What I Made This Year

Some of the holiday gifts I made this year

imageFused glass cabochons  strung on buna with friction clasp closures.

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imageI attached pendant/pin findings on the back so the cabs can be removed from the cord and worn as brooches

    wpid-img_20141228_164559blog_wm.jpg A polymer bangle bracelet

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The beads are strung on galvanized steel wire

image with a sterling silver accent bead

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I made a necklace for Leigh who is married to Max  and the Mother of two little boys I made two sterling silver rings for the pendant which I textured and then soldered together.    I stamped the names of Leigh, Max and the boys onto the dangles that I cut from a sheet of sterling and filed into shape.  Then I made holes in them and domed them in a swage block for a more interesting shape.

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 The beads are everyone’s birthstones: opal, garnet and sapphire crystals.  I used the stones and Balinese silver beads to make wrapped loop dangles which are hung  in front of the name dangles and attached to the pendant with soldered jump rings.  I made the clasp from  sterling wire and attached it to a ready-made chain.  It fastens in the front.

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Plumpton didn’t get a present because every day is Cats’ Day.  But I made Ginger Cat cookies ( instead of gingerbread men) in his honor.

Metal Lentils

Here’s a pair of earrings I made this Summer.  First I etched some copper sheet with a Japanese wave pattern and then I cut out  four 1 1/2 inch circles to make disks.

I filed the edges of disks so they were all even,  put holes in the center of each one with hole punch pliers  and dapped a gentle curve into the disks with a wood dapping block.

I sanded the bottom of each disk in preparation for soldering.  The edges had to meet all the way around with no gaps.

Getting a bottom half ready for soldering.  I have pickled and fluxed the discs and am using medium solder.  I like to flash my flux with the flame to dry it out before laying the solder because then the solder doesn’t skitter around because the flux is bubbling.

A lentil bead ready for soldering.  You notice that I’m bit using binding wire.  I’ve never had much luck with it anyway.  Lexi Erickson (see below) suggests pinning the bead to the firebrick through the holes.  This worked beautifully for me.

After soldering before pickling and cleaning

I am learning to use less solder.  It means less cleanup!

I patinated both sides of the lentil beads with a butane torch.




I finished the earrings with brass washers that I dapped to conform to the curve of the lentil beads, and decided to use carbon steel wire to attach the earrings to the ear wires.  I like the look of mixed metals.

I recommend both of Lexi Erickson’s soldering DVDs. They are packed with useful information and common sense tips.  You can order them from Interweave’s Jewelry Making Daily Shop.

Olivia’s Studio

We all know what fun it is to peek into someone else’s studio.   I got the chance  to peek  into Olivia Surrat’s studio not too long ago.   Olivia works in metal and  wire with some polymer clay added for color.    Her studio is compact and efficient.  She’s lined it with Billy bookcases and added  doors to take away some of the visual clutter you get when you have thousands of components stored in see through containers.  Olivia also snagged couple of old card catalog files and a great long sturdy jeweler’s bench that looks much more comfortable to sit at than a regular bench.  And will you look at that stake in the picture with the anvil?  She found it at a house sale.  That’s where you find great stuff.

The doorway  to Olivia’s Studio


The window gives lots of light

Metal waiting to become jewelry

Here’s that great forming stake!

Some polymer clay beads in the making and some interesting glass and shell beads.

View from the bench.  Note the slots for pin vises and mandrils.

Polymer clay and PMC bracelets, and some strung glass beads.

Close up of polymer clay beads in various stages of finishing

Some of Olivia’s wire work.  She was lucky to be able to take a class with Lynn Merchant

 Beads from around the world or the house sale around the block


Olivia collects polymer clay pieces but we were having so much fun we never got to pull out her collection.  The item above is a purse by Kathleen Dustin.  The  sign on top of the shelf is a reminder that you don’t need to take everything so seriously.

Truman, Olivia’s Canine companion  is a charmer.  He’s not a true studio dog because he’s not allowed in the studio, but he gives encouragement from the hall way where he plays with his toys and anything else that people bring into his house that seems new and interesting.  Like my husband’s  briefs which kept him occupied for a good long time until we realized why he was so fascinated.

