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Spotted Dog Farm Blog

A Side of Merino with My Resin

Lots of jewelry going on in my studio these days - we're prepping for the new spring collection, lots of new flowers and designs.  And in the middle of all of the new flowers an idea kept floating around in the back of my head.

You might recall that at times in my life I have knit - a lot.  So I'm a fiber geek, and particularly enjoy playing with natural fibers, and I found myself in a local shop that sells all manner of supplies.  Which is how I ended up with a bag of beautiful merino wool.  Merino is like the platinum version of wool - soft and smooth, and it's the ingredient in those fancy Smartwool and Patagonia base layers.  Or, in this case, my latest bracelet.

As with most experiments, some of these were awesome and some were awful, but overall I'm highly entertained by putting merino in the resin.


The people that've seen these wanted to know if I'd make them one - and while that wasn't my original plan I'm more than happy to keep playing with the merino.  So, for a limited time, here's a listing for special order merino bangles.  


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January Surprise

Back in December we started brainstorming for a January jewelry surprise.  Something fun and seasonal, and not part of our usual designs.  And, no joke, we found it loitering on the fence of the back pasture - Bittersweet Vine.

Bittersweet's kind of a funny plant - its berries are gorgeous - bright red orange.  But it's an invasive, and shows up and takes over all over the place, and so in general  it isn't a great idea to use it as an ornamental.  But - resin's the exception.  Since the berries are completely contained in the resin - like a bug trapped in amber - they can't be spread.  And so, we're so happy to announce that Bittersweet is our January surprise.  Because January can always use a little bit of brightening up, right?

Before we started making the jewelry we had to get the Bittersweet off of the pasture fence.  The day before we started Christmas break we headed over to gather it.  It was a beautiful day, and the perfect way to start a break.  

Since then the Bittersweet has been drying in our studio (and on my Christmas tree), and now it's finally ready for the resin.  I'm super happy with how it has turned out - the resin brightens and amplifies the color, and it's gorgeous.  Also fun - the berries give the bracelets and necklaces a little bit of texture, so you can just barely feel the shape of the berries through the resin.  And because the berries are a little bigger than our usual botanicals, we can only put them in the bracelets and bar necklaces - there isn't room in the other pieces.


This January Surprise arrives in my shop on Wednesday January 18, and I hope you enjoy it.  We've certainly had a great time making it.  And one thing to note - we only have as much as we gathered from the pasture, so once it's gone it's gone.  

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A Bracelet That Would Fit My Horse (a story of bangle sizes)

I think I mentioned a while back that I was starting experiments in bangle sizing. It seems like this should be fairly easy to accomplish - just make different sizes already.  Except that everything I make has to come out of a mold, which means I need different size molds, and the only mold form I had was for a size medium.  Problem.  And also baseline irritating, since people come in different sizes, so obviously bracelets should come in different sizes too.    

So I undertook some sleuthing on the website of my silicone supplier, and it revealed that you can both shrink and expand molds.  Score.

The thing is - the directions on the website totally worked. They just didn't work as seamlessly as it sounded like they would.  

I ordered quick curing urethane resin (yucky stuff, but extremely cool - you can actually watch it turn from clear to white in less than a minute as it cures, if you can find a moment to look at it during your panic while you try to get it where you want it before that cool chemical reactions kicks in.)  And I got special silicone catalyst so that you can either add solvent or take it away to make the whole thing shrink or expand. And I screwed it up, and tore the molds, and let them expand so much my horse could've worn the bracelet, or shrink so much my cat could've worn the bracelet, but then eventually I actually DID IT!  I made bracelets the same shape as my size medium, but in a small and a large.  SUCCESS.

Except that the resin wasn't smooth.  At all.  Because pouring quick curing urethane into a silicone mold that's coated in an evaporating solvent is not a recipe for beautiful resin.  So then I poured a master blank in each size out of epoxy and embarked on the very laborious, but extremely rewarding, process of sanding (and sanding, and sanding, and sanding) and polishing (and polishing, and polishing) until that epoxy was perfectly smooth and shiny.  And so then, finally, I actually had what I wanted.  The one master blank in each size.   Like the needle in the haystack.   And I made a mold off that one master, and made a bunch more blanks, and I'm now guarding those with my life.  Or at least with my big dogs.  Because while fun, that was also seriously labor intensive.

And that friends is the story of how I ended up with these bangles in a range of sizes.  By now you're maybe thinking, couldn't she have just found some bangle blanks in a bunch of different sizes?  And the answer is: maybe - but they wouldn't have looked alike.  And the thing is, I wanted to offer the *same* bangles in a range of sizes.  And now I do!

And if you're a fan of working with epoxy, and you're wondering how I sanded and polished it to get a perfect finish - I'm actually going to write that down at some point.  Maybe in an ebook.  Because there is not much information out there explaining how to do it, and a lot of websites that will tell you it is impossible.  I tried a bazillion things that didn't work before I found one that did - but eventually, I found one that did.  So at some point, I'm going to put it out there in the world.  Knowledge is power.

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