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!





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!





Math and Jewelry

8 09 2010

When you make a ring, it’s always a little tricky figuring out how much material you need. For some techniques, such as wire wrapping, or riveting, it’s easy… and you can always make small adjustments. But when you’re making a soldered band, you need to know how long the strip should be.

I will be teaching a rings class in a few weeks that requires being able to figure this out… that’s where math comes in!

A Perfect Fit... Message Rings

I love these rings… but then again, I love stamping and heavy metal!! It can be tempting to buy a prefabricated band and just stamp a pattern or message on them, but it is too easy to stretch the ring a bit when stamping. If you create the pattern on flat stock, then cut it to appropriate length and solder, you are guaranteed a good fit. And this is really really important when making a custom ring!

The length of the stock metal sheet will vary, depending on how thick the metal is. A ring made with thicker gauge metal needs to be longer than one made with thinner gauge to accommodate for the matching of the cut ends. So what is the magic formula used??

(diameter x pi) + (thickness x pi) = metal length

You remember “pi” don’t you…. from high school?? Well, we will only need to use pi two places out to 3.14. It is much much, much easier to use millimeters (mm) instead of inches, since mm are smaller, so the sizing is more exact. So here is an example using 18g metal (1.02mm) in a size 7 ring (17.35mm diameter):

(17.35 x 3.14) + (1.02 x 3.14) = 54.48 + 3.20 = 57.68mm length

Really, the formula is easy, and it’s not difficult to do – just cut metal a little longer (ie: 59mm) to get started, and stamp your design across the band. Re-measure and mark the metal to be as close as possible to 58mm (I always round up), then cut. file and sand the edges flush, so that when they meet, they do not have a gap. Fold the metal ends gently together, then solder and finish off as usual.

Formula Works for All Band Styles!

For this ring, a strip of silver was soldered to one end of the copper disc. The overall length was determined using the formula above, and then the measurement was marked on the metal, including the radius of the disc into the length – easy!!

Or, if you prefer… you can always download a table online with the sizing already figured out!





Everything Changes the Same…

31 08 2010

Well…. I’ve been really busy, and I feel great guilt at not posting all week. So I’m just gonna write a bit about a few things that have kept me from posting!

First, I found out that one of my two favorite bead shops is closing. I really love Beaded Bliss (in Danville, CA) – the owner is just wonderful, and has a great knowledge of beads and the beading business… it’s terribly sad that after 19 years in 2 different locations, she just has to let it go. This shop is 45+ miles from me, but I enjoy the customers and staff so much, that I have made the trip to teach classes for the past year. So I’ve got a few more classes before she closes… please come by if you are in the area.

A Last New Class...

My students have been asking me to create a Viking Knit project that has a “touch of Randi” in it, so I had to come up with an appropriate piece that also used some heavier wire. I love the result, and I really hope that my regulars are happy with this bracelet!!

I’ve also been getting prepared for my Hooked On Wire (HOW) class – I’ve just been told that the evening classes are open to folks even if they don’t sign up for the HOW retreat – I’m thrilled! HOW is Sept 10-12, and my “FANtastic Pendant” class will be the evening of the 10th.

Formed and Folded, Fan Pendant w/Crysta

This is a quick class – just 2 hours, and I’ll be showing some of the other fun things you can create with a microbrake/corrugating tool… I look forward to seeing my regulars, and hope to see some new faces too!

Then I participated in a small Boutique show, which was a real flop for me. I ignored all the rules… the entry was low, the table was being provided (I hate to lug the tables!), and the person putting on the show was very personable, so I just figured I’d do it and hope for the best!  The show was promoted as a Boutique and Rummage Sale, and the audience was definitely leaning toward the Rummage Sale end! I sold a few items, but I like to think that my time is worth more than $5 hour!

Although my teaching calendar is now scheduled, I’m still working up my handouts for new classes…. one of the new classes I created for The Beading Frenzy (in San Mateo) is a great donut project:

A Pearl, A Donut and Some Wire went to a bar....

I’ve seen photos of some similar projects, but I figured out the mechanics of it on my own, and tried to give it my own style a bit. I’ve got a few variations that I’m working on to incorporate a center bead, but I really like how this one came out, and hope it’s a hit with students too.

And lastly, I’ve been working on adding some tools to my Etsy Shop – I’ve had the Bad Crochet Starter Jig since the beginning, but have decided to add some items that I can offer, that have some value over what is already available.

"Kumi what?

I loooove kumihimo – it is a style of Japanese braiding using a disk. I wrote up a tutorial, which incorporates all kinds of extra techniques not readily available when you buy the disk. I send it out as a pdf via email to my customers, so now they can get everything they need to get started, all in one place.

It’s a busy time of the year…. and it’s only going to get busier with all the holidays coming up!





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!).