The Art of Steel in Kensington

I wrote last week about Wayne Cambern’s show at the Boston Street Gallery.   While I was there,  I got a tour of the building that houses the gallery and met the owners, Jeff Harris and his wife Maria who are artists themselves.

Jeff works in  wood and steel stock.  His massive sculptures fill half the gallery and his studio and workshop are in the rear.    The building itself has an interesting history.   Built in the 1880’s, it housed a coffee roasting factory that supplied the US armed forces during both world wars.  Kensington used to be full of factories  Now, many of those former factories are finding new lives as art galleries and artist studios.

Jeff started out as a photographer but soon moved on to other mediums.    He told me that his first love was wood and he still works with the material.  But he found it too limiting for what he wanted to do, so  he started working with steel stock.

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Steel Stock

When I saw Jeff’s work I assumed that I’d find torches in his workshop.  How else could he get those bends and shapes?

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The answer?  A big vise and some simple tools.  No heat except to weld pieces together.

 

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Jeff’s vise

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Jeff and Maria also give painting classes on the second floor of the building although they are more for fun that for “serious” art.  For more information, go to the web site, to http://www.artwithspirits.com.

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Take some time to visit the Boston Street Gallery And for updates, follow the Twitter Feed

The Quilts They Are Finished!!!

I started making these quilts in 2011 right after I made Nathan’s baby quilt which was my first quilt. (I am not a quilter, so I decided I should start out with something small.) Ok, ok, it only took me four years to finish these, but I didn’t work on them continuously.

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I started with sewing scraps of fabric together just to get a quilting mojo thing going.  Then I started buying old clothes at thrift stores and taking them apart for the fabric.  Some friends gave me fabric.  Someone across the street threw out boxes and boxes of great fabric!  I bought fabric sample books
on eBay and a box of scraps from a quilt maker on  Etsy.

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Gradually, I settled on  Log Cabin Pattern.  Since the idea of making the blocks all the same made me want to stick a needle in my eye, I decided to make them all different and had fun with each one.  The only rule was that the colors had to work.  Oh,  and I settled on a size of 12 inches square for each finished block.  I taught myself to chain piece and I became a quilt block berserker for a while.

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The quilts are 6 blocks across and eight blocks long

Headboard

 Years  ago, I painted a headboard  on my wall.  Makes it hard to rearrange the furniture!

Nightstand

My husband said he quit drinking in case he woke up one day and looked at his night stand.  This is from my painted furniture phase.

Quilt Back

I made my own binding, machine sewed it to the front of the quilts and hand sewed it to the back.  Here’s a good quilt binding tutorial.

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I used fleece blankets as the filling and flannel sheets on the back.  I machine quilted by stitching in the ditch around the  blocks.  It wasn’t that difficult with a walking foot.

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The view through the mirror on the wall.  This is the companion piece to the nightstand.

I don’t have plans to make another quilt although I do have a third quilt top left over.  It could happen!

Ugly Bead Beauty School

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Yes, there is such a thing as an ugly bead. I should know because I have made so many of them.  The ones you see below are glass rejects that I have accumulated over the years.  They suffer from such defects as garish colors, drippy dots, pointy ends and general whopperjawdidity.

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I had a sack of ugly beads that I had saved over the years.  At first I thought I would give them away.  But why should I give away crappy beads?  Then I thought I would toss them.  “No,” I decided, I’ll put them in the recycling bin.  “No, I’ll sprinkle them in flower beds in the neighborhood.” No, that didn’t feel right either.  And then I decided to pull out the kiln and see if I  could make them into something beautiful.  And Viola!  All the glass cabochons in the picture below are made from the ugly beads you see in the pictures above along with a little dichroic, Moretti rod chips, stringers and some flat clear Moretti.

 

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I put the beads in the kiln a few at a time and melted them (after cleaning out all the holes thoroughly) I broke up some beads and rearranged the pieces.  Some beads I stacked on top of other beads and put a stringer of a contrasting color glass  down the middle. 

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Orange bead stacked on a blue bead with aqua stringer.  Spacey!

