depth to the sky but it also means that the mountains themselves were a little hazy in the distance. Altogether a beautiful view. I can easily see why people chose to settle here in what might otherwise have seemed a mostly dry and inhospitable land to pioneers. It was all I could do not to just abandon the rental car and go wandering off exploring on foot at several points during this week. I have to wonder, if I were to live here, would I want to live in the foothills of those mountains, so I could explore them from my own backyard, or would I want to live further out, where I could look out my window every morning and see them there, majestically guarding over the city. I am reminded of our stops in Santa Fe when Brian and I were traveling years ago, and how I loved this area of the country. No matter how happy I will be to go home to my beautiful family and my own bed… I will be sad to leave New Mexico.