No Work and All Clay

Clayathon logo by Robin  Milne

Clayathon starts in a few days and it won’t be too soon for me.  The hotel where we hold it was sold last year  and ensuing renovations meant we had to move Clayathon from February to April.  Nicer weather but too long a wait!  Fortunately, Clayathon will return to its February time slot next year and make that dreary month seem a little less miserable.

Here are some pictures from last years’ Clayathon.



Artsy Sciency in Arlington


HANDMADE ARLINGTON is a juried arts and crafts show in Arlington Virginia that raises funds for the Swanson Middle School PTA.  This year, more than 45 artists and crafters have been invited to sell their hand made creations to a buying public that keeps growing year after year.


This year, I am proud to say that my  clay colleague and and travel partner to such exotic locales as Damascus (Maryland) the Las Vegas Strip and Puerto Vallarta will be among the artisans and vendors at Handmade Arlington. Encouraged by her friend and mentor, silversmith  Jules Jernigan  Terri will be showing her polymer clay creations which include functional and decorative objects.


Terri’s bracelets are some of her most popular items.  To make them, she layers different colors of polymer into brass forms, bakes, and then carves through the layers.  They are all  unique and one of a kind.  They look great worn stacked together!



Terri spends a lot of time in her day job looking through microscopes at breathtaking miniature vistas and crystal formations that most of us will never get to see.  These influences carry over into a lot of her work which is why it is so different and distinctive.



Besides Terri’s work, you will find potters, fiber and wood artists, jewelers and other crafters at Handmade Arlington.  It’s just one day, April 2.  If you want to go, check out their facebook page for more information.





Clayathon 2016

Another Clayathon has come and gone. Laura Tabakman  shared her techniques and explained her design process and sources of inspiration.  I didn’t make many items this year but got to try my hand at making hollow triangle beads and other hollow geometric forms. We made a trip to the Shore Diner and the family-owned Athenian Garden where the service is slow but the food makes it more than worth it.  I brought a bottle of Tullamore Dew to share and it went rather quickly because so many people got to enjoy it. My brother and sister-in-law came to hang out on Sunday.  I made new friends, saw old friends amd enjoyed a drink before the fire on the Stocktom Seaview lobby.

Here are some pictures.


It was great to see Lisa Clarke who hasn’t been able to make the last few Clayathons. Read her blog post here.





















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.


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.


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.


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.

Bdangle detail

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!

Still Claying After All These Years

Clayathon time is here again. I will pack up my stuff and head to beautiful Galloway Township NJ and the Stockton Seaview Hotel where I will meet new and old friends and have a chance to play with my clay for as long as I want.    Clayathon is a friendly gathering of creative people who enjoy playing and claying together.  Clayathon  can be a time to set goals and try new things, or  a time to make birds.  Lisa Clarke has attended most of the Clayathons and written about them.    Robin Milne designed a great logo for this years’ event.    And Arlene Groch and her team of volunteers have made Clayathon one of the best clay events of the year.  


Want more?  Here  are some past Clayathon posts from this blog.

Where I Make Glass Beads

Welcome to my summer lamp working studio.  I work with City gas and an oxygen concentrator.  My glass is mostly moretti or scrap class that I find or friends give me. 


My lamp working station with home made arm rests (cigar boxes).  The top of the table is an old door protected with pieces of thick aluminum flashing.    I drilled holes in a wood block to hold the mandrels.  I only make lampworked beads in the summer when I can have the windows open and the air moving.



The workshop.  I batch anneal and when the kiln is on the area around it is cleared!


Glass shards



Stringers pulled from scrap glass



Disk beads and silvered glass.  I wear a respirator when I am working with fine silver in the torch.

Blended and Silvered

Here I’ve mixed blue and green scraps and added some silver.  I don’t know the COE of these glasses but they behave  similarly and I think they must be very close in COE if not the same.



More beads


My home made mashers (rebent barbeque tongs)



From the Dollar Store, these also work as mashers but you have to quench them in water to keep the glass from sticking.

I’ve made a lot of beads this summer.  I even like some of them.  I will share them with you in a later post.

A Walk Down Pine Street

The area of Pine Street in Philadelphia  that stretches from about 13th to 9th Streets  is still known as  Antiques Row even though most of the antique stores have moved out.   The good news is that after a dry spell and the recession (which has not ended for everyone)  new businesses are moving in and what’s more, they are changing the character of the street.   And between you and me, while I appreciate antiques I would rather troll house sales and out-of-the-way flea markets than go into antique shops.

I never bought a thing on Antiques Row.  But surprisingly (to me)  I find myself patronizing the new stores on Pine Street, particularly  the block between 11th and 10th Street.  If I want a nice gift,  that’s where I go.  My husband and I  were looking for a piece of furniture to replace an old entertainment center and ended up buying a mid-century console at Hello Home-and paid less than we would have for a mid-century knock off   at a mass market place like Crate and Barrel or West Elm.

Plus I have  enjoyed walking down Pine Street from the time I was in high school in South Jersey  and ditched classes to come to Philadelphia and play.

Here are some pictures and links to the web sites from some  of the stores.   You can get a complete list here.  Come and see for yourself the next time you are in the mood for something a little different and cannot endure another shopping mall.






