Embrace the Handle

Many people, including yours truly, are daunted by the thought of pulling a handle for a mug. So rather than face the task with fear, I decided to pay special attention to my mug handles to see whether I could come up with handles that are fun to make. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1.IMG_20180209_113045But I will not be making mugs this week because Clayathon starts today!  And I’ve been looking forward to it for some time.  To read about past Clayathons, press here.

Pain and Soldering Revisited

 

I am making a setting to hold a coin.  Or I am trying to.   I set a coin in Richard Salley’s metalsmithing class at Hacienda Mosaico a couple of years ago.   I didn’t like the results and vowed to try again.  I had my class notes but wanted to find something a little more tailored to my capabilities.  And so I looked for a tutorial in every dog house, out house and waffle house and didn’t find anything I like.  So then I decided to improvise.  Uh oh.
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This is the coin.  A lovely specimen (from before the time the Republic  of Ireland went on the Euro)  that a friend gave me so I could make the pendant for his wife.  I would love to show you the other side, but I have lost it.   My husband says it will turn up somewhere.  Brilliant.  Maybe on one of the moons of Jupiter or the other side of the state, but not with me.

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I start off with 18 gauge silver

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And measure very carefully.

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My trusty scribe and metal cutting scissors.  By the way, these scissors are fantastic!  I forget where I read about them.  (Maybe Helen Driggs’ column in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist?)  I have a few pair of metal cutting scissors, but these are the best by far.  You can buy them from Amazon.

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I cut my bezel.

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I straighten my bezel

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I wrap the metal around the coin, cut to fit

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and solder

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I planned to cut tabs on both sides of the bezel for fold over tabs

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Soldering on the jump ring

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And phooey phooey phooey!  But his story has a happy ending!  I managed to design a coin bezel based on a basket setting.  This took several hundred many attempts.

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In the coming weeks, I will post a tutorial on  how I made it.  In the meantime,  here are two new ideas for making your own jewelry tools!

3.Hammeringmat This one is great!  Who uses phonebooks anymore?  You can also use a thick catalog or maybe stacks of magazines.  Just secure them with masking tape or duct tape.  They make a great hammering surface or a cushion for a bench block.

 

An old hammer head secured in a vise makes a great metal forming tool.

 

Adjustable Bangle (with Dangle!)

Adjustable Bangle with Dangle

This is a story of how I designed a new bracelet that are intended to be gifts. I love bangles and sizing is always an issue.  I know that the intended recipients are relatively small women but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to guess their hand sizes and make conventional bangles.  I decided to make something that could accommodate different sizes.

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I started out with thick brass  wire forms that I  purchased at Wolf Myrow  a few years ago.  I had originally thought they were tubes.  In fact, they were solid wire maybe 8 gauge.  I like the look of square wire so I annealed them and  squared the wire in my rolling mill.Stages of wire

This picture shows the same wire in three stages.  The top shows how it started out, the middle is after bending and the bottom is after a few passes in the rolling mill.  The wire gets  thinner and longer.  You have to be careful not to reduce it too fast or you will distort the edges.  And you also have to make sure the wire is properly annealed.  Brass wire is hard.

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After I squared the wire,  I annealed it again and shaped it around a bracelet mandrel.  I hadn’t yet decided what to do with the ends.  I ended up sawing off a few inches,

Formed Wires

Here are three bracelets with the ends sawed off.

Design Consideratons

I was considering soldering some bronze metal clay medallions that I had made earlier onto one of the ends or the middle of the bracelets, but I thought it would look wonky.  Plus if the medallion was in the middle of the bracelet, the solder would get wear from the bracelet flexing when it was put on and taken off.  So why not try making a dangle from a medallion? The brass is so hard that I made a mock up in copper to see how I liked the idea.

Copper detailI drilled a hole in a copper bracelet and fashioned a dangle from a copper metal clay medallion.  I like the bracelet and the medallion-just not together.  For one thing, the dangle didn’t move the way I liked.   I was limited in the side of the jump rings I could use because the hole in the bracelet could only accommodate 20 gauge wire.  And the medallion only had one interesting side.  That would work for a pendant, but not for a focal dangle on this bracelet.

holes drilled in center of bangles

Speaking of hole drilling,  did I mention that brass is a hard metal?  Still I was able to drill a hole in each bangle pretty easily, with patience, the right tools, and some safety precautions.

Drilling

When you drill a piece of metal, you need to tape it  securely to a sturdy piece of wood with masking tape.  As you drill, the metal and drill bit get so hot that the wood smokes.  See the  dark spots?  Those are burn marks from prior drillings. You remove metal when you drill and it scatters like dust.  I like to wear safety glasses and a dust mask when I drill like this.

