Express Yourself

At The Expressive Hand in Bella Vista, you can paint your own pottery, create glass mosaics and learn American Sign Language.   And while  the studio, tucked into a charming old  storefront on the corner of Ninth and Bainbridge Streets,  is not new,  the owner is.  I first met Marcie Ziskind in college when we  we were  doing time in an off campus  program called The Harrisburg Urban Semester.   Years later, we ended up neighbors in South Philadelphia.  We managed to find time for artistic pursuits as we pursued our livelihoods  and tended our families (which, in Marcie’s case, includes three boys she once told me were training to be Vikings,  assorted cats, turtles, a rabbit, a dog and a husband.)  So I was thrilled and impressed (when does she sleep?) when Marcie mentioned to me one afternoon that she was buying the studio and closing the next day.

In the year that’s followed The Expressive Hand has become a community gathering place for crafters of all ages and it’s not hard to see why.  The  windows entice you inside with  intriguing displays of  ceramic keepsakes and gifts that you can make in the fully-equipped studio.  In addition to a huge assortment of bisque ware appropriate for every use, occasion and holiday,  The Expressive Hand has glazes in every imaginable color,  stamps, stencils, brushes, tools  and experienced staff to help you.  They also have two huge Skutt  kilns to fire your creations which you can pick up the next week.  If you need it sooner, they have a special “rush” service.  And you know what you’ll spend going in because one fee covers everything.  No airline pricing here.


The Expressive Hand stands for  more than artistic expression, however;   the  studio is also a sign language school and closes to the public on a regular basis to hold sign language classes for children and adults.  Marcie told me that she had wanted to learn sign language since she was a kid but there was nowhere to learn it besides,  everyone thought it was weird.   She finally got the chance to learn sign language about ten years ago.  Now  she’s running a sign language school and pottery studio, and  combining two of her passions in a thriving business.   Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Marcie has plans to introduce other crafts to her customers.    Keep checking the Expressive Hand website for news.

Color Inspired Natasha Experiments

OK, I admit that I’m brain-dead and dog tired this week, so I decided to post  pictures of one of the polymer side trips I made while I was working my way through the exercises in Polymer Clay Color Inspirations. You’ve heard of Natasha Beads and there are a myriad of tutorials on the Web on how to make them.  I made the pieces below by chopping up bits of clay I used for different color exercises, compacting them into a plug as for a Natasha bead, slicing the plug lengthwise and opening it to reveal the design.  I  rolled the  clay to make the two sections the same thickness but tried to maintain the integrity of the design. Then I cut out shapes with a tissue blade or a clay cutter.  After baking and cooling, I coated the tops with doming epoxy resin. I plan to finish them with bails or pin backs.

Here are the results.

Bargain Tool Sources

Here are some of my favorite sources for inexpensive tools.

We all know about Harbor Freight.   Their rotary tools are great bargains.  They sell a cordless rotary tool that comes with  a flex shaft attachment, collets, drill bits and a recharger.  They sell a corded model   I have been using for years.

When I first switched after my Dremel tools gave up the ghost, however, I found that my Dremel keyless chuck and some other accessories did  fit the Harbor Freight models.   Then I ordered a collet set made by Proxxon from the Amazon web site.    I found that the collet holder fit my Harbor Freight rotary tools perfectly.    I took a chance and ordered Proxxon’s keyless chuck. Guess what?   A perfect fit!  So now, I have an assortment of collets, collet holders and a keyless chuck     that works with all of my bargain basement Harbor Freight rotary tools.

Harbor Freight also sells a small bolt cutter  that works great for cutting heavy wire.

I discovered P and J Tool Supply at Interweave Bead Fest. They sell  rubber blocks for use under steel bench blocks with prices starting at $2.00. They have hammers, hemostats and other gadgets.  When you don’t need a top-of-the-line tool,  check them out.  They carry more expensive tools, but  I have no recommendations either way on these.  I don’t know anything about their hole punchers, for example.  For tools like that, I tend to stay with something tried and true, or recommended to me.

Hye On Beads sells jewelry tools in addition to stringing supplies.  I bought a pair of metal snips for $12.95  that are holding up well for my limited hobby use.  Prices are reasonable and shipping is free.

Finally, we all think of Etsy as a place to buy finished goods, but you know you can buy supplies there too?  And since you’re buying from crafters, they’re likely to be familiar with what they sell.   I have gotten great customer service from every seller, and shipping is reasonable.

One of my favorite vendors for collage jewelry supplies is   GlassSupplies.  If you are interested in trying to make collage jewelry, take a look at this site.  It has everything you’ll need, but you won’t be prodded into over buying, or spending a lot of money on a soldering iron that is more suited to doing a church window than a simple pendant.

If anyone has any other good sources for suppliers, please leave a comment.