For the Bezel Challenged

My friend Sherman claims to be bezel challenged.    That got me thinking.   Who hasn’t had a cool stone or glass cab that would look great in a metal setting?  And while you can  always wire wrap or make a tab setting (here’s a link to a great  tutorial from Jewelry Making Daily on making tab settings)  maybe you are ready for something a little more advanced’

     So, here is a setting idea for the bezel challenged.  Are you listening Sherman?.

 I took 14 gauge copper wire, cleaned it and made a shape.  I filed the wire ends flat  for a butt join and soldered the join with medium solder.
 

After pickling and rinsing, I laid three 18 gauge wires with balls on both ends on top of  the shape and  soldered them on, again with medium solder.    I also  soldered  the bail on during this step. (It has a little tab of metal I slipped under the 14 gauge wire and gravity held everything in place).  You might prefer to solder on the bail in a different step.    The beauty here is that you don’t have to worry about fit because the wires you’re soldering together already touch each other.  The soldering goes very quickly.  If you solder in three stages you might consider using easy solder for the last step.


  Here I am making a bail from a strip of 18 gauge copper and bail making pliers.

Here’s  another shape cleaned up.  You can see that I was too generous with the solder on one of the wires.  But there is an easy solution.  Toss a steel nail and your copper piece back in the pickle.  I don’t heat my pickle so I leave it for maybe five hours.  The steel makes the copper that is floating around in the pickle coat the copper piece.   If you have any silver or brass pieces in the pickle, they will become copper coated too, so leave them out.    At the end of the period, fish out the nail and it will be slimy with copper  (and your pickle will be cleaner!) The silver solder on the copper piece will no longer be visible.  You can still sand and file it off,  so don’t be any more vigorous than you have to be with the finishing.  And yes, it is durable.

The final step is to bend the prongs front and back to hold the cab in place.  You can also use your pliers to make interesting shapes with the prongs.    You can make the prongs long and coil them into spirals if you like.  You need to make at least three prongs to hold the cab securely.

With this technique,  you don’t have to measure your stone or cab as accurately as you need to when you make a bezel.    I just eyeballed the pieces in this post.  Another advantage of this technique is that you can see both sides of the item you are setting unlike a bezel where you only see the front.    The backs of fused cabs are usually not that interesting but stones are another story.

This technique lends itself to playing with the metal too.  For the piece below, I soldered a bunch of copper rings together and then added a smaller circle with the soldered prongs.

If you are using a micro torch, be sure it’s hot enough; not all  micro torches are created equal.  A good choice  is the Blazer GB2100.  Also, you need a soldering surface that will work with you and not against you.  I prefer a refractory block.   A  Solderite soldering board is another option.

I am not sure how I am going to use this yet.  If I had to do over,  I would have balled the wire that holds the cab from the back.  It doesn’t look bad the way it is, but it could have looked better.

Even though I  “discovered” this technique while playing around,  I  am sure it’s been around for years because it’s so intuitive.  I am  interested in seeing what  other people have made with it.  If you know about anything, send it my way.

Meanwhile in my Workshop

I’ve been a little scattered these past months last through months  jumping from   beading to  quilting to casting glass to polymer clay and crocheting without much focus.   I’ve also been practicing my soldering  and playing “let’s put that through the rolling mill and see what happens.” Or arranged components in different combinations to see how they look. The picture below  shows a copper spiral I put through the rolling mill,  some bent wire, and an enameled metal scrap.  I don’t think  the pieces go together, but you don’t know until you try.

Here are some  ceramic shards from my pottery days.

I used high fire white porcelain  with mason stains to color the clay.  I had previously  tumbled the the with cheap cleanser  until the surfaces were a buttery matte. A couple of years ago I took the same shards and tumbled then with the polish meant to be used in the last stage of rock tumbling. Boy was I surprised-they got glossy shiny. 
Some shards were finely crazed on the surface and I rubbed ink and shoe dye into a lot of these. I have made pendants out of some of them; you can drill holes in them the same way you drill glass.

