Getting Hooked (or, How to Make a Clasp)

26 07 2010

Being able to make your own jewelry findings means that you can always create what you need, in the size you need. I love finishing off a handmade piece with a well made clasp, and one of my favorites is the basic wire hook.

Step 1: flatten one end

I start with a 2.5 inch length of wire, in a pretty heavy weight. I’m using 16g here, but you can change up the gauge and the length to customize your clasp. Sand or file the ends clean, and hammer one end to create a “paddle” shape.

Step 2: create a small loop

Next, you need to create a small loop (as small as possible) at the flattened end, using the very tip of my round nose pliers.  Make sure you don’t use good precision round nose pliers – the heavier gauge wires could twist the tips out of alignment and ruin your pliers!

Step 3: make a large loop

On the other end of the wire, make a larger loop, using the base of your round nose pliers. Make sure that the loops are facing the same direction, as shown below:

The wire is now ready to be shaped

The loops are round, facing the same direction. The wire is nice and straight, and  can now be shaped around a mandrel into a hook (I use a pen in the following steps, but you can use any appropriately shaped rod as a mandrel).

Step 4: holding the wire

Hold the wire across the top of the pen, with both of the loops facing up. Position your thumb a bit closer to the large loop, and hold the wire tight on the mandrel.

Step 5: bending the wire

Start bending the wire over the mandrel on both sides – the end with the small loop will be longer. Bend the wire gently, ensuring it keeps a rounded shape.

Step 6: shaping the hook

Once both sides are pushed down (like an upside down “U”), push the longer end with the small loop under the mandrel, toward the large loop. This gives the clasp a “swoop” shape, which helps with the integrity of the hook.

Step 7: the finishing touches

Now the hook is done. The final step is to harden the wire, so that the clasp will not bend out when used. You can either whack it with a mallet, which will keep the wire round (as shown on the left), or you can lightly hammer the wire on the curves, which will result in a clasp as shown on the right. If the curves open up a little, just reshape them closed. And don’t forget to antique your clasp to match your chain and metal components if needed.

Practice a few in copper before working with silver, and adjust the wire gauge and length to create variations that suit your designs and style. You  will never be “held hostage” to store bought components again!

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It Seemed Like A Good Idea When I Bought It!

21 07 2010

I love interacting with customers, so you’d think that craft shows would be a great venue for me. But as much as I enjoy talking with people at the shows, I discovered that I really hate the process of setting up and tearing down a booth space, so I do very few of them. But I am always on the prowl for different displays that could work.

A few years back I found a great one from a store that was going out of business – I think it was originally used to display watches. It has locking doors, it turns, it holds alot of jewelry, and it looks good.

My Original Display Case

So here’s the display, loaded up with some of my earrings … looks good, right? But in my narrow minded focus, I sorta forgot a few things – like it is HEAVY. Not a little heavy, but real HEAVY. And BIG – not just tall, but wide too. And AWKWARD – the turntable on the bottom has to be taped down before you try to lift it, of it will swing around. And did I mention HEAVY?

I don’t know what I was thinking… this is NOT a good display case for craft shows! I can barely get it in/out of my car. And it takes up alot of space on the table. And when the show is done, and I gotta lift it back into the car, I am tempted to just leave it at the curb, anything so I don’t have to lift it (did I say it’s it HEAVY!?). I’ve since bought a couple of lightweight earring displays, and decided it’s time to sell this big boy on Craigs List…

But really… I thought it was a good idea when I bought it!





I’ve Been Booked!

18 07 2010

I have a great library of jewelry making books – wirework, metalwork, resin, beading… even polymer clay! I get inspired looking thru them, and I love learning and applying new techniques, and developing my skills.

So I’m thrilled that some of my pieces will be in the gallery section of a new book from Lisa Niven Kelly, the creator of the online Beaducation workshops and website. Lisa is a great designer, and a great teacher, and much of her work involves stamping and cold connections – just my kinda thing!.

Stamped Metal Jewelry by Lisa Niven Kelly

Her new book has some great projects – if you have any interest in metal work, you will love this book! And check out her Beaducation website for videos, tools, metal blanks, design and letter sets – everything you need for stamping projects!

Stamped and Riveted Bangles (StudioDax)

The “LAUGH” bangle above, and a few other similar ones I made, are in the gallery section… I love, love, love, using mixed metals, and rivets are just such a cool design element, in addition to being functional.

"Seek Love" ID Style Bracelet (StudioDax)

The “SEEK LOVE” bracelet is also in the book, at least I think so…. this was a “maybe” so I’ll find out when I get my copy. It’s a favorite of mine, with heavy link chain, Thai Hill silver heart charm, and copper rivet accents… what’s not love?

If you ever get a chance to take one of Lisa’s classes at a bead show, make sure to sign up, you’ll be thrilled with both the skills you pick up, and the project you create!





Twisted, Wrapped, Coiled, and Woven…

13 07 2010

… just some ways to have fun with wire! I love how wire can be manipulated, and adapted for so many different looks. Basic wire skills are so important – knowing how wire bends and acts are key techniques that every jewelry designer should know. But wire work is so much more than wrapping a bead or making an earwire! Wire can be a key design element in your pieces – not just an accessory to beads. Luckily, some of of the best wire designers in the country are also some of the best teachers! For those of us looking to broaden our wire skills, Hooked on Wire (Sept 9-12, 2010) is a great venue to meet up and learn from the masters!

Fiore Selvatico with Barb Switzer

Isn’t this just a gorgeous necklace!? Barb is such an artist with wire… I love how the focal rivoli crystal and the antiqued wire are used – it reminds me of flowing vines and flowering English gardens.

