Jewelry Blog: Antler Necklace – From Inspiration to Reality!

I saw lovely necklaces that inspired me recently. The first was this stunner worn by actress Kate Hudson. A beautiful gold horn or claw on a heavy chain.

Wish I knew who to give credit for this glam jewelry to.  Designer unknown.
Wish I knew who to give credit for this glam jewelry to. Designer unknown.

The second was worn by my friend Nancy T; a cool piece of horn, suspended from what I call a “bicycle link” chain.

The process was daunting; first to find the appropriate horn, claw, spike, tooth or… antler to form the centrepiece. Etsy was able to help me out there. In case you’ve never checked out, a quick aside; they have beautiful jewelry and handmade crafts but also really cool supplies for your crafting creative needs. (Check out my etsy website for a handy preview)

I found a wonderful supplier (Fireforged )who gathers “found” antler that’s been shed by deer etc. He was able to cut and sand some pieces to size for me, including a nice 10 cm chunk that I thought would be pretty bold.

Beautiful antler from Fireforged :
Photo: Rodney
Beautiful antler from Fireforged :
Photo: Rodney

Next– to make a bezel, or the part that grips the antler. I formed a piece of silver around the base, soldered it, then added a cap, and some decorative gallery wire along its side to keep it interesting.


Then it was on to the chain. The bicycle chain is a pretty simple beast; snip pieces of wire (mine were about 1.5” each), ball just one end with a jeweler’s torch.


Flatten it with a hammer, then drill a hole in it and insert the link. Slip another piece of balled wire through the loop, then ball its end so it’s linked and locked in. Bend one balled end by about 90 degrees and it will basically curve itself. Keep going until the chain is as long as you need.



A simple s-hook is keeping it together for now.


I also had visions of oxidizing the necklace to give it a very vintage feel, like Nancy’s necklace, but it was so pretty and shiny, I left it as is. Might have to make another since I have a couple more pieces of antler… I can give that oxidized look a try.

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Jewelry Blog: Making My Brothers Wedding Rings, Part 1

Appraisal photo of the ring.
Appraisal photo of the ring.

It’s a daunting (by special) request as a hobby silversmith; can you please make our wedding rings?

My brother and his wife-to-be have requested I venture out of my almost exclusively silver-working, and create matching wedding bands for them in gold.

To Match My Mom’s Ring

This is no ordinary task either; the band is to match a beautiful vintage gold and diamond engagement ring; my mother’s. She died more than 10 years ago, and may father passed the ring to my brother, who’s held onto it, waiting for just the right woman.  We’re very happy he’s found her, and that a piece of family history is being very much appreciated by both of them.

The ring is a simple prong-set solitaire, with a slightly raised edge.  The bands will be very simple to match.

We’ve been gathering unused, unwanted gold from various family members to keep it vintage when it comes to creating the bands.

In the next couple weeks, I’ll be working with an expert goldsmith and teacher who’ll guide my first real fabrication in gold.  While it’s not much harder of a metal to work in, it IS a lot more expensive.  Solder joints in silver cost next to nothing, while each solder joint in gold is about $25.  You have to be sure you’re ready to go.  And not to mention, if you screw up gold, it’s a mistake that costs several hundred bucks, instead of just $10-30 for raw silver.

Step 1 will be to test and then melt down the donated gold, and pour it into an ingot, or wafer.images.jpegold bar pour


Step 2: to draw the ingot down to a wire of appropriate gauge.

Step 3: form the wire, by giving it that edge to match.

I’ll update the steps as I go.  Wish me luck!

You can also check out other photos and notes on my Facebook page.


Travel: Craters of the Moon — on Earth

With all the billionaires paying millions to rocket into space, it’s too bad they don’t know there’s a way to pay a visit to a lunar surface, without leaving earth, and without the sky-high cost.

Photo: Erin L
Photo: Erin L

Buried deep in the middle of Nowhere, Idaho, is a small park; a national park, no less. But hurtling across the undulating Idaho farmlands, barren of everything except corn and beans, one has to wonder what National Monument could possibly be cowering in the gulches and gullies here.

Mile after mile of fields suddenly and violently gives way to blackness.  Out of nowhere, the landscape changes from green to asphalt black, from dirt’s dullness and dust, to the sheen of blacktop and the glitter of rock. It’s a shocking transition, and most unexpected in this part of America’s heartland.


Photo: Erin L
Countryside approach to Craters of the Moon. Photo: Erin L

This is Craters of the Moon National Monument. Simplified, it’s a gigantic and widespread lava flow, that rolled over the ancient landscape two-thousand years ago, eating and incinerating everything in its path. In 1924, National Geographic called it, “a land supposedly barren of vegetation, destitute of water, devoid of animal life, and lacking in scenic interest.”

