What I Made This Year

Some of the holiday gifts I made this year

imageFused glass cabochons  strung on buna with friction clasp closures.


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


The beads are strung on galvanized steel wire

image with a sterling silver accent bead


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.


 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.


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.

What I Made at Clayathon


I decided to try making hollow beads using marbles as cores.  The technique goes like this:  You cover a marble ( mine were 25mm and 32 mm) with  clay, poke a little hole so air can escape and bake for 20- 30 minutes.   You slice  the clay open and slip out the marble.    I learned a neat tip from Olivia Surratt.  Don’t cut all the way around the marble; think clamshell.  If you leave a bit of clay attached you will be able to line up the halves perfectly.  Then I glue the bead back together with cyanoacrylic glue.   You can also use Genesis Medium and pop it back in the oven for a bit to set it.


Marbles covered with white clay before baking


Finished bead.  I got the texture from rolling the bead in salt before baking.


Beads covered with zig zag canes before going in the oven.  After they come out.  I sand and buff.


Some of the finished beads strung with bicones and spacers


You must admit she looks stunning with or without the beads!

For more Clayathon pictures, press HERE

Meet the Rilakkuma (Or My Creative Process)

The last two reveal dates for the 7th Bead Soup Blog party have been pushed back a week so I have one more week to experiment with all the beads I got from my partner,  Miranda Ackerley of MirandackArts.      This means you get to be a fly on the wall of my workshop and witness my so-called creative process.     I make a lot of junk when I  work out design ideas.  Read on and you will see what I mean.

Soldered Copper Ring before flatteningI decide I want to showcase some of Miranda’s beads a little differently than just stringing them.  With this in mind, I start with 12 gauge copper wire and solder a ring

hammerflatringI hammer the ring flat

Texturing happer

I add texture with my home made texturing hammer

texture close up

Looks pretty good so far.  I decide to make a multilayer pendant.  (If a little looks good, a lot will look better, right?)    I make another ring and loops for a chain and solder it all together.

pendant polishedGaaaa!  It looks like Rilakkuma.  Oh, dear.  This is not good.  Wait!  Let me send it through the rolling mill!

After Rolling Mill

Now it looks like a teen-aged Rilakkuma.  This is not going well.

Remove punch holes

I take Rilakkuma apart and punch holes in what was the lower ring.


I add a bail and polish.  Now I will string beads and freshwater pearls through the pendant.


Yikes!  Did Plumpton do this when I wasn’t looking???


Second try.  Better.


Second try with a dangle.   Not sure how I like it.  Time to put it away.

To be  continued. . . . . .

A few days later. . .

How do I like it?  Not much, but   I think it’s important to post my failures as well as my successes ( such as they are).  Some say the secret to success is failure.  What do you think?

Don’t forget Beadfest this weekend!

My Visit to Wolf Myrow or Thank You Nehemiah

Elwood: It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

The Blues Brothers

OK, maybe our trip to Wolf Myrow didn’t start off with snappy dialog, but I was game as soon as a friend suggested we take a break from Clay ConneCTion 2012 in New London and head to Wolf Myrow in neaby Providence RI.  “And don’t wear good clothes,” he added.   I had never been to Wolf Myrow before, but I’d  heard about it and was eager to go.

Some  background: The U.S. costume jewelry industry was born in Providence, Rhode Island 1794, when Nehemiah Dodge, a local goldsmith and watchmaker, developed a gold plating process that opened up the jewelry market to  mass production.   Providence became  a major player in the costume jewelry industry and, at one time,  employed thousands in its factories. In fact, New England was once filled with factories from the looms of Lowell  to the textile mills of Lawrence and the paper mills of Maine.   Hardly any factories exist anymore but one can spot the abandoned buildings with their stone walls and multi-paned windows  near the cities’ outskirts close to rivers and railroad tracks.

Wolf Myrow is a left over from those heady manufacturing days.  It buys and sells jewelry findings and beads, mostly discontinued or  old and items left over when a factory closes.   Poking around the vast  Wolf Myrow  inventory gives a feeling similar to exploring your Grandmother’s attic;  the sense of mystery and discovery is heightened by the plain paper packaging and boxes that hold  most of the items offered for sale.

We approached the ware house from hilly street on the edge of town, parked the car on a narrow gravel driveway and entered through a heavy fire door.  The air smelled musty and old.   We  made our way down a narrow hallway over ancient wood floors worn smooth from years of use.  Then I entered the main room and felt like I had walked into a store in Diagon Alley. 

It was crowded with rows of towering rusty metal shelves and every shelf was piled with  cardboard boxes bearing faded type written labels.   I saw a yellowed newspaper lying on a massive dark wooden counter next to an antique cast iron scale.  I felt like I had walked back in time.

