When Mistakes Work

11 10 2010

Do What I Say…. Not What I Do!

This weekend I taught a fun new class which combined basic metal work with stamping and soldering, to create a personalized heavy gauge ring. I don’t always get to create a complete project in class, because I am focused on working with my students, but for this project, I had to demo every step, so I was able to make a ring of my own.

Caffeine.... Sorta!

So I decided that the chemical compound for CAFFEINE  (C8H10N4O2) would be kinda cool. I showed the class how to line up the letters, and I even told them that they need to watch for the direction of the stamp, so that no letters were upside down. So what do I do?! I proceed to stamp the “O” sideways… obviously I needed a little bit more coffee before class started!

So this became a lesson in “organic design” – sometimes you just need to accept your design, flaws and all, and love the uniqueness of what you create. And… the class decided that my representation showed a quirkiness that works!

Letter Stamps

Some letter stamps come with a scratch, or a mark on them, indicating the side that faces you when stamping, so that the letters line up correctly (example above left). The stamp set I used for my C8H10N4O2 ring didn’t have any markings, so basically you need to check each letter before stamping. Obviously, I got it wrong!

A simple tip… if your letter set does not have any directional indicators on them, then I suggest marking it yourself. I use a little nail polish (example above center) which shows up and withstands a bit of abuse. Because if you leave your stamps plain, like the one in the photo above right, you will surely create some “organic” designs yourself!

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New Projects!

22 09 2010

I currently have 45+ different class projects that I have developed, but I never seem to have anything new! Since I teach at both jewelry shops and thru adult education programs, I need a good selection of classes for the real beginner, as well as for my more advanced students looking to broaden their skills. A few weeks ago I posted some of my new projects for the fall – here are a couple of beginner classes that I’m in process of creating for this winter session, to be scheduled thru Palo Alto Adult Education:

Bold Heart Pendent

I just looooove that this came out exactly as I designed!  This example is made with antiqued copper and faceted garnets – I think it has a real “True Blood / Twilight” kinda feel…. a little goth, a little edge. I  just finished another one in silver with mirrored finish crystals. It’s really shiny, so I think I’ll oxidize it to lower the bling factor…

"Celestra" Earrings

This design was a great accident – nothing like what I originally started out with, but the end result came out great! These earrings are pearl and silver, but I’ve adapted the “Celestra” design to create a larger  wired gemstone component for a pendant.

I really enjoy creating class projects for beginners that go beyond the basic “how to wrap a loop.”  It is vital that  you learn the basic techniques, and learn them well, if you want to continue creating jewelry. But I think that if you can walk into a class knowing nothing about wirework, and walk out with a very cool project, you will be more inclined to take a few more classes – and that’s my goal!





Tools To Go

11 08 2010

When I first started to teach jewelry making, I was always scrambling to pull together my tools before taking off to class. There is a standard subset of tools that I use for most projects I work on, whether wire work, or beading, or working with metal, so I decided to make up a simple tool kit with the items I use the most, so I can just grab it and pack it with my other supplies.

Ooooohhhh.... tools!

This is my tool kit… not some case with elastic loops (never big enough!), but a baby wipes container! Filled with the tools I use every single day…. And the case has a little extra room, so I can always add an extra tool when needed.

To Bend, To Hold To Shape, To Cut

You can never have enough pliers. Really…. I’m serious! I have about 25 pairs at my workbench – some are very very specific (prong benders), but most are variations of the basics.These pliers above are the ones I reach for most, so they are the ones in the kit:

  1. Nylon Faced Pliers: these are really really grungy, but I use them all the time to straighten wire, and gently form metal
  2. Flush Cutters: a sharp point, and a clean edge are a must! And these cut wire as heavy as 14g with no problem.
  3. Round Nose Pliers: I have 2 pairs, since I use a variety of gauges.
  4. Knotting Pliers: although these are intended for knotting, I use them all the time with wire. They are great for tucking in thin wires.
  5. Bent Nose Pliers: I have discovered that I reach for bent nose pliers so much more than chain nose pliers. I used to keep chain nose in the kit, but I don’t use them much – the bent nose work most times for me.

The Other Stuff I Use

Pliers are the basics, but they’re not enough! I always need files, and I found a small 3 piece set that has a great cut. There are also 2 awls (aka “pointy metal sticks!”) that I use all the time – the yellow handle one is thicker, and great for enlarging small holes in metal, and for breaking beads. The nail, at the bottom of the photo, has been altered… I cut off the point and filed, sanded and polished the end, so I could use it as a burnisher to smooth out metal surfaces. And the extendable antenna is my portable mandrel, used when I need to shape wire and make coils.