Here, I beg to differ.  This fascinating place is packed with oddities, life, curiosity, and a unique beauty.  On arrival, it looks as though some Goliath road crew went nuts with the blacktop, spilling it by the lake-full in every direction. On closer look that asphalt-looking rock is porous, bubbly, like the good old Aero bar. And plant life, trees and even small mammals have all made life here.

The easiest way to get an overview of the park’s wonders is to take a drive along Seven Mile Loop Road.


The first stops show off thundercloud-like piles of lava.  If Tetris used lava, this park would be the game board.  The lava has piled and curled up on itself, creating hills, spires and mini-mountains with an easy trail that winds among them.

Aa lava. Courtesy:
Aa lava. Courtesy:

Getting up close with these formations is really cool.  I learned there are actually three kinds of lava; pahoehoe (pronounced ‘paw-hoey-hoey”) and aa (pronounced “ah-ah”).  Not surprisingly, their names originate from the very volcanic islands of Hawaii. Aa is sharp, spiny and difficult to navigate on foot.  Pahoehoe is much smoother, and almost ropey. ” ‘The Devil’s Vomit’ is how one Oregon- bound pioneer described his encounter with Craters of the Moon”, according to the National Parks Service website. I wouldn’t go that far, but there is something almost sinister in the spartan blackness of this place.

Pahoehoe lava. Courtesy:
Pahoehoe lava. Courtesy:


Next stop is the amazingly austere Inferno Cone; a giant mountain of black gravel (old volcanic debris) covering an ancient volcanic cinder cone.  It’s amazing in that it’s all tiny bits of black gravel, that look almost groomed, like snow might be on a ski hill.  The stark black background contrasts with the bright blue sky, amazing for gorgeous views and funky photos, and certainly lend that moonscape feeling to the walk.

Photo Erin L
Photo Erin L

In fact, the landscape here is so austere, in 1969, Apollo 14 Astronauts used this National monument as a moon training ground and real-life classroom for volcanic geology lessons.


Photo Erin L
Photo Erin L
Lava close-up. Photo: Erin L
Lava close-up. Photo: Erin L

The Apollo astronauts never went beneath the moon’s surface, but here you can. Hidden among and under the rocks are caves and caverns to marvel at.  They’re an easy walk with no special equipment required.

Photo: Erin L
One of the many easily accessible caves. Photo: Erin L

Hollows and coves, and lengthy tubes that would fit a train, and each have their own unique animal and plant life, and temperature variations.  Some can be quite cold, despite the scorched earth above. While the terrain isn’t difficult and there’s not really any climbing, you definitely need closed toe shoes.  The rough lava is like a cheese grater to open-toed shoes, and can easily shred your extremities.

If the landscape lures you, there’s camping in the park.  A warning that in the summer, that baked black terrain can be scorchingly hot.  And then the whole area cools off at night, not unlike a desert. Be warned there’s no food service in the park; you’ll need to head to nearby sleepy Arco, Idaho for your needs.

Photo: Erin L
Photo: Erin L
Map Courtesy: National Parks Service
Map Courtesy: National Parks Service

Craters of the Moon National Monument is one of those side-trips that you probably never knew existed, but will be forever seared in your memory if you come. And since scientists at the National Parks Service think the park is merely sleeping, not dead, you never know what it may look like in the future.

The author and her husband. Photo: R. Kingkade.
The author and her husband. Photo: R. Kingkade.

Calgary’s Bow Building to be Towered Over by Another?

Calgary just recently completed it’s tallest building; The Bow.

The Bow tower
The Bow tower

Now comes news another company wants to go BIGGER!

From Brookfield Properties News Release:


225 SIXTH is a proposed full-block commercial development located between 1st & 2nd Streets and 6th & 7th Avenues SW in downtown Calgary. This block represents one of the best remaining undeveloped sites in the city and affords Brookfield the opportunity to create another landmark development that significantly contributes to the public realm. Brookfield has recently submitted a development permit application and continues to work closely with City officials and administration on finalizing the vision for the full-block development.

The new development renderings for "225 Sixth"
The new development renderings for “225 Sixth”

The proposed development, consisting of 2.8 million square feet, includes the tallest structure in downtown Calgary at 56 storeys and 247 meters tall to be located at the northeast corner of the block. A second tower of 42 storeys will be located on the northwest corner. Situated between the towers is a spectacular three-storey, 50,000-square-foot transparent glass pavilion, connecting the grade-level open space to the +15 pedestrian skywalk system. The pavilion touches the site lightly and sets itself away from the towers, while enclosing an internal civic square, which will be programmed year round.

