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…!





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!





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!





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!





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.





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!).