 

Here’s my box of  of metal scraps. I should call it my magic box because whenever a need a certain piece of metal, I can find it in there. The brass pieces in the left compartment of the middle shelf are these cool fixtures of a chest of drawers. I am going to use them upside down as focal pieces in necklaces. I am still thinking about the design

Here are some bezels. The one in the foreground holds a bullseye glass cab I fused awhile ago. The curl of copper in the back (left)  is what remained when I cut a thin sheet of copper with metal shears. The metal curls up and looks so interesting. I still have to think of a way to use these.

Fold forming and patina experiments.  I think the verdigris needs to be toned down  or eliminated.  This might make for an interesting pendant.

Here I am trying to hold a piece steady for in order to solder one little thing to it.  When you solder, anything  you use to clip or bind pieces together draws the heat from your torch and makes the process more difficult.   
Bead caps are easy to make.  Just take a disc (bought or cut  with a disc cutter) make a hole in the center with a hole punch, and shape  with a dapping die and punch.
More components looking for  a home.  The white bead is polymer clay.
You enamel the bead caps after you make them.    You don’t have to use them as bead caps.  The above dangle could be an earring or an embellishment.
More enameled scraps
A few years ago, Theresa Mowery of Patina Studio suggested Miracle Gro plant food after reading one of my posts on patina experiments. It works great! But I live in an urban area where my own garden is a weed growing out of a crack in my front steps. So I got liquid plant food that has similar ingredients to Miracle Gro ( just compare the labels) so I would not have to buy a large box of plant food and mix it up. The liquid plant food even comes with an eye dropper.
Here are some finished copper pendants tucked into my patina jar that’s filled with Kosher salt. I screwed the lid on and will check it after a few days to see how the patina is developing.
Here’s  some other pieces.  I put on the patina and am leaving them in the open air to see what happens.
The pictures below show the front and back of a pendant in progress.  I etched a piece of brass and patinated it with the ammonia and salt method.  Then I  cut out the shape, made a hole and shaped it in a swage block.
I filed the edges smooth and added a ring, washer and dangle with  enameled ends.    I think this pendant will undergo some more changes before I’m happy with it.

 Once it’s the way I want it, I will finish the pendant with a coat of Renaissance Wax to protect the patina.
If you’re in Philadelphia this weekend, don’t miss the Spring Art Star Craft Bazaar Saturday, May 12th & Sunday, May 13th, 11-6pm at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing, which is along Columbus Blvd, between Walnut & Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA

Learning to Make Metal Beads

I’ve spent some time this summer learning how to make metal beads.  The above bead is a copper lentil about 2.5 inches across.  I etched the metal I used on the front before I made the bead and I patinated it afterwards.   Theresa Mowery of The Patina Studio who commented on an earlier post, suggested that I try Miracle Gro as a patina agent.  What a GREAT TIP!  I ended up using African Violet food because I didn’t have to mix any powder, but the principle is the same.  This stuff works fast!  I got the patina you see above after a couple of days.  I sealed the pendant with Sophisticated Finishes sealer and then gave it a buff with Renaissance Wax.   Here are some more pictures:

The glass beads in the last picture are hollow lampwork.  The beads are lengths of copper pipe that I cut from found scrap.  I pounded them (after annealing) so they looked wrinkled,filed and sanded the ends smooth and soldered  copper disks (with holes in center) to the ends of the pipes.  More filing and sanding followed.  I have a way to go with these.  I found the lentil beads went together with less effort; maybe because it’s easier to sand the edges to get flat surfaces for soldering, so they clean up much more easily.  And the metal is thinner than the pipe metal so it’s easier to work with.  An addendum:  forging can damage your joints including your elbows and wrists.  A safer way to make the wrinkled beads is through use of a hydraulic press. 


Here’s the part of the post where a recommend a book!    Making Metal Beads by  Pauling Warg is a fabulous book on how to make all kinds of metal beads, not just soldered ones.   Be warned that there is no Precious Metal Clay in this book, but Warg does have directions for using cold connections to fabricate unique beads that will catch everyone’s eye as well as tutorials on how to alter ready made beads  into something that looks unique and totally hand made.