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I finally settled on dangles made from brass shapes I originally made for a necklace clasp I designed.  I drilled holes in them, added porcelain beads I made many years ago, and attached then to the bracelet with a jump ring that I soldered for added security.B2

The bangles have enough give to open wider when you put them on and you can close them a bit when they are around the wrist.  I rounded off the ends with a file and sanded them smooth to make the putting on and taking off as comfortable as possible.

By the time you read this,  I will be on my way to deliver them to the recipients.  Of course, I had to make one for myself, too!

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.

quilts

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!

The Big (Blog Hop) Reveal

It’s time for the 8th Bead Soup Blog Party Reveal! Here is what I made from the beads my parter Marta Grabalowska sent me. Her blogs are http://galeriakota.blogspot.com/ and http://wilkmademe.tumblr.com/.

My bead soup was not my typical color palate and I consider that a good thing! I realized that I had some pink seed beads in my stash that I thought I would never use. They were almost identical to the ones  in the soup. I mixed them with  beige and tan beads of a similar value  and threw in some turquoise  beads to make a bead crochet pattern. I used the remaining beads as embellishment.

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The copper clasp holds the rope closed. I beaded around the focal cameo and went for an asymmetrical look. I am very happy with the result. Thank you Marta!!!

Here are some more pictures.

Thank you Lori Anderson for making another great beading experience possible!! You can find a list of all the participants on Lori’s blog.

Metal, Mixed Media, and Imagination

That’s the name of the class I am teaching at the Main Line Bead Society ‘s 2014  retreat.   I plan to teach the students some methods for using metal, fabric, paint, wire and found objects ( to name a few) to make jewelry  or anything else we can dream up.  I want the class will be a guided play session for grownups,  and the students feel comfortable enough to create with wild abandonment.  I plan on bringing a ton of tools and materials and  inspiration pieces. (see pictures below).  And I hope to learn as much from the students as they learn from me.  Wish me luck!  I’ve never done this before.

Cheap and Easy (Drill Bit Storage That Is!)

I was trolling that delightful time sucker Pinterest a few months ago when I saw an awesome bur holder  sold on the Stuller website. It looked like it would hold hundreds of burs and drill bits in a compact space and could sit  right on the top of my jewelry bench.  Did I mention that I wanted one right then and there? I’m not given to impulse purchases, however,  so I tucked it into the back of my mind. Then one trash day, I found a wooden thing with four sides that spins. I think it’s a mug tree and kitchen utensil holder.  I took it home and studied it. Then I realized that it was a drill bit and bur holder  waiting for me to liberate it from its former job as a kitchen caddy.  It now sits proudly atop my jewelry bench enjoying its new role.

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To make the transition from the kitchen to the jewelry bench, I first marked where the holes would go and then I drilled pilot holes with an electric drill and a 1/8 inch drill bit.  Then I went back and drilled the holes at an  angle so the burs and drill buts would slip in and stay put.

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The wood caddy is hollow in the middle (probably meant for spoon storage)  so I took care to drill a number of holes only partially through so the bits without a brush, polisher or wheel on the top would not fall through.   If I want,  I can drill more holes on the top lip for more storage.

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This project was easy and cheap since I found the wooden caddy.   It would probably be easy to make one of these with scrap wood and a lazy susan base.   Unless you can build something yourself,  however, it probably wouldn’t pay to buy an  item similar to the one I used to convert to a drill bit holder.  But keep your eyes open at house sales and flea markets.  And on trash day.

Creativity Can Be Messy

Creativity can be messy. If you don’t believe me, you probably kept your crayons in perfect condition when you were a kid, organized by color in a box that  nobody ever stepped on and crushed. Go away. I hate you.

I exhibited a creative bent early in life when I took up sculpting with strained carrots. I soon switched to mashed potatoes which I liked better because of their tactile qualities. I made a Devils Tower years before Richard Dreyfus. With gravy. They retired finger paints for the year after I had my way with them in Kindergarten. And they are still trying to scrub the chalk off the sidewalks of the neighborhood where I grew up.

As I got older I became proficiently messy in several media. Some examples:

I spilled a quart of melted wax (during my candle making phase) onto the kitchen floor. My mother kept her composure and within a month, my father built me a workbench in the basement so I could move my operations down there. I never learned what she had to do in order to get my father, a world class procrastinator, to act so quickly. I’m sure it’s better that way.

I got spray paint on the (brick) front steps of our house. My father was so upset he had an out of body experience right there in the driveway. The neighbors were amazed.