The contemporary modernist architecture of the towers provides maximum transparency through a clear glass skin.

The plaza, at over one-half acre, promises to be a significant addition to the evolving downtown public realm. Creating a dramatic arrival experience for those working in and visiting the new office towers, the proposed plaza will see a steady stream of foot traffic, much of it headed to and from the LRT on 7th Avenue SW. Landscaping complements the architecture and augments the function of the plaza which faces south to take advantage of the sun year-round.

Retail opportunities will be provided along the west, south and east edges of the plaza, complementing the existing retail presence of the Hudson’s Bay store. Cafés and restaurants are easily accommodated, with activity spilling out to animate the plaza.

The public space is designed to be well used and appreciated by downtown employees and shoppers, coupled with significant programmed activity, public art and cultural events that will contribute to the vitality of the downtown throughout the week. The high building lobbies will provide visual connections to the plaza, and connections to 6th Avenue SW and the City’s major destinations.

Sustainable Design
Brookfield has committed that all of its new developments will be sustainably designed to achieve LEED® Gold Core and Shell or higher and 225 SIXTH is no exception. Brookfield’s two most recent developments in Canada, Bankers Court in Calgary and Bay Adelaide Centre in Toronto, were certified LEED® Gold Core and Shell in 2009.
Sustainable design features expected to be included are as follows;
• Energy efficient lighting and control systems
• High efficiency mechanical equipment
• Low flow washroom fixtures
• Bicycle racks, storage and shower facilities
• Auto sharing, car pooling and electric plug-in parking facilities
• Well served by public transportation
• Management and retention of storm water
• Water efficient irrigation & drought resistant plant species
• High efficient curtain wall system
• Use of recycled materials
• Construction waste diversion away from landfills
• Reduction of heat island effects
• A green housekeeping program

Fore more info, see news release HERE.

Public Art outside Calgary's Bow building: "Wonderland". Photo: ErinL
Public Art outside Calgary’s Bow building: “Wonderland”. Photo: ErinL
The Bow in Calgary.  Photo: Erin L
The Bow in Calgary. Photo: Erin L

What you can learn about Time Management from a TV news Producer

There are fewer jobs more stressful that working in television news. The constantly changing stories, last minute breaking news, and the looming pressure of a daily deadline can turn even the most well-adjusted person into a puddle of jello. But the lessons of the newsroom can teach you how to manage your workload, and dissipate stress in real life.


Set deadlines.

In all TV newsrooms there are strict deadlines. The show has to be ready to go at 6pm—and failure, as they say is definitely not an option.

We plan backwards through the day, with mini-deadlines through the afternoon to ensure there’s no last minute crunch. How can this help you? Know how much time you have to get work done, and exactly how much work you have to cram into that time period. Make sure you aren’t overloaded, and if you are, ask for help.

Make your own “Rundown”

In TV news, the list of stories and their order of importance is called the rundown. It’s essentially a list of each story, the facts about it, all arranged in order of importance. We also write down where the story is coming from. Having all the assigned tasks written down helps everyone keep their duties straight, and prevents us from forgetting something. What you can take away from this; keep a “To Do” list of all the things you have to do and prioritize it.


Spot the “top story”

We often have a lot of news to choose from—we have to evaluate each story, and see how it fits into our lineup. We have to know if it’s lead story material, or if it really isn’t newsworthy in the big picture. Obviously not every story can fit into limited amounts of time, so we have to prioritize. And leave out the stuff that’s just not as important. what you can learn from the producer here; Take a look at your daily lineup of chores and obligations. Something may have to be cut.

Schedule carefully

The worst time to try to phone or talk to a TV producer, reporter or technician is in the hour before their show goes to air. That’s when all the last minute stories are coming in, new details are emerging and any emerging last minute crunch is happening. You’re likely to get the brush off if you try to wedge a request or even a dinner invite into that part of the day. It’s helpful if you can know when is the best time to approach people –and when not to. Know this about yourself too. Don’t’ try to take care of unpleasant or critical chores first thing in the morning, if you’re a mess before noon.

Clear your head

TV news is a lot like a roller coaster. There are ups and downs all day long, stories that pan out and some that don’t. Each day, I use the phone as a reminder to breathe and take a few seconds to be calm; before I answer the phone, I take 2 deep breaths before picking up. After the big newscast or your big, busy day at the office, take some time to transition to being “fun you”, or “at-home you” again. Everyone has bad or just plan stressful days, so take a few minutes to put the work day behind you. Hit the gym, go for a walk with the dog. Play loud music on your way home in the car or on transit. Whatever you can do to distance yourself from the day will make you happier.

-Erin L is a Canadian TV Producer, hobby silversmith, world traveller and imaginary gourmet chef.