If I only liked part of the fused cabochon,  I cut it off and combined it with something else I liked. 

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I added dichroic class for interest to some of the cabs.  I didn’t want to use too much.  I think that fused glass cabs fill of dichroic glass are boring.  The cab above is a disk bead with dots around it stuffed with goldstone stringer and topped with a layer of clear. Later I fused it to another partial cab that I liked.

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Sometimes I liked the bottom of the cab more than the top.  So I just cleaned off all the shelf primer,  turned it over and fused it again.

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This one is a clunky star bead that I fired with a layer of clear over it.  I considered trimming off the places where the color did not flow and firing it again, but I like the contrast between the clear and the color. I like the bubbles too. The white dot in the middle is where the hole in the bead was originally. 

I plan to post some more specific directions and before/after pictures.  By the way, the glass is Moretti and the kiln is a Jen-Ken Bead Annealer hooked up to a Kiln Controller.

Beads of a Different Stripe

I have been busy trying  lamp working techniques this summer.  Striped beads are made differently than I would have thought.  Instead of drawing stripes on the bead with a stringer you  lay down dots, put on a layer of  clear glass and melt it slowly.  This serves to magnify the dots underneath which appear as stripes!  How cool is that?  Here are the basic steps:

Base bead

Make a base bead

First dotsAdd some dots.  Don’t melt in.

dotsAdd dots on top of dots.  Don’t melt in.

 Clear wound aroundAdd a couple layers of clear over the dots only.  Think of a shape like the planet Saturn with its rings.

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 Begin to heat the clear glass.  Slowly so the glass doesn’t pop or crack.

 wrapsBring up the heat to melt the clear glass.  This magnifies the dots underneath

TorchingPick it up a bit and keep the mandrel turning.

heatingWhy?

Stripes taking shape2Because you don’t want your bead to sag.

Stripes taking shape

Let the bead cool slowly and keep it turning to maintain the shape

coolerAlmost finished.

Beads2   And here are the finished beads.  This could get addicting!

Don’t forget Bead Fest this weekend!

    

My Bead Soup Arrived!!!

My partner is Marta Grabalowska who recently moved from Krakow to the US!
Her blogs are  http://galeriakota.blogspot.com/ (in Polish) and http://wilkmademe.tumblr.com/ (English version). Marta’s work is different from mine. For one thing, she makes  Soutache jewelry and I have never tried the technique. She sent me some pretty soutache cord and a lovely pair of soutach earrings along with lots of pretty beads.  I’m looking forward to digging in; here are some pictures  of what she sent me.  The first one is the focal and clasp.

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Here are a couple of pictures of what I sent Marta. I etched some copper for the focal and made the clasp too. I included some of my lamp worked beads and had a good time rooting around my stash for the rest of the beads.    I can’t wait to see what my partner makes with them.

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A New Spoon Bracelet

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Bracelet

I’ve had spoon parts banging around in my  leftovers box ever since I made  some earrings  from the end of the spoon handles.  “Too short for  bracelets,” I told myself.   Then one day, just fooling around,  I put one of the spoons through the rolling mill to see how  how it looked. Interesting but still too short for a bracelet.

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I threw the piece in with a batch of copper scraps and rusty pieces and it sat for a few more months until one day I decided to apply a  verdigris-like patina on the bowl part.    I liked how it looked.  I had to make it into something now!  Even though it was still too short for a bracelet, I knew it was meant to be  a bracelet.  So here’s what I did:

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I drilled a hole in the tip of the spoon bowl, in the middle of the spoon bowl and on the end of what remained of the handle.  Then I  balled the end of two pieces of 14 gauge copper wire.  I dropped one of the pieces of wire through the hole of a drill bit gauge with the balled end sticking out of the hole.  I hammered the end flat and sanded it smooth .  I repeated this with the other wire.  Then I used a plastic mallet and a bracelet mandrel to hammer the spoon and handle into an oval bracelet-like shape.    I cut one of the pieces of wire to about 1 and one half inches and flattened the other end and filed the tip smooth. Then I  threaded it from the back of the bracelet through the hole in the tip of the spoon and used a pair of round nosed pliers to shape a clasp.

