Is Saltwater Etching Safe?

I’ve been saltwater etching for a long time and didn’t know all the chemistry behind it. Then I watched Nancy LT Hamilton‘s new video on electro-etching and learned how dangerous the chemical byproducts of saltwater etching can be.   As the Reddit article explains:

“Using saltwater as your etching electrolyte can be rather problematic due to competing side reactions. The main one of course being electrolysis of salt, which produces chlorine at the anode and hydrogen at the cathode. So you would have a toxic gas and a highly flammable gas to deal with.  The other product of electrolysis of NaCl solution is sodium hydroxide,[my note: lye] which remains in solution.”  

I encourage you to read the whole article, here.  and to watch the video, here.  Hamilton offers alternatives to saltwater that will allow you to etch better and more safely.

 

And on a lighter note,  my neighbor Bob added some beautiful new plants to his garden.  I just have to show you more pictures.

Young Artists

I’ve always loved children’s art.  I still have some ceramic pieces from a stint as a camp counselor more than forty years ago.  One of my Stepson’s pieces is on proud display on a bookshelf in the living room and drawings by the Step Potato and Step Banana hang in the kitchen.  So I always look forward to the Annual Young Artists Exhibition at Fleisher Art Memorial.  This years’ show, on view until  June 16, showcases the work of 500 kids from ages 5 to 18,  who participate in art programs at Fleisher.  I naturally gravitate toward the pottery but I enjoy it all.

 

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Another great Fleisher-sponsored art program for kids and one for which I volunteer  is Color Wheels.  Read more about Color Wheels here.

Bob’s Garden May 2018

The bigs news is that Bob built a new Koi pond this year. The other big news is that Turtle has a brand new perch and a big pot of water hyacinth to munch on. He seems happy and does not appear to be eating the new guppies that Bob has added to the pond.

Bob has added new plants, but think he is still deciding on the final design of the garden. He also has a little collection of plants that people are free to take if they want. While I’m sure Boris would like a plant to chew on, I think I will pass on the offer.

Here are some pictures.

Enjoy the Koi pond!

What I Learned in Bonnie Bishoff’s Class

Last week, I took a two-day workshop with Bonnie Bishoff entitled “Polymer Meets Wire,”  sponsored by the New England Polymer Artist Guild.   Bonnie is probably best known for the extraordinary furniture she made with her husband and artistic partner, J.M. Syron, and her superbly-crafted cane work.   But there was no cane making instruction in Polymer Meets Wire.  Instead, the class was packed with information on how to construct lightweight and durable open forms, findings, and components by first making cores of epoxy clay and wire and then covering them with polymer veneers.  Then she showed us how to assemble them into delicate-looking necklaces, pins, and bracelets that did not rely on soldering to hold them together.

Bonnie

I am really excited about what I learned because now I have the means to address some design and construction problems that have been dogging me for years!  I also learned about the properties of various metals and why some are better for building inner cores than others.  Good to know.

Class

Bonnie also showed us some clever wire measuring tricks and taught us the ins and outs of working with epoxy clay, Genesis  Heat Set Medium and liquid clay.

My head was exploding by the middle of the first day and I still need to process all I learned.  Fortunately, Bonnie provided us with detailed written materials and drawings.

Here are some pictures of a cuff bracelet that I started in the class and finished when I got home.  Not my favorite cane work, but I have a feeling that I will be making more of these.  Thank you, Bonnie!

 

The class was held in the home of Ann Marie Donovan, who was a gracious, welcoming and friendly hostess.  Not only did she open her home up to 14 students, she provided us with a delicious lunch both days, coffee and snacks.  Thanks, Ann Marie and thanks to Kathryn Corbin for organizing the class and laughing at my jokes.  Well, most of them anyway!

To see more of Bonnie Bishoff and J.M. Syron’s work, check out their Pinterest board.

Looking for Inspiration? Try a Flea Market

Spring is when the outdoor flea markets spring up in Philadelphia.  My favorite Saturday activity is to take long walks through the neighborhoods and hit house sales, sidewalk sales, and flea markets on my way.  I usually look for household items I might need at sidewalk sales.  Estate sales are especially interesting because they are usually held in affluent neighborhoods and you get to see some pretty impressive homes from the inside as well as antiques and art.  You also learn that money does not always equal taste, but we knew that already, didn’t we?

Flea markets are fun because the sellers are generally pretty friendly in my experience and some are eager to talk about their wares even if you don’t buy.  They’re a place to learn, meet people, and relax.

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John S. Whitney, Jr. has a clever way of attracting buyers to his table filled with antique art and jewelry.  He also sells from his store, the Nue Gallery, in Lansdown, PA.

While I don’t collect antiques or vintage items, and rarely buy jewelry,  I find plenty of inspiration at flea markets.  You will find plenty of shapes and color at flea markets, in the form of old pottery vintage clothing, brightly colored cloth, old appliances, or just plain rusty stuff.  I have found some great old tools at flea markets, but I also look for things I can incorporate into my art, like old jewelry, metal objects I can cut up and repurpose, ephemera,  or anything that I can fit into a bezel.

Here are some pictures from my last flea market foray

 

And here’s what I bought: two cheap copper cuff bracelets and two cheap brass ones.  Total, $5.00.  I plan to reuse the metal to make something new.  I also found a vendor selling cabochons and treated myself to some lovely striped jasper for another $10.00.

