Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2} tags & charms

behind the scenes :: a handcrafted collection ----->

<----- on Monday, I began sharing the process of making a collection with you. Today I'm going to continue. Once I've received the silk and silver notions into inventory, and am caught up on custom orders, I stamp, blacken, and polish tags and charms. This part of the process is definitely my least favorite, but I still find it extremely fulfilling and gratifying, and it makes a large impact on the final pieces {perhaps that's part of it...it is kinda stressful because it takes extra care, and there is a great deal on the line...relatively speaking of course!}.

When we began our camper livin' adventures in February, I started driving Gabe's last work truck. Now, it is my truck. Not only is it convenient for getting around with the umph that is necessary to survive in west Texas {I drove a Corolla before}, it also provides part two of my "work space".


The old flat bed provides a perfect work bench, although it does get pretty darn hot.


I need a hard flat surface to stamp tags & charms. Even with my anvil {the square block of steel}, I need to be careful of what I work on...it needs to be solid and absorb a certain amount of shock.


For our signature Pretty by JL sterling silver hang tags {one comes on each accessory we make}, I have a handy dandy tool that takes most of the care/concern out of stamping. It's called a TagMate and is made by Infinity Stamps. It has a recessed spot made to fit the tag perfectly. I just set it in there and set the cap on top...


Then I place the stamp in the hole of the cap and tap it with my hammer. The key word is tap. Before I received my stamp and TagMate System from Infinity, I'd only used old fashion stamping tools, and honestly, kinda have to get after it with the hammer to make a good impression with them.

So, upon using this stamp for the first time, I hammed the holy heck out of it. It wasn't pretty. The next one, I gave it one hard hit, still not pretty. Finally, I gave it a tap. That's all it takes. See what I mean...


If you click on the image you can have a closer look, but the first tag looks like it was chewed on, the second one started to banana in half from being hit so hard, and the third one is good and PRETTY. It takes just the right amount of velocity and impact, and a good tool to make the perfect impression.

For our custom heart charms, I go about things the old fashioned way, an alphabet stamping kit from Harbor Freight. 


This is the stressful part because the tags & charms aren't cheap, and if I mess them up I can't use them and it's a waste. For these old school stamps, I've got to line 'em up just right, and hammer versus tap while holding the stamp super steady. It has taken some practice...


Not bad, really, for as many as I've stamped, and of course practice makes perfect. So, theoretically I should have fewer and fewer waste pieces. But, the Es I was working on turned out well...


Now it's time to take 'em in to blacken and polish them. I absolutely only blacken tags and charms when the kids are either gone or in bed. The blackening solution consists mostly of hydrochloric acid, which can burn the skin. It could make for a horrific accident if it were to spill when kiddos are around.

I am a good girl and wear protective eye wear when working with the blackening solution. In the beginning, I didn't, even though I'd had Gabe pick me up a pair. Recently, I almost got rid of them because I didn't use them, and they take up a bunch of high end real-estate in my tote. But, then I just decided to use them instead...my eyes are worth more than any amount of space in my tote, and it just isn't worth the risk working with hydrochloric acid and not wearing them.


Next, I lay out a newspaper and my tags & charms to be blackened. Blackening them enhances the impression stamped on the charms. It is definitely the preferred finish, although I do offer the natural finish as well in our Etsy shop. If a customer doesn't specify their preference...I just go ahead and blacken them because it's what I like best.


I fill the bottle's cap full of the blackening solution, and apply it to the impression with a tooth pick. I hold the tag or charm in place with another tooth pick.



The charm becomes black wherever it is touched by the solution. I should be wearing gloves for this, but I think I'm less likely to fumble all of it without gloves. So, I commando it.


Now it's time to polish 'em up. This part is mildly torturous. I can't do more than about thirty at a time because my fingers get sore {in a hot rug burn sort of way}. But, I haven't figured out how to do it any better. So, I rub both sides of the tag vigorously on a polishing cloth to get it nice and clean and shiny. Blackening and polishing thirty charms takes me over an hour. I will do another batch on another day.



Now aren't these PRETTY?!...



Once I've got my desired tags and charms stamped, blackened, and polished I attach their tiny jump rings and bag 'em up. Then they are ready to use!



What I've shown you here took me two days {worth of nap times} to complete. This is the most chore feeling part of making a collection, but it gets progressively more fun from here.

The last thing I want to mention to you regarding charms, is that one of these days I will trade in my Harbor Freight stamps for an alphabet set from Infinity. But, doing so will be a substantial investment which is why {for sake of getting started} I do it the way I do now. When I have an alphabet set made, I will get to choose my own font {or, will likely have Chloe pick one for me}, and the stamping process will be far more efficient and less wasteful than it is now.

I might keep the ol' Harbor Freight stamps on board for special requests, since the hand stamped effect of them is so vintage and charming {pun totally intended}! But, I am looking very forward to eliminating a bit of the work and stress that goes into hand stamping our charms, and soon!

Lastly, regarding charms...Watermelon Limeade, our 2013 Summer Collection, will not include any. Each collection piece will, of course, feature our signature Pretty by JL hand stamped tag. But, I hand stamp charms to be included on custom pieces that are commissioned through our Etsy shop. You don't have to wait for Watermelon Limeade, you can shop our available designs here, and now!

I'll post the next part of this collection making process on Friday. Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July!

X O X O, JL

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