Some Great Articles and Videos on Finishing Metal Jewelry

Andy Cooperman wrote a terrific series of articles on how to use the flex shaft which you can read here.

And there is a great series of how-to videos from Martha Glennie who is a professor at George Brown University in Canada. 14 videos on cover every aspect of finishing metal jewelry. You’ll want to watch them all.

 

 

McGyver Your Ring Clamp

I bought a ring clamp when I took my first metalsmithing class years ago but could never figure out how to use it.  Then I saw Helen Driggs’ article on how to use a ring clamp and decided to try.  But my wedge was too small and I couldn’t hold anything very tight.  I was too cheap to buy another ring clamp so back in the drawer it went.

Then I saw Nancy L.T. Hamilton’s article on how to convert a ring clamp with a too-small wedge into one that would actually hold something.  You basically drill a hole in the clamp so you can insert a bolt with a wing nut to hold the clamp shut.  What a great idea!  I went to drill out my clamp and saw that it was made out of plastic, not wood.  I didn’t know whether I would destroy it by drilling it so back in the drawer it went.

And while this seems like a non-sequitur, it’s not: I ate a lot of popsicles last summer  and the sticks are littering my workshop.  And I have duct tape.  And that was my solution to my non-functional ring clamp.

 

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Duct tape four popsicle stocks to the wedge.
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Break off the excess on top

 

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Cover the wedge tightly

 

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The wedge should fit tightly into the clamp
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A ring ready for sawing

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I was able to saw the ring comfortably.  The altered wedge held it tight.

 

May your days be merry and bright and may all your ring clamps hold your jewelry tight! (Sorry)

Designing a Jewelry Set in an Online Class

Everything is closed at Fleisher Art Memorial because of the pandemic so they have moved many of their classes online.  I decided to take a class called Designing a Jewelry Set with teacher Maureen Duffy and I am loving it.   Registration for the summer term at Fleisher has just opened and if you are interested in taking Designing a Jewelry Set, you can sign up here.

Our first assignment was to design some rings, just brainstorming and not worrying about how or if we could actually make them.  Here’s what I came up with:

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(A note here,  I use MS Word to draw.  For more information on how to do this, watch some YouTube videos here.   It’s a handy tool and you don’t need the latest version.)

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My classmates and I bounced ideas off of one another and I got the idea to use ceramic pieces in some of the rings.

 

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Trying to figure out how a ring would look with a ceramic focal and how to make it.

 

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Our teacher advised us on how we might execute our designs  told us about web sites and jewelry artists who were doing similar things so we could see their design processes.

I actually tried making a couple of the designs in bronze.  I don’t think the ring with the ceramic focal is very practical, but it was fun to try.

Next assignment:  design earrings that harmonize with the ring designs.  Here’s what I have so far:

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Again, I drew the designs in MS Word and will  attempt to make a few in bronze.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Fleisher is offering an array of  online art classes for the summer including a class in jewelry wax fabrication with  Hratch Babikian who is an extraordinary teacher.  You don’t have to be local to Philadelphia to take these classes, and the tuition is very reasonable.

 

Off the Wall: American Art to Wear

I went to a couple of great  exhibits this year before the coronavirus shut the museums.  One of them,  Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was especially enjoyable.

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While I’ve never been a fashionista, I’ve always loved colorful, striking clothing.  I grew up in the 70’s with a mother who thought that Leslie Fay was a fashion icon.  Oh, dear.  This made for some interesting discussions best left to memory.  But a lot of people felt like my Mother.

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There has always been art clothing, but usually not for the hoi polloi like me and my Mother who were expected to wear sensible “uniforms” and not stand out.  That seemed to change in the late 60’s and early 70’s when brighter colors became acceptable, tie dye was all the rage, and the hand-made movement took off.   I think that the American art clothing movement was a product of this, and it has definitely left a mark on what we wear today.

Some of my favorite pieces from the exhibit:

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Embroidered Top and Skirt, Mary Ann Schildknecht

There is a saying somewhere  that an article of clothing does not qualify as couture unless a dozen nuns went blind making it.    So I was amused  to learn that nuns taught Mary Ann Schildknecht how to embroider while she was serving a two-year prison sentence in Italy for hashish trafficking.  The result is this astounding top and skirt, above.

I first saw this cape and hat by Susanna Lewis in an issue of Ornament Magazine years ago.  Ornament is the best magazine if you are interested in art clothing.

Double click on the pictures to get  a look at the full sized versions of this headdress and cape by Debra Rappaport.  They are made entirely of found objects.

Knitwear

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Joan Steiner, Manhattan Collar
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Katherine Westphal

 

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One of the entries from the Levis Art Denim contest of 1974. Levis Jeans sponsored a contest inviting its customers to decorate their denim and send them pictures.