Here’s a video featuring Pauline Warg:

On-Line Ideas and Inspiration for Jewelry Makers

I troll the Internet in search of ideas and inspiration.  Here are some new finds and some old favorites I want to share:

Nancy LT Hamilton offers free metalsmithing videos on sawing, riveting, soldering,  making findings and other techniques.  She offers a few metal working tools and her site is full of  useful  information about tools, metal, measuring, ring sizing, drill bits and more.

Beaducation sells jewelry making tools, books. DVDs and findings.  In addition paid on line classes,  Beaducation offers  free on line classes in several mediums including metalsmithing, felting, resin jewelry making  and beading

Brenda Sue Lansdowne  sells cool  vintage jewelry supplies on her web site, B’Sue Boutique  and her  blog, Jewelry Making Outside the Box  is chock full of interesting information.   She also offers free on line videos  showing how she uses her products to make eye-catching  mixed media jewelry.  The videos and blog are great places to get ideas and inspiration.

Speaking of ideas and inspiration,  I found these silver plated serving forks at a flea market.  I plan to saw off the handles and make the serving ends into pendants. 

If you think you have seen it all when it comes to jewelry made from spoons, knives or forks, you must watch this  video  by Italian Artist Giovanni Scafuro.



Dolores Poacelli: No Relationship without Tension

I was at Art in the Open walking by the Schuylkill toward the Waterworks when I saw a woman working on this interesting piece

“How cool,”  I thought.  I went to get a closer look. . .

and met the artist,  Dolores Poacelli.   She told me the piece was composed of discarded aluminum printers plates she found in the trash.  “I’m a dumpster diver,” she said, ” and my studio is in the Italian Market.”  That’s all I had to hear to feel a connection.   But there was something else that attracted me to her work.  What?

Dolores on the right explains her process to Jeri

  The unifying factor in her body of work is an ongoing exploration of the relationship between color, shape, texture, space and tension.   Her exploration of these elements, while subtle and nuanced,  animates the  monochromatic  piece  and makes it interesting. Want to see more?  Her web site is full of  compositions  where she studies these relationships in metal, paper, collage, paint and mixed media.  Take a look!  Press here to see more of Poacelli’s work.

 Wooden Sculpture by Dolores Poacelli on the banks of the Schuylkill

 

Resin and Bezels


I have been practicing soldering and trying new projects including backless bezels and prongs.  All the pieces below are made from recycled metal.

I poured the resin into the bezel after completing the bezel.  I put packing tape on the back to keep the resin from seeping out.  The color comes from alcohol ink.  I put in a tiny bit and carefully swirled it with a tooth pick so as not to make more air bubbles.  After pouring a layer of resin, I put in another tiny drop and allowed it to spread without swirling.  I also put in some glitter and metal leaf to see what it would do.

The back.  I had a hard time cleaning the metal as you can see.  Next time it will go in the tumbler with the stainless steel shot!

I didn’t like the way the top turned out, so I sanded it and poured it again.  I think the dome is a little too high, but now the top has no dings.

The  circular pieces of metal are  scraps left after I trimmed a thin piece of metal with  tin snips.  The blue comes from blue pulver powder.  Pearlex would work, too.

There are obvious air bubbles in the resin, but I didn’t try to coax them out.  I think they give the pendant an aquatic feel.  I also floated some metal leaf in the resin.

My first attempt at prongs using Joanna Gollberg’s article “Fresh Prongs” in the July 2011 issue of Art Jewelry as a guide.  No binding wire needed!   Check out Gollberg’s book, Making Metal Jewelry for more great ideas.

I poured the resin cube in a plastic pill organizer.  They make great resin molds; the cured cubes just slip out and the surface on the top and sides are nice and shiny.  I probably poured resin in the back before unmolding because the resin will shrink and dip a bit in the curing. 

 

The prongs need to be higher, but they hold the cube securely.  I don’t think the resin cube is spectacular enough to make this a memorable necklace, but I wanted to try making a prong setting before attempting to make five or six more and using them and resin cubes to make a bracelet.  I think that would look interesting.