I dripped oil paint on the wood floor in my bedroom. This time my mother suffered a fit of apoplexy but we cleaned her up and got her into bed before the neighbors caught on.

As an adult, I got the prize for the messiest person in the pottery studio. My overalls were so caked with clay that if I went out for coffee, people would stop me and try to give me money

Then there is the Jackson Pollack washer.

OK, I am trying to reform. But they say that the darkest hour is always before the dawn, and I am living proof of that. Which brings me to the heart of this week’s post.

I have always wanted hardwood floors in my house, mostly because of my allergies. And now, after 22 years in my little house, I have taken the plunge and the work is in progress as I write. But things are not going swimmingly. My house is the reason. It probably dates to the 1840’s and has been rehabbed, renovated, sanded and expanded over the years. This means that there isn’t one thing in the house that’s straight. The upstairs hallway meanders like a river. The floor in my bedroom has hills and valleys. The bathtub leans to the left; the doorways are wider at the top than the bottom, and the ceilings meet the walls in random places which makes planning for floor to ceiling bookcases rather challenging. Everything is wopperjawed. Kittywompus.. You get the idea.

I have known Robin, the person I hired to install the floors for maybe thirty years. And he is creative. First, he is a photographer and a poet (a good one) in carpenter’s clothing and secondly, he has had to be an extremely innovative carpenter in order to make the hardwood happy on my floor. No, this is definitely not a job for a technician. Robin could very well be to floors what Michelangelo is to ceilings. (If you saw The Agony and the Ecstasy, you know that painting the Sistine chapel was messy too.) It’s all going slowly because Robin must come up with creative solutions to coax the wood into looking like it was laid straight in a tract house and not in a fakakta South Philly house. So as the work slowly proceeds, my house is a mess. But there is a silver lining here: any housework I do at this stage of the job won’t matter. All I can do is move the dirt around. So I am off housework duty (save kitchen and bathroom) for the time being.

Here are some pictures of how things look.

Wood piled in the living room.

Debris piled high in the dining room

The meandering hallway half finished

Plumpton sleeping on Robin’s tool bag

 Plumpton is holding up well even though he has to eat in the basement for the time being.  He is an adaptable Puss.

The lesson for me  is that a hardwood floor is not quickly laid in a crooked house.  If Robin is still speaking to me after the floor is in, we’ll see how crooked things are in the kitchen.

In Arlene’s Studio

Earlier this summer I got to spend some time in Arlene Groch’s spanking new studio.   For years , the room had been a makeshift storage closet for Arlene and her husband but now it’s the studio she always wanted.

I have to admit,  there was something refreshingly different about Arlene’s first studio.  She was a practicing lawyer and when she decided to quit, she turned her conference room into a clay area; the conference table was just right.  But when another tenant wanted the space, she decided to move on.  She took over a room in her house but it was never quite what she wanted.    Something had to be done.

There is a room near the front door of Arlene’s house and for years she and her husband used it as a makeshift storage locker.  Arlene knew it could be put to better use.  They cleared it out and now Arlene has the studio of her dreams.  Two windows give plenty of light on sunny days; one is a  bay window complete with window box.  The studio  has running water, work tables to accommodate five people and plenty of storage.

Now students can come to Arlene’s front door and right into her studio.

Arlene keeps her oven in the  laundry room it behind the door on the left and happily reports that she’s finally caught up with the laundry.

Arlene has filled her studio with her work and little mementos are everywhere.  Her studio is a happy place.

A work space like Arlene’s is conducive to creativity.  Next week, we’ll take a peek at what she’s been making in there.

The Big Reveal Revisited

The August 11 reveal date  for  group 2 of Lori Anderson’s  6th Bead Soup Blog Party has passed.  I was blown away by all of the outstanding work I saw as I hopped from blog to blog.  Lori put together the map below to show where  all 400 blog party participants live.  There are  more detailed breakdowns on her blog.

Look at what  my partner Kristen Latimer  made with the beads I sent to her

MJM Jewelry Designs

I don’t think my beads and clasp were the easiest to work with.   Kristen’s jewelry seems more delicate than a lot of  mine and the clasp I sent  was pretty big.  And I could never figure out what to do with those minty vintage curved bugle beads.   Kristen found a way to integrate her crystals and smaller beads  with mine and  made a a very attractive set of earrings and a bracelet that anyone would be pleased to wear.

On another topic, the Philadelphia Polymer Clay Guild (of which I am a member) has started a YouTube channel and we intend to fill it with playlists of high quality tutorials with videos we make ourselves.

So, here is the interview with Jana Roberts Benzon.

And finally, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  That’s right: It’s Beadfest Philadelphia time.  Don’t miss it.