This is just a sampling of the wonderful articles of clothing displayed in the exhibit.   The Philadelphia Museum of Art has put together an exhibition book which you can order here.  There’s also a real interesting out-of-print book on the Art to Wear movement,  Art to Wear by Julie Schafler Dale.  You can order a used copy here.  Julie Shafler Dale ran a gallery in Manhattan for a number of years that was known for showcasing innovative crafts and new craft mediums (including polymer) before they made their way into the mainstream.  The Julie Artisans Gallery  is closed now, but you can read about it here.  You can read about the Levis Art Denim Contest  and see the winning entries  here.   If you would like more information on Off the Wall: American Art to Wear, click  here and here and here.

 

Try Something Different and See What Happens

I did something different today.  I wrote a letter.  A real letter, not a card.  With a pen.  In cursive. On notepaper.  And I addressed it.  And put a stamp on it.  There’s a mail box on the corner across from my house.  I fought my fear that there were corona virus germs on the mail box handle.  I pulled  the handle down, and dropped the letter through the slot.   And then I looked across the street toward St. Paul’s church and saw this.

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Saint Paul’s Church, South Philadelphia

Actually, St. Peter is the one in the picture.  How do I know?  Peter’s the one with the keys to the pearly gates and I think the big book he’s holding  is where all your transgressions are recorded.  You die, you go to the pearly gates of heaven,and St. Peter meets you like a  bouncer at an exclusive night club and decides whether you get in.

How do I know all this?  Twelve years of Catholic school.  That and the fact that I had a mother who had a hard time allowing herself to relax, and enjoy something like a nice outfit or a yummy dessert without feeling guilty.  And when I got older, I would ask her, “Why tease yourself?  It’s not like there’s a prize for the person who suffers the most.  It’s not like St. Peter’s gonna meet you at the pearly gates with a ******* Kewpie doll.”

St. Paul is down at the end of the block out of camera range, and he is wearing a mask too.  And he’s holding a sword to smack the heads of passers by who might not be wearing a mask or observing proper social distancing.  Which is why I did not go down there to take his picture.  Because even though I was wearing a mask, I knew he was down there waiting to see if I would screw up.  Twelve years of Catholic school will do that.  I’m scarred for life.

Try something different and see what happens.  It just might spark your creativity.

Stay safe and well.

 

What’s on my Table

The days are flying by. We are now into week five of social distancing and I could use some nice warm weather and some sunshine. I have been working on the family genealogy and sharing what I find with family members on a Facebook page we set up for that purpose. I read David Copperfield and my new life goal is to be as wise as Betsey Trotwood. I ordered some Fairy Lights to brighten up my basement workshop. The Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild had its first online meeting and it went so well we are going to continue. I am baking bread having had the foresight to order 40 pounds of winter wheat berries (and two pounds of baker’s yeast by mistake; I could start a black market business) which arrived before the pandemic.

Here’s what’s on my work table right now:

I thought it would be fun to combine galvanized steel wire with vintage Swarovski crystals. I love making funky asymmetrical chains and I have a bunch of gorgeous crystals from old necklaces I snatched up at house sales. This is what I have so far:

I like the look, but I have to get motivated to to more. Here are some polymer beads. I am waiting for them to talk to me and tell me what they want to be (and if they want to be back filled first.)

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I have been experimenting with different methods of cutting jump rings.  I prefer sawing to cutting because I always have to spend time cleaning up the ones I’ve cut, even though I use good flush cutters.  Too fussy I guess.  But sawing has its own problems.    For a long time I was using a jump ring jig I made myself.

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The problem is how to hold the coils in place as you saw them.  The jig I made was small enough that I could hold the coils with my thumb as I sawed.

Here’s one great solution-using a wedge of wood rather than your fingers to hold the coils in place as you saw.

But there are other ways of sawing perfect jump rings and I continue to search them out.  I will share my favorites here.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Connecting with Beads

My friend Gladys Glass operates  the Woodstock Trading Company with her son Seth and husband Harvey.  Woodstock specializes in vintage one-of-a-kind Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia.  and Rock ‘n Roll oriented gifts, clothing, incense, posters and novelties.  (Their store is closed because of the Coronavirus, but you can shop on line.  They ship anywhere in the US. )

For years,  the spacious lawn in front of  Woodstock’s  colorful psychedelic storefront in Cherry Hill, New Jersey was a gathering place for people to enjoy live concerts,  Maypole Celebrations, and Drum Circles.

Until the coronavirus stopped all that.   It’s been hard not just for business, but also because of the loss of social interaction that people really need.