 

Take a look at Susan Lenart Kazmer’s DVD Exploring Resin  to learn some interesting resin techniques including how to cast resin in an open bezel.

Viking Knit Unraveled and Revealed

I recently spent time trying to puzzle out the Viking Knit.  There some excellent directions on the Internet including these on the Fine Art by Rocio website.  The problem is, the Viking Knit that looks so cool is double or triple knit and all of the instructions that I saw, including those in Irene Petersen’s otherwise marvelous book,  tell you to loop down a couple of rows with a single wire and then go up a couple of rows and come back down to double knit and repeat to triple knit.  I don’t know about you, but that would drive me “Ape-something that rhymes with knit.”  Plus it’s hard to keep your rows and stitches even and the wires lying evenly instead of whopper jawed and all kinked up.

And then there was this thing about clamping an Allen Wrench in a vise that seemed like overkill. Viking Knit wants to spiral and as long as you keep your stitches fairly even,  you don’t have to be fanatical.  You can straighten your wire work when you take it off the mandrel.  I was able to find several artists on the Internet who used a mandrel of some sort.  I have had success with dowels and chopsticks.

But my biggest discovery is that you don’t have to do the up and down nonsense to do triple and double knit.  All you have to do is work with two or three wires at a time.  It’s  really not that difficult.

Here’s a crudely drawn picture of how you start:

The red loops are what they call the petals.  The above diagram shows the stitch worked flat, and you can see examples of this in Arlene Fisch’s classic book Textile Techniques in Metal.  But for now, think round.  Since it’s recommended that you work in 24 or 26 gauge wire, working with 2 or 3 strands at a time is easier than it sounds.  When I work with copper wire,  I work with yard long strands of wire taped together one end and proceed as if I was using a single wire.  When I work with brass wire,  I use  18″ to 24″ strands because the wire is stiffer and a little harder to work with, but it is not difficult.  Here are some pictures:

Here is a triple knit chain in progress.  It is three stitches around and I am using 24 gauge wire.  They say that 24 or 26 gauge wire is the best size to use.

Here is a detail:

I add new chain according to the standard directions you will find in Internet tutorials or Irene Peterson’s book.  I worked on this brass wire chain until it was about 16″ long.  Then I annealed it with a micro torch (you don’t need to do this with copper or fine silver, but brass is stiffer) after brushing it with flux to cut down any fire scale.

The next step is passing it through the wooden  draw plate.

The above picture shows the chain during the drawing process.  I passed it through three successively smaller holes, then stopped.  I once saw a video of Charles Lewton-Brain demonstrating fold forming and he said something that stuck with me.  I don’t remember the exact quote, but he said that when you are working on something and reach a point where you like how it looks, STOP!


The picture above is the finished necklace.  I soldered the knitted ends together and soldered a 14 gauge wire to each end.  Then I made the end caps from brass, passed the 14 gauge wire through the holes in the end,  I formed wrapped loops. made jump rings and soldered them closed and finished with an “S” clasp I made for the necklace.

Here is a close up.

To give you a little perspective, the two copper sections below are five stitches around.  The top one is triple knit the same way I did the brass necklace and the bottom one is single knit.

The final picture is a close up of a wide hole bead I slipped over the chain.  The final necklace was about 24″ long.  How long do the chains get when you draw them?  There isn’t a hard and fast answer.  It depends on the stiffness of your wire, how many times you draw the chain and how many stitches around your chain is.  The only thing I can say for sure is better too long than too short.

So now that you know how to make a double or triple Viking Knit chain without all the up and down maneuvering, go ahead and give it a try.  OK, you might think it’s cheating.  You might be a purist.  Just remember, as someone wiser than me once said, “Virtue is its own reward and little else.”

Here’s a late addition:  the Viking Knit is the same as the “Acorn Stitch” or Celyon Stitch” used in embroidery, only it’s worked upside down.  Sometimes you can get the hang of a technique by trying it in another medium first.  If you’re new to wire work but good at sewing,  try the technique with thread to get the hang of it.