And everywhere I turned, I saw a door to another room.  There are so many rooms that they kept the lights off to save electricity, but the light switches were clearly marked in case anyone wanted to shop there.   Each room I entered contained  rows of old metal shelves piled with dusty cardboard boxes.

I walked into a room and switched on the light.   I felt like I was the first person who had entered that room in years.   As I made my way down an aisle I stopped for no reason,  pulled a box off a shelf and opened it.  I saw scores of a brass stamping that reminded me of a brooch an aunt wore when I was a child, a memory I had forgotten.

When you open a box, you might pull out copper bracelet blanks.  Or brass chain.  Or glass pearls.  Or Swarovski crystals wrapped in crisp paper packets.


Customers are required to purchase items in bulk and most things are sold by weight. If you go with a few friends, you can swap  purchases with one another and come away with an assortment of products .  The staff is nice and extremely helpful.

Press here for a link to the website and catalog that will give you an idea of that Wolf Myrow sells. But take it from me, there is no substitute for a visit to the warehouse in Providence.  Thank You Nehemiah.

New Work



I still have a buzz from Clayathon  and am exploring some new ideas.  Here are some pictures.


Beads: Placekeepers in the Book of Memory

I was thinking about signing up for Lori Anderson’s Memories and Thanks Blog Hop.    My friend Susan died earlier this year and I wanted to make something in her memory.  She called me one Sunday last March and said she wanted get together to  play with beads.  By this time,  her left leg  was huge from lymphedema and I didn’t  think she should drive.  I told her I would come to her house.

But no.  Susan did things her way.  She wanted to be in my workshop with me and play with beads.    She got herself down the steps to my basement  workshop while I held my breath.  We played and chatted for two hours.  I had given her lots of  jewelry over the years and made beads for her too.  She brought the beads over and a sack of her broken jewelry.  We tried out jewelry designs, looked at beading books and forgot she had cancer.  We talked about the future.  Before she left,  she gave me some beads and  broken jewelry so I could use them in a new piece.  The next time I saw her, she was  very sick.   She died two weeks  later.

When I read about the Memories and Thanks Blog Hop,  I went on a tear through my workshop looking  for the items she gave me on that last visit.   But this  story is not going  to end up like you think.  I could not find that jewelry even though I tore the place upside down.  I know  she was  hiding it from me.   As I resigned myself to giving up,  I pulled out a box full of beads that I bought in South Africa a few years ago to make a necklace for Shari.  When Shari died before  could make her anything,  I put the beads away and didn’t look at them for a long time.

I found myself staring at the beads and heard Susan’s voice, “You weren’t really looking for me, Lamb Chop.  You’ll get to me when you’re ready.”

And so I will. In the meantime, I unexpectedly find that I am ready to make Shari’s necklace.


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.

New Resin Bangles

I have been making more resin bangles with the home made silicone molds I wrote about in an earlier post, and experimenting with different colors of alcohol ink, glitter and leaf. Again, I’ve used both Easy Cast and Envirotex Lite resins and like them both. One thing I’ve learned is that finishing a resin bangle properly is hard work but the results are worth it. I’ve tried dipping coating and painting with resin, laquer, gloss, enamels and countless other mediums. I’ve learned that I don’t like glossy bangles; I prefer a soft satin shine.

Finishing the bangles properly is similar to finishing metal or polymer clay. The resin is a bit cloudy when it comes out of the mold. I start with 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper and work my way up to 1500 or 2000. This would give me a very shiny finish after buffing if the material was polymer clay. But with resin, I like to keep a satiny finish with just a hint of shine. It’s important to keep the resin clean; tiny molecules of sanded resin can clog the sandpaper and fill cracks keeping you from ssanding them away. After I finish with the sanding, I like to polish with a muslin wheel and Brasso metal polish until I get a soft sheen that’s a little difficult to see in these pictures.

One thing I have learned: If I’m going to put all that work into a bracelet, it had better be interesting. The two bracelets you see below are pretty but, to my mind, not nearly interesting enough to justify all the hand work.

I have only seen one book on the subject that I do not hesitate to recommend: Resin Jewelry by Kathy Murphy. It’s written for the artist as opposed to the hobbyist. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a hobbyist. I consider myself a hobbyist. But if you want to try to push your resin work to a higher level, Resin Jewelry is the book for you.

I have also been learning about compounds, polishes and how to use them. Some of the compounds you can use to finish resin, such as rouge, you can also use to finish metal. But that’s a huge topic. I found an instructive polishing guide on lline and you can download it here.

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.

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.