My Haul

Two Must-Have Jewelry Design Books and Three Great Technique Books

Elizabeth Olver is currently the design director for Annoushka Jewelry was formerly the jewelry designer for Links of London. She’s written two books on jewelry design that belong in the library of anyone interested in  improving  their jewelry design skills:

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Jewelry Design: The Artisan’s Reference includes hundreds of pictures of shape, texture, and finishes for all kinds of jewelry along with an explanation of how the piece was made.  This not a how-to book, but rather, an inspirational reference guide.

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The Art of Jewelry Design: From Idea Into Reality explores the process of making jewelry from the initial design stage,  to prototyping, choosing materials, discussion of fabrication techniques and examines practical considerations for designing and making a new piece of jewelry.

Both books are out of print but you can find used copies for sale on Amazon.   There are other printings of these books with different covers, but they are the same books as those pictured above.

Elizabeth Olver also wrote a quick, dirty compendium of information on a myriad of jewelry making techniques.  It does not fall into the ‘must have” category because there are a number of very good technique books but, it is an excellent handy reference source.

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The Jewelry Making Techniques Book is also available on Amazon.

Finally, two more excellent technique books I highly recommend for reference and information

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The Complete Jewelry Making Course by Jinks McGrath, available on Amazon, and

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The Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques by Anastasia Young,  also available on Amazon.

Happy reading!

Rings For Friends

I used to love to bake.  I would try any recipe-the harder the better-and was generally successful.  But learning how to make petit fours was difficult.  Not the baking so much as the assembly and decoration.  Each little cake was a project in itself and if I  had an exposed cake crumb or a blob of icing, the cake was no good and had to be discarded.  Or fed to a friend who would sit happily in my parent’s kitchen (this was while I was in high school) and gobble down whatever rejects came his way.  And still managed to maintain his girlish figure, I might add.

Nowadays I am learning how to make rings and set stones.  One good thing about learning how to make rings is that they’re small.  You can make a ring a day for a month and still fit them in a small box.  (Not so when you are learning how to throw pots.)  Another good thing about making a lot of rings is that you can give them to friends.  Oh, I know, people ask me why I don’t sell them.  As if all I’d have to do was open up an Etsy store and the orders would come flooding in.  And then I’d have to make them.  I’m not sure I want to go that route.

Making rings is fun and designing them is fun and giving them to my friends is fun.  Here are some pictures of rings I have given away and some that have been promised to adoptive fingers:

Chalcedony and sterling silver.  I am having fun with twisted wire shanks, too.

I  made three of these rings and still have to give two of them to their new owners.  The stone, an Amazonite, is actually a bead that I  set to look like a cabochon.

Knot

Here are three love knot rings.  The one in the middle is the one destined for a friend’s finger.  It’s made of 16 gauge sterling wire.  The one on the right is 14 gauge sterling and it’s really too thick for this design.  The one on the left is 18 gauge white brass and a little too delicate for my taste.

This is my split-shank “Sword in the Stone” Plume Agate.  Why Sword in the Stone?  Because I didn’t think it would ever fit anyone, but it fits my friend, Sherman, beautifully.  And so it is his when next I see him.  I should have given it to him when he first tried it on, but we were going to wait and do a trade.  We probably still will, but it is his in any case.  Hear that Sherman?

New Work from the Beading Yoda

I dropped in on my friend and neighbor Jeri Schatz (AKA Beading Yoda) to show her the rings I have been making and to get some tips and constructive criticism.   (Jeri studied goldsmithing at the Kulicke-Stark Academy in New York and served an apprenticeship there before she moved to Philadelphia and began beading.)  After we were finished, I asked her t what she was working on, and she took down to beading central so I could see for myself.

 

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The Beading Table

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Beaded Beads

Bracelets

Bracelets

DuoandRAW

Super Duos combined with seed beads

Multi-layered Geometric Bracelet

Hands

 

InProgress

New  necklace design

 

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A geometric bracelet that moves wonderfully when you wear it.

Sampling

Geometric, Herringbone, and Peyote

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More bracelets with Super Duo beads, triangles, bars and seed beads.

There’s Many a Slip ‘Twixt the Mug and the Lip

 

Isn’t that the old artistic dilemma?  You have a vision and you can’t quite realize it.  But for me, the fun is in the exploration.   I experimented with handle shapes and tried mixing Mason Stains into  Amaco Velvet Underglazes to enhance the colors of the surface decoration.

The mugs are glazed with a clear satin glaze on the outside and a white glaze on the inside.  I like the way the colors turned out.  The handles are another matter. Some of them look great but are not comfortable to use.   Other handles look awkward but are extremely comfortable in the hand.  Unless your handle is tried and true, there’s no way of knowing how the mug will feel until it’s fired and filled with its first serving of Java or tea.   But experimenting is all part of the fun.

 

Has Spring Finally Sprung?

It certainly looked like it in my neighborhood.  I took these pictures today on the walk home from the pottery studio.

 

And here’s one of the cacti from Bob’s garden.    I know it looks like a bunch of deflated balloons now, but its cactus pads will be stiff as soldiers come summer.

cactus

 

I have been busy making mugs and  I’ll post a few pictures in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pieces from the Fleisher Student Show.