I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks working on new products. Once I kicked the flu, and felt like a human being again, I got back to work, capitalizing on a huge creative spark. I am very excited about the new ideas I have for this year. There will be many new products, along with new processes. While you will mostly see bits of my creative process in photos, there are many new things going on “behind the scenes.” I’m learning about which tools I need, alternate ways to make things, and how to make completely new products I’ve never attempted. Right now, though, I’m focused on wind chimes.
I started making wind chimes about 13 years ago. I am known for thinking outside the proverbial box, and I have a knack for seeing things for what they could be made into, but I honestly have no idea where I got the idea to drill holes in silverware to make wind chimes out of them. The idea to use marbles as decoration happened about the same time. It seems like it was all one huge idea. It fascinated me, and I just had to do it.
The process has evolved greatly over the years, even though there were years at a time when I wasn’t making them. I went from using chain to connect the pieces, to using wire, and eventually, barrel swivels. Again, I have no idea where these ideas come from, but the swivels allow for more movement which makes them look nicer, and I really like that.
I started out trying to bend them using regular pliers, and the bends were very rigid, and I never was happy with that method. The first holes I drilled were made with a corded drill. I remember holding the piece of silverware on a step of a ladder, with one hand, while I tried to drill through the end that was hanging off the step, with the other. That process did not go well at all. I have the burn scar to prove it. A few years ago, someone told me to put bees wax on the drill bit because it would reduce the heat, and would go through the metal “like butter.” That worked really well on most pieces, but was still quite time consuming. Now I use a drill press, and it goes quickly and smoothly. I was also very limited in how I bent them. Once I started utilizing heat and better suited tools, the shapes, bends, and twist options have greatly increased, my frustration has decreased, and the creativity just gushes.
I never intentionally matched silverware. It just happened that I had matching sets to use. Originally, I would buy matching pieces from dollar stores. I started collecting random pieces from different places, and eventually found myself combing through flatware bins at thrift stores. I found a treasure trove of patterns and pieces, and have thoroughly enjoyed figuring out how to use each piece. I have received several mismatched collections from family and friends, too. At this point, I do try to match patterns, or at least put complimenting pieces together. Some sets match better than others, and I find inspiration in the patterns. As corny as it sounds, I let the particular fork or spoon speak to me, and tell me how it should be manipulated.
I don’t usually match marbles to flatware until after the pieces have been manipulated. It seems like the hardest part of the process for me. I never know which color should go with which set. Occasionally, I will do a theme, but that hasn’t happened often. I recently took the prep part of the process in a different direction. I have always done my work in assembly line fashion because it just works for me, but I had never applied it to prep. I had an abundance of flatware so I started sorting them into sets. About the time I had that finished, I acquired a drill press, and went crazy drilling holes. I cut my production time by more than half, simply by being able to drill the holes quickly and efficiently. At that point, I had the opportunity to visit my favorite glass store. I went overboard buying marbles. I bought enough marbles to make more than twenty sets of chimes. I bought sizes and shapes I haven’t worked with before. So there I was with a box of sorted flatware, and a big bag of marbles. More sorting ensued, and I still had more trouble than ever trying to match marbles to metal. I set it all aside and didn’t look at it again for months.
After Christmas, I figured it was time to do something with that pile. The marbles had already been separated in to bags, by pattern. The silverware had been sorted into bags, too. I STILL couldn’t figure out how to match them up. It was really getting rather frustrating, and I realized I could figure out that part after I manipulated the pieces, as I had done in the past. Enter my overly helpful three year old. She wanted to help, and I can’t let her play with a propane torch, or the tools, but I could let her choose which marbles would go with which flatware sets! Two problems solved.
I was able to find some additional inspiration in the colors my daughter matched with patterns. I know she didn’t do it intentionally. She was merely putting small bags of marbles into bigger bags of drilled flatware, but she came up with some really fantastic combinations, and she now has a permanent “job” in my work shop. I put finished nine sets since the first of the year. They have been photographed, and listed on Etsy, and are now available to everyone. Click on the link below to see them all.