Gladys  was recently commiserating with her friend Suzanne about how difficult the isolation and social distancing can be, and suggested  the idea of stringing beads of “hope” to mark the days in isolation.  She thought that sharing  the beaded creations with like-minded people  would be a good way to stay connected.     A few days later, Suzanne  called Gladys back to tell her she and her friend Galen had created a web site so people could do just that.  It’s  called Safe-String.Com.

Safe-String.com is a free site whose purpose is to help its users “navigate stress, panic, raw nerves, uncertainty, and loss during one of the most challenging episodes in human history.”  And it uses beads to connect people to one another.

The Safe-String.com site offers a forum where its users can share their creations and ideas.  The forum topics are not limited to beading.  One asks, “What expectations of normal are you letting go of today?”   Another asks, “Who have you checked in on today?”

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If you are interested in joining the forums but need beads, you can  buy a kit  from Woodstock which contains  31 random beads, spacers, string, and  ending finial as an ornamental bead stopper.  Also included as a bonus is a hand-painted card, gift bag, and instructions.

But you don’t need to buy a thing to participate in safe-string.com  or to join the forums.   You can make beads  from cloth.  You can make beads from paper and old magazines.  And you can string anything with a hole it it.

Stay well and keep washing those hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week Three and My Hair Looks Great!

 

IMG_4352Social distancing has changed my life.  I have finally learned how to clean and operate the various remote controls scattered around my living room.   I have learned how to use less toilet paper.  I have spotless  door knobs.  I have become acquainted with Joe Exotic, and wonder whether he had to remove his body piercings and start wearing underwear when he went to prison.   I have learned that when you can’t find tofu at the neighborhood Acme or Whole Foods, that a nearby Asian supermarket will have it in stock and everyone there will be wearing face masks.

I don’t have to worry about missing a manicure, because my nails are snowy white from all the hand washing and bleach.  I  don’t have to worry about my roots growing in, because they are the same color as the rest of my hair.  And I don’t have to worry about missing a haircut because my hairdresser and I are sheltering in place together.  Here’s how that happened.

A few years ago, I sent away for a hair cutting kit,  gave it to my husband along with a sharp pair of scissors and asked him to watch a YouTube video on how to use it.  Then I asked him to cut my hair.   Why did I do this?  I knew I needed to start getting regular haircuts but did not relish the idea of scheduling trips to a hair salon.   I see my dentist as recommended and that’s about all I can manage. But quite frankly I was getting to that age where every woman must pay attention to  personal grooming lest she start to resemble Alice the Goon.  And why did I pick my husband?  Because all men who love me must suffer.

My husband is not one to embrace new experiences.  He does not run from them so much as sidestep toward them kicking and screaming with one eye closed and his arms waving frantically.   But for some reason known only to him,  he watched the video then cut my hair.  And  he did a great job!  I was still working at the time and my office colleagues loved my new look.   When they asked me who cut my hair, I replied, “Mr. Ken.”  When they asked for his number, I said it was the same as mine.

So if you are fretting about your hair, hand your significant other a pair of scissors and have at it.  This coronavirus thing is not going away any time soon, so if your partner screws up your hair, you will have one more reason to stay inside.   And support  your hairdresser when this is over.   They will need your business more than ever.   Check out this link for more information.

 

Mr. Ken recommended this video.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

How Will the Coronavirus Change the Craft Market?

The next person I talked to was polymer artist  Janet Pitcher (Petal Pushers) from San Diego. I am always interested to learn how polymer artists discovered the medium, and  Jane’s story is not unusual.  She was 32 and trolling the aisles of Michaels with her 8-year-old son looking for a craft project.  She saw the polymer, tried it and was hooked.  Although she spent years in sales, she was a creative at heart and had a successful business  designing and making costumes. She was also selling her polymer work at retail shows  before she switched to wholesale shows about 10 years ago. 

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She is a consummate salesperson and her passion for polymer was evident.  Janet’s booth was crowded with buyers when I entered and they all left orders with her. 

I asked Janet whether she thought that polymer was a hard sell.  “It can be,” she admitted, ” but polymer is no less valuable than regular clay, cloth, glass, fabric, or a host of other materials.  The value is what the artist brings to the medium, same as any other medium.”   I listened as Janet told her customers  that polymer is “durable, light, and color fast.”  She stressed that she used “high-quality components: Swarovski crystals, niobium wire, and high-quality brass and metal parts” and let them know that she did all the hand finishing herself.   Her lariats are composed of polymer focals  strung on silk ribbon.  Her earrings have a corresponding lariats and can be worn as a set.  I didn’t see any bracelets. 

How to you explain the caning process to people who know nothing about polymer? I’ve seen many a polymer artist (myself included) struggle to do this or,  worse yet, have to explain it over and over all day long.   Jane’s solution was ingenious.    She had a speeded up video of the caning process playing on an iPad to one side of her display.   See the picture below. 

