Loving the Business… of the Business

2 02 2011

I love being an independent jewelery designer.

I love to design pieces and make jewelry – bending wire, hammering metal, playing with fire… it is so satisfying to indulge in chaos, and to just create. I can lose myself for hours reading my jewelry technique books, and I always keep a notebook with me so I can jot down my latest ideas when inspiration hits. I am a tool junkie of the worst (best?) kind – I covet all the latest new jewelry tools, and prowl the aisles of Harbor Freight and Home Depot, thinking of creative ways to adapt all their tools to suit my jewelry making.

And I love to teach too… I was “drafted” as a teacher many years ago, and surprisingly, I discovered I enjoyed it alot, and was pretty good at it. Luckily, I”ve been able to combine both my love for jewely making with my love of teaching – it’s great fun to develop new projects for classes, and very satisfying to see my students create and expand their skills. And I learn from them too, all the time.

I have been creating, teaching, and selling for 5 years now, and I still appreciate so much when someone is willing to part with their money, to own one of my pieces, or spend time with me to learn what I have to teach. It is always a thrill for me when I get a new customer or a student, and a real joy whenever a customer or a student returns back for more.

People always ask “why do you blog?” For me, this blog is an extension of my teaching and creating. I don’t post that often, but I try to post on topics that people will find interesting, and hopefully useful too. And just like with my customers and students, I get a little thrill every time I get a new reader, or a returning one…!

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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!





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!





How the Bead Breaks

6 06 2010

I have always admired the folks who work with seed beads making beautiful intricate patterns – they make the beads come to life. But my brain and fingers just don’t work that way… the beads get the best of me! But after taking a class in Bead Crochet Ropes a few years ago, I have found a way to satisfy my occasional seed bead craving!!

One of my favorites bangles - I love the colors

There are re are many options and variations in the bangles – I can create spiral patterns by changing up the bead colors, textured spirals by varying the bead size, and mosaic looking patterns by randomizing the beads. But no matter how I string on the pattern, invariably there will always be a bead or two that is not right, and needs to be broken off the thread.

A Rope in Progress

You can do this the wrong way – by whacking the bead with a hammer, or squeezing it in pliers (you might cut the thread), or you can do it the right way, by breaking the bead from the inside.

A Beady Boo-Boo...

In this example, I am showing that the pattern is incorrectly strung with 2 black beads together. I need to break the bead to keep the 5 color spiral pattern, and I want to do it without cutting the thread.

Step 1: there's an awl in my bead...

The first thing you need to do is put the tip if an awl into the bead you want to break. Make sure that the awl does not slide all the way into the bead – most beading awls are very fine, and may be too thin to break the bead.

Step 2: put the bead on the block

The next thing you need to do is put the bead on a block of wood , with the awl positioned in the hole (make sure the point of the awl does not split the thread). You can use a stack of cardboard instead of wood – you just need a surface that is firm, but will give under the point of the awl.

Step 3: push, push... and crack!

Now just push the awl firmly thru the bead. The pressure of pushing on the awl will crack the bead, leaving the thread intact. Keep your hand around the bead as you crack it, so that the glass doesn’t shoot out. In this example, I show breaking one bead, but if you’re stringing a 5 color pattern, and you leave out a bead, you’ll need to break several beads until the pattern is correct

I love creating these bangles, and have created a tool for making it easy to get started. If you’ve ever wanted to make them, or have tried, and found it frustrating, please check out the tool/tutorial I have in my Etsy shop.





How the Leather Ends…?

29 05 2010

I love making pendants…. wire wrapped, metalsmithed, riveted and etched – I just love ’em! And hanging them from leather cords is my favorite way to wear them. There are many different techniques for ending leather cord – here’s one of my favorite ways, which gives me loops on the ends, so I can add a big wired hook:

The Start....

The first thing you do is make a loop in a piece of wire, and then bend the loop 90° to the stem of the wire (for reference, this is 20g wire, and 2mm leather). Then lay the end of the cord into the wire loop, and fold the tip of the cord back to make a loop in the cord. Keep the stem of the wire parallel to the cord, and make sure that the cord loop is sized for your project, since it is not adjustable! Then, wrap the wire around the cording (and the stem of the wire), making the wraps go DOWN the cord (don’t wrap the wire up the cord loop!), keeping the wire smooth.

And The Finish...

Continue wrapping the wire, keeping it smooth and taut – try not to have any gaps between the wire wraps. If you do have gaps, squeeze them together gently with chain nose pliers. Make 4-5 full wraps with the wire, and cut it flush as it aligns to the center. Press it close to the cord if needed, being careful not to mar the wraps. Cut the center wire stem, lightly file the ends as needed, and cut the leather tail close to the wrap, if you like.

Some Tips: If you have trouble, practice using 22 gauge wire. If you have gaps when wrapping the wire, pull the wire lightly toward the loop as you bring it around the cord,. If your wraps aren’t tight, then the cord can pull loose – try pulling the wire up taut, then pull tight around the cord.





I’m Hooked on Wire…

20 05 2010

…And you can be too! Hooked on Wire (aka: HOW) is an annual wire retreat held in the San Fransisco Bay Area – imagine what you can learn by spending three days (Sept 10-12), with some of the top wirework artists in the country!! This year, Lisa Niven Kelly, Dallas Lovett, and Barb Switzer are the fabulous workshop instructors, and I’m thrilled to be joining HOW this year as one of the evening instructors! My project will be a little bit of a break from all the wire working done during the day – you’ll get a chance to play with some metal and create a fun “FAN-tastic” pendant :

What a "FAN-tastic" Pendant!!!

Hooked on Wire is a wonderful opportunity  to expand your skills, meet great people, and have a whole lotta fun! So check out the website for more info on projects and tickets, and plan a mini vacation – you deserve a few days for yourself! This is the 7th year for HOW, and it just gets better and better…!!





An Oldie but Goodie…

7 05 2010

Ok, So Maybe I'm a Little Defensive....

I have this stamped bracelet that I made many, many years ago when I was first starting to do metal work. The original clasp had a small wrapped lampwork bead, which I replaced with a simple hook when the bead eventually broke. I’ve made a lot of cool bracelets since then – wireworked, hand made chains, some with etched copper panels – all sorts. But THIS is the bangle I’ve been wearing 4-5 times a week lately –  I kinda feel a little naked without it.

As a jewelry designer, like other artists and craftspeople, I am always looking to expand my skills and learn new techniques. But this very simple and easy stamped bracelet is like an amulet to me now – it represents my start in metalworking, and I always feel a little creative when I feel it on my wrist.

I’m sure I’ll eventually swap it out for something else, but for now, I’m a little superstitious, and I think I’ll keep it on