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:

New Metal Work

Soldered copper patinated with liver of sulfur

Recycled brass from an old charger plate!

Soldered copper patinated with ammonia and salt

Torch fired enamel on copper

Make Clasps from Found Objects

I’ve been thinking a lot about jewelry made from found objects lately, probably because I have been asked to give a talk on the topic at the April meeting of the Main Line Bead Society. So this morning as I was brushing my teeth, it hit me: Why couldn’t I make a clasp from those cool copper washers I got at Harbor freight? I always get my best ideas in the morning. I had to wait until I came home from work to give it a try.

I took two washers about 18 gauge thick  and sawed a slit in one just big enough for the other one to fit through. Then I made jump rings from 18 gauge copper wire and soldered them on the washers. Then I pickled, cleaned, punched a pattern on the clasps, gave them liver of sulfur bath, and polished them up. The placement of the opening relative to the jump rings is critical; you want your necklace to stay on.  I don’t recommend this clasp for bracelets.  It has kind of an old Roman feel, don’t you think?  Here are the pictures.


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This last clasp is from an object I found on the street- a sheaf of 10 gauge copper wire encased in black electrical tubing. You can take off the tubing and use the wire. I made a clasp out of mine. Here’s that picture.

martha15

Plumpton Says Patina

I have been experimenting with patinas on metal. You can buy patina chemicals, but you can also use things from around the house, like salt, rust, and ammonia.  My feline companion Plumpton  and I sometimes collaborate on artistic projects.   Here are two examples of copper buried in Plumpton’s litterbox.  

Why buy iron oxide when it grows wild everywhere? Yes, iron oxide is another name for rust. Take a rusty object and put in into a plastic bag with a few drops of water and the metal object you want to have a rust patina. Here is a what a steel washer looks like, before and after.   

The next items are salt and ammonia and the process is called fuming. I cleaned brass and copper with a wire brush and wiped it clean with alcohol. Then I filled a small jar with white ammonia and put in inside a big jar. I sprinkled salt in the big jar (not in the ammonia), put in the metal, and screwed on the lid.

At first, the brass started turning black from the edges and I didn’t think anything interesting was going to happen.    

Then I got this.  Kewl!

Here is the same process repeated on copper.

More experiments to follow . . .

A final note – I took “Forming Lasting and Meaningful Attachments” with Robert Dancik last weekend with the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild last week. The class covers cold connections and is one of the best classes I ever took. I didn’t make a thing, but I don’t care. I learned so much it will take time to process it all. Take this class if you have the chance.

DVD’s from Kato, Miller and a Calder Article


 

Donna Kato Presents: Tips, Tricks & Techniques for Polymer Clay  is three and a half hours of Donna Kato demonstrating caning, transfers, mica shift, finishing techniques and more. The gals at video night (you know who you are) gave it a five (out of five) pasta machine rating. A bargain at $34.95. To order, press here.

I love everything Sharilyn Miller. (To see my review of her Tribal Treasures video, press here.) I just got finished watching her Ethnic Style Jewelry Workshop video, and all I can say is “Wow!” Another three and one half hours of valuable information on wire working, and instructions for making four bracelets and two necklaces. A steal at $39.95. To order it, Press here.

I wrote about the Alexander Calder Jewelry Exhibit at the Philadelpha Museum of Art in an earlier post. The latest issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist has an article on Calder’s jewelry well worth reading: “Calder’s Mobile Jewelry” by Cathleen McCarthy.

Ray Kremzner Goldsmith and Bladesmith

Ray and Raoul
Ray and Raoul

Ray  was first and foremost a bladesmith.  I’m sorry I don’t have pictures of his museum quality knives to show you. Most of them are in private collections.  Ray had been interested in metal working all his life, taking his first jewelry class in high school.  He wanted to be a jeweler, but his father was mortified that any son of his should sit at a bench and work with his hands.  Never mind that Ray had talent, intelligence and a desire to find his own voice-his career plans didn’t fit in with his father’s myth. 

Ray and Shari
Ray and Shari

His parents split up early and his mother left.  His father remarried and had a new family.  Ray didn’t fit in. He left as soon as he was old enough, but he had a way about him that made people invite him into their families almost everywhere he went. Ray settled down with my sister-in-law Shari, pictured on the left around 1993. Phil and Sandeye Jurus, who own Baltimore’s Jurus Gallery which carries some of Ray’s work, became like second parents to him. Ray always managed to appear right when Sandeye was cooking something. My own mother adored him and wanted to have her picture taken on his motorcycle.

 About three years ago, Ray heard that his father had died. I think this liberated him somehow, because he started making jewelry again-this time in earnest. He also started a job as a machinist working with high tech metals for the defense industry. The proprietor and his boss was Sam who was also like a second father to him.

Here is some jewelry Ray made for Shari.

               

In August 2007, an SUV turned in front of him as he rode his motorcycle to work. Even though he was rendered a paraplegic, he and Shari were determined to get on with their lives when he got out of the hospital. Shari moved their belongings to a wheelchair friendly apartment. Friends offered to build him a wheelchair accessable jeweler’s bench. His friend Kelly planned to teach him how to use precious metal clay. But since the accident, he suffered from constant bed sores and MRSA infections. He never did leave the hospital. His body finally gave out and he died in April, 2008.

Those who truly knew Ray knew he was a complicated man who struggled with serious demons all his life. But they loved him anyway. I suppose this is what you call unconditional love.

I have some of Ray’s jewelry tools now and I will think of him whenever I use them. But most importantly, I am again reminded that for anyone who is hurting because he was denied unconditional love when he needed it most,  his pain will be healed if he can find the courage to give love unconditionally.

Vicky and Milton

Vicky and Milton are my Mother and Father-In-Law.  Milton died in 1995 and Vicky passed in May.  They were New Yorkers who sought a better life in Baltimore where they moved in the 1950’s.  My Sister-In-law still lives there and my husband had to relocate there a couple of weeks ago to take care of her because she is very sick. I wanted to make something special for her. 

The picture above is Vicky and Milton on a day trip to Bear Mountain State Park before they got married. She was seventeen and he was barely in his twenties. It was during World II and he had a tour of duty in the Pacific still ahead of him.

I made a polymer clay transfer of a photograph with translucent clay and sandwiched it between two sheets of glass. Then I cut and soldered on channel lead and jump rings for the chain hanger and the heart. I put a patina on the channel lead with gun blue.

I hope she likes it. She is not on the Internet, so it will be a surprise.

Some Web Sites I Like

For interesting takes on Metalsmithing and Metal Jewelry,  check out the work of David Paul Bacharach, Barbara Briggs and Connie Fox’s wonderful site, Jatayu

To learn to make just about anything, check out Instructables and the Ready Made Magazine web site.

No matter what kind of art you’re into, you’re sure to find something that interests you on Wet Canvas.

Happy Surfing!

Ancient Patinas

     Here are some new  twists on  polymer clay surface techniques I have been working on.   You can see some earlier incarnations in the Keepsake Memory Book I demonstrated on HGTV, and my work in Ellen Marshall’s Polymer Clay Surface Design Recipes. More to come.