Circles Bracelet with Dallas Lovett

Dallas does such great things with wire… his designs are so inspired! This intriguing design combines seed beads and wire weaving to create a bit of art deco for your arms…

Victorian Scroll Bracelet with Lisa Niven Kelly

The inspiration for Lisa’s fabulous bracelet is old style iron gates… in this detailed close-up, you can see how the scrollwork inspired a new art form as it wraps around your wrist!

These workshops teach you so much more than just the projects… they teach you the the techniques. This is the 7th year that Hooked on Wire has brought such talent together, and it’s a great opportunity to meet up with others that share your passion. If you’ve never attended a retreat like this, think of it as both a vacation, and an education… your creativity will thank you for the kick!!

And I’d love to meet you too – I’ll be there, teaching “FAN-tastic Pendent,” one one of the optional night classes, so make sure you check out the entire Hooked on Wire site to see how much fun you can pack in just 3 days!





Adventures in Tumbling

7 07 2010

I’ve been asked by some of my metal work students if  buying a tumbler is a good investment. A tumbler does not polish – if you have scratches, or damage to the surface, it will not remove them. But it will clean and shine up your jewelry so that it looks great, and my tumbler is a tool I would hate to give up. I will do a more in-depth how-to post later on, but this is a quick “before and after” to show what a tumbler can do.

Looking a Little Dull...

So here’s a few of my silver and copper favorites – a couple of  bracelets, some earrings, and a few pendants – stamped, hammered, etched and antiqued. I don’t use any kind of lacquer on my jewelry – I think that silver and copper get a warmer look when worn on the skin.  It’s obvious these pieces are well loved!

The Tumbler Cup

The tumbler uses a rubber cup…. this muffles the noise a little, and buffers the items when turning. I have about a pound and a half of mixed stainless steel shot in the cup along with the jewelry to be cleaned (ALWAYS uses stainless – regular steel will rust easily!).

In the Cup We Have...

Can you see the different shapes of shot in the cup? There are round BBs, saucers, pins, and ovals – the different shapes get into all the nooks in the jewelry once we get started. At this point, I fill the cup with water to about an inch above the level of jewelry, and I give a squirt of Dawn dishwashing detergent. Use the original (not concentrated) blue Dawn – this has been used by designers for years to clean their jewelry!

Ready to Rumble... er, Tumble!

Close up the cap tightly, put it on the tumbler, and plug it in! I love, love, love, love, love, my Lortone tumbler! I can’t imagine trying to go with a cheaper tumbler – this is a workhorse, and will run effortlessly for years.  I leave it going for about an hour, which is all I need to do for a basic cleaning.

Pretty, Shiny Things!

Pour everything out into a plastic colander and rinse. Be very careful when doing this so you don’t drop the shot all over! Dry off your pieces…. and they’re just like new – clean and shiny, and ready to wear again!





Red White and Blue

4 07 2010

July 4th is a great holiday for us in America. As a country made up of different cultures, religions, and political views, this is one day that all of us can celebrate, regardless of our personal views. And what better way to celebrate than the uniquely American way ….. by shopping!! Here are some fun things I found while browsing on Etsy… just click on the shop name to be brought directly to the item – enjoy!!

A Patriotic Bowl from Owl Creek

Isn’t this beautiful – what a wonderful bowl from OwlCreekCeramics – check out the other great ceramic items in this shop.

Flag Was Still There - print

A great print from AEMCDraw… read about why the flag is shown backward – a very patriotic story about our troops courage.

A "Beach, Baby, or Anywhere" Tote

And even though July 4th is an American holiday, we can still celebrate the talents of artisans worldwide! This great tote from IkaBag (France) still shows our true colors (and hey… their flag is red, white, and blue too!).

Coral Necklace, from my StudioDax Shop

I love the bright red in these coral beads (harvested), paired with Thai Hill Tribe silver beads… it’s a fun and casual necklace for all year, but especially nice for the summer. You can find this in my StudioDax shop .

Wearing Your Patriotism!

What fun! This scrabble tile pendant from BackBoneStudio2 is an example of the shops originality – check out the shops varied selection to find something that speaks to you!

Decorative, and Useful too!

I’ve always admired people who can create such beautiful works of useful art! Celebrate July 4th all year with this keepsake box from SisterButterfly.

For the Youngest Among Us!

I just found out my niece is going to have a baby in early 2011… I think I’ll be checking out baby items on Etsy alot more now! And who doesn’t love this adorable cap from OurLadyoftheSnows – even when sleeping, they can still be part of the July 4th festivities

Happy July 4th everyone… !





Looking Good

1 07 2010

First impressions count. No matter what you sell, the way you package it up is an extension of how your customers see you. Many folks who sell handmade items tend to a little overboard, but that’s not needed –  the wrapping doesn’t need to be expensive, but it should compliment your items and reflect your style.

"Old" Earring Cards

When I first started selling jewelry a few years ago, I liked how my pieces looked on parchment – a classic look, that showed sophistication (I used to put them in coordinated beige organza bags). When I look at the parchment now, it seems very dated, and doesn’t reflect the uniqueness of my jewelry.

Current Packaging

What a difference a little change makes! My jewelry now looks so much more current using vivid colors, and it really pops! At shows it is very visible – people are attracted to the brightness, and come over to take a look. I still use the same style cards and tags, and I still print them myself  (NOTE: my business changed to “StudioDax”), but making this simple change in color totally transforms how they are seen by customers.

Don’t be afraid to change it up every once in a while! Even if you have a strong brand, you can add a small change or a new accent to shake things up and keep your look current.