Happily Ever After


Show of Hands Craft Gallery


Hello Home








Spirit of the Artist


Addiction  Studios

12 11










Puss in Window

Read about Pine Street in Transition

YouTube College of Crafting

If you are looking for information on how to make something, a craft technique, how to use a tool or ideas and inspiration, YouTube can be a tremendous resource. I have learned so much from watching YouTube videos. But I have also seen some videos that have me scratching my head and wondering about the people who posted them.
Some examples that come to mind: The woman who did a nice job explaining how to dye roving but then explained that she shot herself from the nose up so she didn’t have to put in her teeth. Ewww, did I need to know that? Then there was the young woman talking about a wire working technique. (This is a mistake; talking about how you weave a wire into a chain is like listening to a golf tournament on the radio.)
But the highlight was when she suddenly turned her head and shrieked “Give me a minute!” Was her house on fire? No, her mother wanted to go shopping and was waiting for her downstairs. Don’t keep your mother waiting girl! Get down there! Now!
OK, I’m on a rant. Don’t appear in a video wearing one of those headsets unless you are playing someone who flies a helicopter or works at a takeout window. And you don’t have to be Cecil B. DeMille to know that demonstrating a technique off camera as you chatter and occasionally give the viewer a peek is not effective.
Does anyone know what a tripod is? Shaky cameras give me vertigo, so today’s word is tripod. And if your kid keeps whining. “Mommy I’m hungry,” stop recording and feed the poor child. If your kids are beating the stuffing out of one another as you try to demonstrate how to crochet a lace doily, for heaven’s sake stop recording and separate them before they kill one another. Especially if they are both over age thirty. And get them into therapy. (And yourself while you’re at it.)
Finally, if you make a video in which you demonstrate soldering, put the cigarettes away! I actually saw a video of a man demonstrating soldering who chain smoked during the whole thing. That was last year and I am still having trouble breathing.
OK, now on to the good stuff; here are some YouTube channels that you can watch without retching, sorrow or nightmares and you can learn a great deal. Enjoy!!
Rio Grande has almost 200 videos on all aspects of jewelry making’s YouTube channel is full of information on mixed media paper art techniques.
Delphi Glass offers a tremendous amount of material the products they sell and on glass crafts.
Stampington and Company, the people who publish Belle Armoire Jewelry, Art Journaling and other magazines offer videos covering a wide range of techniques including resin, paper, jewelry, mixed media
If you are interested in seed beading or bead stringing, Beadaholoque has plenty of videos to get you started.
If Quilting is your passion, the Missouri Star Quilt Company adds new videos regularly.
Happy viewing!

The Glass of Murano and Venice

I have always loved beads. Like fire, beads hold a primal fascination. They are part of every society and culture. There is evidence that humankind could have been making beads 100,000 years ago.

The Venetian City State became a major trading hub and a center of glass manufacturing in the 1300’s and the  earliest Venetian beads are thought to date from this time. Most of the glass work was done then and now on the little island of Murano just a short boat ride from Venice. The Venetian government moved glass production to Murano in to protect the City of Venice fire which was a constant danger in medieval towns where most of the buildings were constructed of straw and wood.

I was fortunate to be able to travel to Venice for the winter holiday this year. And because I love glass and beads, I had to go to Murano.

Murano is where the African Trading beads that I have collected since I was a teenager were made for colonial trade in Africa. The lovely, worn trading beads you are likely to find  today did not start out looking that way.  The beads really were used in trade and acquired a worn, matte finish from years of use much like coins.
It was fascinating to look at old sample cards of millefiori beads at the Murano Glass Museum. The beads looked shiny and new only because they sat in showrooms for decades and were only used as samples.  If you go to Venice,  be sure to make a trip to the Murano Glass Museum. 

I had always heard that you could go into the glass factories and watch items being made.
A friendly store proprietor from a glass making family (and glass manufacturing and bead making seems to be a family endeavor) 
set me straight  about these tours.  He said that  the lamp workers and blowers did not like to have  people around while they worked (I can understand why) and that the demonstrations  you will see on Murano  were cursory and rehearsed, and not illustrative of the way they really worked.  

Since I’ve seem a lot of real glass making of real glass and do lamp work myself,  I decided to skip the demonstrations and drool at the glass instead. Here are some pictures.

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There’s even more!  The Ercole Moretti website is a treasure trove of information and eye candy.  They published a history of  their company and Venetian glass and I am having a lot of fun reading it.

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What I Did At Clayathon

I made a beaded bead, two birdies and started a mad scientist figurine.  I was not productive at all.  But I don’t care.  Leslie Blackford was our guest artist and she gave some wonderful demos on sculpting  and making figurines with heads that screwed on and off so you could change them depending on your mood.   Leslie’s work is engaging, memorable, clever, funny, punk, outre, and wonderfully screwy all at once.   She is a patient, generous teacher and down to earth.    We all had a blast.   I bought one of her necklaces (a pizza eating cat) and  part of the clasp bore the words, “Damn everything but the circus!”  I looked up the e.e. cummings poem which seems to describe Leslie’s approach to polymer clay.  I think it’s also a good way to live:

Damn everything but the circus!

…damn everything that is grim, dull,

motionless, unrisking, inward turning,

damn everything that won’t get into the

circle, that won’t enjoy, that won’t throw

its heart into the tension, surprise, fear

and delight of the circus, the round

world, the full existence…

— e.e. cummings

I saw old friends, made new ones and took a cold walk on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to Caesars Casino with Leslie,  Rob Yost  (who came up from Maryland wearing his skunk hat) and Barb.  Emily and Lisa were preternaturally prolific as always.   People sculpted some incredible things and I took scads of pictures.  I  hope to post most of them in the fullness of time.

Here are my birds

To see everyone else’s birds, go to to the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild’s blog, the Guild Reporter