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I  fashioned the two pieces of figaro chain and jump rings  to  clear the tip of the clasp and hold the bracelet closed by tension.  There’s not a lot of play in the closure and you have to squeeze the bracelet slightly to release the chain from the clasp.  The bracelet isn’t tight fitting, however, so this is easy to do.

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Why did I use two pieces of chain  instead of one?  I thought it looked better!  One figaro chain looked too delicate for this bracelet.

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To make the focal piece, I  threaded the remaining piece of wire through the center hole,  a rusty washer,  a  Danish 5 kroner coin and a piece of drilled tumbled glass.  Then I cut it close and made a small loop in it.  This was a challenge to do without breaking the glass!   I finished the bracelet with a dangle  attached to the loop.  All the parts  fit snugly.  I made sure I  filed the riveted ends of the wire inside the bracelet until they were smooth;   I hate to wear anything that’s not comfortable.  I coated the spoon and washer with Renaissance Wax to protect the finish before assembling the bracelet.

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Here are some basic directions on how to make the bracelet.  I would be thrilled to receive pictures from anyone who tries it!

New Spoon Bracelet Directions

Four Birdies Swinging

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I finished the birdie ornaments and decided to put them on swinging perches because they are swinging birds. In fact, their first stop after they left the workshop was a party where Mr. Green found a home on a Christmas tree

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I managed to catch the birdies in candid shots before they flew off to their new homes.  They are made of polymer clay with  newspaper and foil armatures,  I painted them with liquid clay stained with alcohol inks-a technique I’d never tried until I saw Kate Clawson‘s work and attended the class she gave for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild

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I managed to catch the birdies in candid shots before they flew off to their new homes.  They are made of polymer clay with  newspaper and foil armatures,  I painted them with liquid clay stained with alcohol inks-a technique I’d never tried until I saw Kate Clawson‘s work and attended the class she gave for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild


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The birdies chat before they depart for their new homes. 

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Hats for Little Boys

I was in Denmark last month and saw a wonderful exhibit at  National Museum of Denmark called Vikings.  The Danes seemed so orderly and socially responsible that I found it hard to believe they had ever been Vikings. But a thousand years, give or take a century, will change the culture of a group of people.  Today the descendants of Vikings are peace loving individuals known more for their incredible design sense and self-assembly furniture than for carnage and pillage.

Now I find that history duplicates itself in odd ways and patterns emerge that seems to repeat down through the centuries.  Hitler and Napoleon’s invasions of Russia come to mind.  Another example is my step son Maxwell who was a Berserker as a child.  When he grew up and left home,  Max calmed down a bit and  married a lovely woman who taught him to eat with a fork.  They went on to  have two sons who are apparently carrying on the Berserker tradition: hell bent on  toddler destruction, mayhem, refusing to share along with occasional biting  and kicking one another under the table when they think Dad is not looking.  But Maxwell, being an ex-Berserker (or maybe just a closet Berserker) is rarely  fooled.   Mom is never fooled even though from what I understand she was not a Berserker or even a member of the Women’s Auxiliary.  But I digress.

I do not want to encourage such barbaric behavior and yet I think that little boys need to get down with their inner Norsemen.  So I made a Viking helmet and a crown for them so  they can reenact the Battle of Edington until they leave for college.  You don’t need to thank me Max. Their precious smiles are all the thanks I need.

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I made the helmet out of a wool sweater I felted in the washing machine.  The horns are purchased felt stuffed with fiber fill.

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I used recycled sweaters in the crown too.  The yellow felt is purchased.  I added pom poms for jewels.

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I didn’t have a pattern for either hat.  The helmet was not too difficult to plan but I had to study  pictures of crowns  too figure out how they were put together before starting the felt crown,

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I stitched the horns on the sewing machine and then turned them out, stuffed them and sewed them to the sides of the helmetnIMG_20131201_132641~2~2

I had to hand sew the helmet because the wool was so thick.
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Now if you ever wondered what those strange Ikea names mean, press here.  Press here for a list of movies about Vikings.

