Sterling new friends!

You know what they say… new friends are silver… but what kind of silver?  Typically I like to think of them as sterling.

Sterling silver is an alloy (a mix of metals) of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper, although other metals can be used, too.  Why do we do this?  Like gold, silver in its pure form is very soft and not suitable for jewelry or other hard-wearing accessories.  Just that little bit of other metal will make for a harder substance, and thus a more durable piece.  That 925 you see stamped or otherwise marked on silver jewelry?  That denotes it as sterling silver – 925 is just short for the 92.5% of silver metal in the alloy.

Sterling silver stamping blanks available for purchase on Etsy.

Sterling silver stamping blanks available for purchase on Etsy.

Fine silver is 99.9%, and can be seen in jewelry usually as a final plate (a thin layer chemically or electrically bonded to the outside of a piece) around sterling silver.  Like gold, it can eventually wear off and need to be re-plated.  Almost any jeweler can do this for you.

I love working with sterling silver.  Silver has the unique quality of being a very bright, white-color metal.  Other metals that mimic silver just don’t have that bright white shine and the true depth of silver.  It’s a great material for heirloom pieces, because silver retains value in the same way as gold and platinum (if not as MUCH value).

A sterling silver necklace from Charmedseed Studios available for purchase on Etsy.

A sterling silver necklace from Charmedseed Studios available for purchase on Etsy.

Silver will absolutely tarnish!  All metals will tarnish or oxidize because of normal chemical processes.  Sterling silver will tarnish a little more if the alloy is made with copper.  Fortunately said tarnish can be cleaned easily with a polishing cloth, chemical cleanser, or abrasive physical polishing – that’s right, the old elbow grease.

Do you have a metal allergy?  Sterling silver will probably be okay for you to wear, as long as the other metal in the alloy isn’t your allergy-metal (such as nickel, a common allergy-inducing metal.  Fortunately since most sterling silver is made with copper, you’re okay).

Got questions about sterling silver jewelry or other metals?  Ask me!

TT: The Creative Classroom

I spent a wonderful day yesterday visiting a teacher friend of mine – and helping out with her adorable 5 month old daughter! – and helping to set up her first grade classroom.  She teaches a delightful first grade class, and I was excited and honored to be a part of getting things ready for them to come back to school in a little while.  One of my charges was to make the welcome bulletin board; she said she wanted to make use of my creativity!  What a kind thing to say!

For my part this school year, I’m going to be a part time guest teacher in Denver and a full time graduate student, so I’m going back to school on a lot of levels.  Creativity has always been an influence on my education; with my background in music and visual arts, I find myself often considering ways to inject art into learning.  As a teacher, it seems like a natural solution to offering students choices in projects, problem solving, and integrating subjects.  There’s math in music!  Art in science!  Not to even begin to mention the possibilities of technology: video, audio, graphic design, photography…

Why is that important?  Because creativity can support ownership and meaning of a student’s learning, which is what makes that learning stick!  We know that when a concept becomes personal and meaningful for a student, they remember it (Piaget calls this assimilation, making something a part of your personal universe by linking it to other important concepts).  Can you remember the formula for finding the circumference of a circle when given the radius?  I remember that it’s twice the radius times pi because it’s something I use to make circle skirts.  That particular formula has meaning and importance to my life, so I remember it!  So, if we can use crafts, technology, anything we can get to give concepts meaning and application for their real lives, students will remember – and even better, be able to use! – these important ideas.  What better way to do it than to let them build, paint, cook, sew, sing, play, and create?

What have you learned due to your creative hobbies?

Thoughtful Thursday

One of my friends messaged me this morning with the news that her first guitar book is on its way to her, and she is SO excited about starting to teach herself guitar.  Music is another creative outlet that I love; in fact I was a musician myself for quite some time.  I spent many years as a jazz vocalist in high school and early college, and was even working toward my BA in music for several years before I went into education (I love now that I’m a teacher with a very heavy arts background… I have minors in music and visual arts).  I no longer study or perform much, and while I miss it sometimes, I get a lot of creative satisfaction from sewing, crafting, decorating, jewelry making and the other visual arts I do.How do you measure progress?

In our discussion, I found myself comparing and contrasting my experiences in music and my experiences as a seamstress and crafter.  As much as I loved making and performing music when in was in college, it was a definite struggle.  I think one of the hardest things for me was being unable to see much of a tangible result as I worked and studied to create better music.  That made it hard for me to muster up the discipline to continue (among other things…  ah, how complicated the early twenties are…).  When I found myself leaving the music school. my teacher told me that while I clearly had the talent, I lacked the discipline and desire.  I had to agree!

The visual arts are a lot more of an immediate result, and very tangible products that I can make comparisons with.  It’s interesting sometimes to look back through my costumes and see how I’ve changed and grown, and look at the visual reminders of an old skill that I’ve improved, or a new one I learned.  Crafting and sewing are also things that can be repaired, for the most part; the artist can come in and make changes after the fact.  Once a wrong note comes out of your face, it’s out there!  Whoops!

As an educator, I see my very obvious kinesthetic learning style revealing itself in these experiences, and I think that’s one of the things that makes me a strong crafter.  I get a deeper understanding of something I’m learning if I’m doing it with my own hands (and brain, and eyes, etc).  I naturally feel confident about that, so I see where I’m drawn to activities and problems that I can solve in a hands-on way.  I’m a big proponent of hands-on teaching and problem solving for this reason as well.

I’m really glad that I’ve been lucky enough in my life to experience as much of the arts as I have; I think it makes me appreciate the work that goes into music and arts that much more.  What do your experiences tell you about your work, and yourself?