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Caning video playing on iPad explains the process to customers

 

I had originally planned to post this article (on the changes in the market for hand crafted items) before the coronavirus swooped in and upended everything.

The coronavirus has already unleashed significant changes in our lives.  One more thing it is destined to change, although we don’t know how yet,  is the craft market.  Some entities are trying to address this right now.    American Handcrafted is compiling information for Artists and Makers.    Square is helping local businesses to support each other. And some folks on Etsy are selling washable face masks and face mask making tutorials (although there are many sites on the Internet with free directions.  I put some links on a post a couple of weeks ago. More are being added all the time.)    But everything is up in the air right now and no one knows how things will shake out for commerce in general much less the craft market.  With that in mind, here is what I learned from two artist/business people at the American Handcrafted wholesale show in February, before things changed yet again.  

Artists Selling Wholesale: American Handcrafted in Philadelphia

Before 2005,  I sold my work (mostly jewelry) in several galleries and stores, and did a few shows every year. Craft sales were not my main source of income but I did well enough to keep at it.  Family obligations put a stop to that and by the time my life settled down again, the 2008 Recession had caused major changes in the market.   I have done a  little selling since then, but remain mostly ambivalent when it comes to marketing and selling my work. 

 

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Outside the Philadelphia Convention Center

While I am not interested in wholesaling and  rarely do direct sales, I am  interested in the experience of Artists who sell their work in the retail and wholesale arenas.     I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the American Handcrafted (formerly American Craft Retailers Expo) show in Philadelphia in February, and managed to talk to a few of the vendor/artists who exhibited at the how.   Here are two of the most interesting interviews.

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Stickball Studio’s Diana Taylor (Ficklesticks Fiber Jewelry and Fiber Art from Little Rock Arkansas),  has been selling her hand made creations for more than 30 years.  She has seen  craft shows change greatly during that time,  In the 1980’s, she observed, the show aisles would be so crowded with people that you could not see to the end.  And crafting was very popular, getting some of its momentum from the handmade movement of the 1960s and 1970s.  There were a lot of stores and galleries looking for products to sell to their mostly Baby Boomer customers.  Business was good.  It took a downturn with the recession in the 1970’s but improved in the 1980’s. The 2008 Recession cut back business and it has never fully recovered, 

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Today’s typical craft show customer is older.  Stores and gallery owners are leaving the business or retiring.  There are younger makers and sellers, but things are moving on line.  Ficklesticks has adapted  to the changes in the market and is still thriving.  They maintain  an online site in addition to their wholesale business. 

One major change Diana that mentioned she made in her business,  is that her sales reps are bypassing the galleries and gift shops and marketing to the fashion industry.    (I note here that two other artists who have successfully marketed to the fashion industry are Veruschka Stevens (Veru Designs) and Susan Lenart Kazmer.)  

Check out Ficklesticks’ colorful fiber jewelry creations here.

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Janet’s observations on marketing were equally interesting.   She said that people were increasingly less likely to buy products like hers from galleries and more likely to by them as a way to cement an experience, making tourist souvenir shops and museum shops good outlets for handcrafted items.

Something to think about.  Check out Janet’s web site here.

I close with a link to a funny song that you have probably already heard unless you are hiding under a rock.  Enjoy.  And stay safe.

 

 

 

Remember: We’re Resilient

This is the second week that I have been “sheltering in place” with Boris and my spouse (who has been doing the grocery shopping and duly sanitizing household surfaces.)  We are probably getting some things wrong, but doing our best.

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The stay home order in Philadelphia does allow residents to go outside for, among other things,  exercise so long as we observe social distancing rules.

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We’ve been having some beautiful weather here, so I’ve been trying to get out when the weather is nice.  The streets are nearly deserted.  Most of the people we encounter are cheerful and careful to keep the prescribed distance.  Perfect for an introvert who just wants to take a walk.

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Lombard Street near dusk

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Moshulu Penn’s Landing

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Turtle, who lives in Bob’s koi pond, catching a few rays on a sunny afternoon

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Boris relaxing on his cat tree with his stuffed cat, Sweetie.

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I got a new hair cut courtesy of my husband, and made some masks in case friends or neighbors need them later on.

And now for some useful stuff.  Press here for information on sites offering longer free trial video streaming.  I’ve cut my cable, but I might actually try some of these.   I already have tried the live streaming from the Metropolitan Opera.  If you think you hate opera, try streaming one of the Met’s operas complete with subtitles.  For more information, press here. Or explore some  art museums online here.

And finally, a recommendation by my friend Olivia.   Even if you are a non-believer, this is sure to lift up your spirits.  We are nothing but resilient and need a reminder from time to  time.