Bead Shopping in Prague

I’m writing this on my last day in Prague; we leave tomorrow for Copenhagen. Prague as you may well know is in a part of the Czech Republic called Bohemia. To my husband, that means Bohemian
Rhapsody and every corny joke that goes with it. To me, that means Bohemian crystal. The souvenir shops are full of Bohemian crystal, both cheap and expensive: goblets, vases, candy dishes and figurines like your Grandmother used to display so proudly in her china cabinet. These don’t do a thing for me.  I came for the Czech crystal beads.

Before I left the U.S. I scoured the Internet in search of bead retailers who would be convenient for me to visit during my trip. I found Robinson Beads without much trouble. It’s a small store with a large selection of Czech crystal and glass beads at reasonable prices. I didn’t buy much because I have a large collection of Czech beads already and I was in search of something new. I did buy a copy of Perlen Poesie and read through several more issues. This is a fabulous beading magazine out of Germany that I’d heard of but I never got to leaf through an issue. Now that I have, I will subscribe. I also picked up a few issues of Koralki a Czech magazine with much simpler projects. I always like to get at a copy of at least one beading magazine from each country I visit and Robinson’s Beads is the only place in Prague where I saw any beading magazines for sale.

My big find came by chance. While trolling the open Market on Havelsky Street near Old Town Square in Prague, I saw a stall crowded with customers looking at beads.   Did someone say beads?

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I ended up buying some attractive and different looking (to me) crystal beads, some old favorites and a few glass beads. The prices were good. An example: I paid $5.00 U.S. for a bag of 300 very sparkly 6mm round faceted crystal beads.

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The proprietor (and I am sorry I didn’t get her name) explained that her son ran the business and sold beads on the Internet. I took her card and looked up the site: http://www.koralky.cz and saw that they run five bead stores (not including the stall) and that three are in Prague. By the way, koralky means “bead” in Czech.

The koralky.cz site is in Czech and it will likely stay a Czech language only site because they get so much new inventory that requires frequent page updating. They do speak English, however, and will be happy to answer questions if you contact them.

Here’s another tip: if you want a good tasty Czech meal that’s not over priced or swimming in grease (with vegetarian options too!) try Blatnice, Michalska 6-8/511 Prague 1.

 

Prague

 

Recycling Ideas From My Workshop

My friends call me “thrifty.”  Maybe my penchant for reusing things comes from having parents who lived during the Great Depression and were always trying to out do one another with stories of how poor they were.  My father recalled having to eat chicken skin, chicken fat and gristle at dinner because his mother “paid for that too.”  Little did they know that with some imagination, some secret ingredients and a whole lotta cooking fat, they could have made the first chicken nuggets and ended that Great Depression  at least as far as they were concerned.  But I digress. (Why do I always do that?)  Here are some examples of how I’ve been recycling.

Unraveling Sweater

I bought this Man’s size large Shetland wool sweater at a thrift ship for $5.99 so I could take it apart and reuse the wool.

Unaveled Yarn

Taking a sweater apart can be tedious but who doesn’t love a challenge?

Ball

One big ball of yard and lots of sweater left to unravel.

316 rods

I wanted some fatter lamp working mandrels.  These are about 5 mm.  I got them from a discontinued  Ikea storage cart.  I think they are aluminum but they work fine although not as well as steel.

Cheerios

Now I can make beads that look like Cheerios!

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I had to stop eating cheese because of a medical problem and had no trouble finding a new role for the cheese grater.

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Cheese graters hold lots of earrings.    You could blast it with a coat of spray paint (minus the earrings of course) to give it a new look.  Make sure the holes don’t get clogged though.

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Here’s a silicone mat with little fingery things meant to be used for drying  crystal wine glasses.  I got mine on sale for about $5.00.

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They’re a great tool for coating small items with resin .  Place your cabochon or what have you on the mat and pour.  The excess resin runs into the mat and when it cures, simply pop it off!   Here’s a link to a similar mat that Amazon sells.  You could probably find a better deal or snatch one up at a yard sale.

Here’s a good video on sweater deconstruction and yarn harvesting.