The Final Touch

I can’t begin to tell you how often I use sanding blocks… ! These are 1/4 size cut from a standard block, and I use them to soften a metal surface (wire or sheet) after filing. I also use them to add a subtle texture, and to clean off oxidation. The crocous cloth is something I was shown years ago… it is a textures grit “painted” onto a heavy denim cloth, and it is great to polish up metal apply a shine – just be sure to NEVER use them wet, because the grit will run!

For most classes, I also need to grab a few other items – for many projects I need to include steel blocks, stamps, punches, and hammers. But having all these basics in one simple case ensures that I all I need to do is add the project specific tools. And as a little time bonus, I keep this sitting in my living room, so whenever I feel a bit creative, it’s always where I need it!





Amazing Students!

2 08 2010

This weekend I had a really great class – a great fun project, alot of different wire techniques, beautiful beads, and just absolutely wonderful students!  In my class yesterday at Beaded Bliss (one of my favorite places!),the students created such great projects – I decided that this week I would focus on them, instead of me!

We worked in wire from 12g – 22g gauge, and did alot of design planning. To start, we learned first how to twist wire in different gauges, and then how to make perfectly wrapped coils…

Twisted up and Coiled!

Some folks used silver, but some decided to use copper instead, especially folks who were new to wire working. No one wants to spend big $$ on silver when you’re learning new skills, and aren’t sure how it will come out.

Kuchi, Kuchi, koo!

Once we mastered basic coiling and twisting, we learned how to make Kuchi beads from wrapped wire. I’m not sure where the name “Kuchi” comes from, but that’s what I’ve always heard them called.

Antiquing makes it come to life!

Everyone made up a nice selection of coils and Kuchi’s, and then those wanting to antique them, gave their components a bath with Liver of Sulpher (LOS). I love how copper gets such a rich look from the LOS – it changes the wire from “hardware looking” to jewelry grade!

So what was everyone making….? They combined their wire components with  some beautiful lampwork beads, natural stones, and a variety of metal, bone, glass, and ceramic spacers. And they made these beautiful bangles!

Copper Bangle 1

I love how these beads work together – the copper really works with the colors she chose, and the end result is a beautiful bracelet.

Copper Bangle 2

Aren’t these cool beads? The carnelians have some real unusual patterns, and they are balanced with the cool blue beads, and tied together with the cream accents. Another beautiful bracelet.

Copper Bangle 3

The beads and spacers in this bangle really work well together – the group of spacers next to Kuchi show such a wonderful variety of textures – when they are all together, they become a subtle focus.

Silver Bangle 1

This is a great bangle… the blue beads are amazonite, and they look fabulous with the carnelian and bone beads. The silver work is really well done – the very precise Kuchi and tightly wound coils provide a very clean look. The decision to leave this bright (not antiqued) gives is a wonderful light feel.

Silver Bangle 2

This bangle reminds me of the African Savannah! The colors, and the patterns on the lampwork beads – they look great with the antiqued silver wire, and ever time it moves on the wrist, you see something new – what a different look than the first silver bangle!

Silver Bangle 3

I love the neutral palette of this design… the lampwork beads have a very organic feel, and the green aventurine beads accent them really nicely. I like how the darker beads make the rest of the bangle pop

I never forget that students take classes for a number of reasons – they want to be among people who share their passion, they want to learn how to do something, and they hope to walk away with a new skill… and hopefully a great new piece of jewelry!

I was really thrilled with the amazing pieces everyone created, and I think they were too!





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!





Students Always Amaze Me…!

2 06 2010

I love designing and creating jewelry, and I love teaching, so it’s not surprising that I really love to teach jewelry making classes! Part of the fun is seeing what my students do after they leave the class, when they adapt new techniques into projects that reflect their own personality and style.

One of my favorite wire classes is called the Danish Knot Bracelet – it involves a technique of intertwining 3 coiled components to create the knots, adding  oversize links, and connecting them into a bracelet. Here’s the project I teach:

My Danish Knot Bracelet (class project)

I especially love this class because once you learn the knot technique, you can use it as a component in so many different ways! Look at this beautiful copper set that one of my students made – combining the Danish Knot with crystal links, she creates a much different look:

Copper Knots and Crystal Links (ala Beverley!)

The components are really well balanced  (notice how the knots are about the same diameter as the center of the open links),  and the crystals provide a little bit of  sparkle… and we can always use a little sparkle!

So remember that the techniques you learn in class are not limited to the class project – add your own style, and make it your own.  And your class instructor will LOVE to see what you’ve done, so make sure and let them know!! Thanks so much Bev, for sending me your photo!

And if you’re in the SF Bay area, I’d love to see you in one of my classes… you can see my schedule on my website (and check it out – I’m teaching Danish Knot in a few weeks!).