I am doing a demonstration on making collage jewelry for the Philadelphia Area Polymer Clay Guild this Sunday. You can have a lot of fun making little assemblages, pendants, and memory pieces. Press here for some how-to information and tool suggestions, and here for books I have found to be helpful and inspiring.
Even though I have posted articles on making simple jewelry tools, there is always something more to learn. Here are some of my recent efforts: You can make texturing hammers out of cheap ball peen hammers. I filed the faces of the hammers and used grinding tools on my flex shaft (you can also use a rotary tool) to get some interesting textures. I didn’t have any instructions; I just made it up as I went. If you try this, however, wear safety goggles, because they hug your head with no gaps for tiny metal fragments to fly through. When sanding and finishing metal, I also wear a dust mask because you can breathe in tiny metal particles. You might want to go a step further and use a respirator.
You can also file and grind metal punches and chisels to get great texturing effects.
Here are examples of textures I achieved on annealed copper with the tools I made. The upper left was made with the altered chisel. The other three were made with the altered hammers. I worked on a metal block.
Another tool I love is a gizmo to hold jump rings while you saw them. I first saw a picture of this tool in Robert Dancik’s book Amulets and Talismans. He didn’t give any directions, but it looked so simple to make and such a great idea that I made my own. You can buy one at John Lewis’ Etsy Shop, and you can find directions on how to use it on Barbara Lewis’ blog, Painting with Fire. If you want to try making one yourself, Art Jewelry Magazine published and article by Howard Siegel that subscribers can download here.
My V block tool. Not pretty, but it gets the job done.
It wasn’t until I saw Shailyn Miller’s DVD Rings of Beauty, that I realized how useful a ring mandrel holder could be. I built a home made version from a wood box that held a bottle of wine. If you are handy with hole saws or and spade drill bits, you could make one easily and clamp it to your table when you work on wire rings.
Last in my bag of tricks is a makeshift clamp for small jewelry pieces. If you are trying to saw a small piece on your bench pin and can’t hold it still, try using a large metal binder clip with a piece of craft felt or other sturdy fabric. Your piece won’t move and you can saw or file to your heart’s content.
A couple of years ago, I posted a tutorial on making a bracelet from old spoons that proved to be quite popular. Here are examples of more types of jewelry you can make from old spoons.
Here’s a torch enameled spoon bowl pendant that I drilled for a jump ring before enameling. The copper ring is a big jump ring soldered shut, hammered flat and textured. When my friend Terri saw it, she remarked that she would have used the concave part of the spoon bowl instead of the convex side as I did. Which opens up a bunch of new design possibilities that I plan to explore.
Here are two pairs of earrings made from different parts of the spoon handle. First, I cut the pieces to the proper length and filed them smooth. I filed a gentle curve on the top pair because I think it looks more attractive than a straight edge. Then I drilled holes and filed off the burs. I patinated them in liver of sulfur, and made ear wires from fine silver on which I had previously balled the ends. After inserting the wires through the holes in the earrings I gently hammered fhe balls flat so the wire would stay in place and the earrings would hang properly. Finally, I smoothed the other end of the wires with a cup bur in a rotary tool.
This year, I’ve gone from a metal and soldering frenzy to a lamp working frenzy, to a glass and ceramics tumbling frenzy, to a glass fusing frenzy, to a felting frenzy. Every so often, I get in the torch enameling. And there are always the seed beading designs I’m working on. Did I mention that I ruin a lot of stuff? But some of the metal can be recycled and most of it started out as recycled anyway. (I used to have a lovely let of brass charger plates.) The fused glass can be cut up and refused. The lamp working failures can be turned into frit or become elements in fused pieces so long as you keep the COE straight. And you can use an ugly felted bead as a base for another bead.
I decided to combine the polymer beads and lamp work into a necklace and make a clasp. The polymer beads are interspersed with the lamp worked beads. Many of the lamp worked beads are fumed with silver and the focal bead is hollow . For for the clasp. I made jump rings and soldered them to copper washers from Harbor Freight that I textured with my home made texturing hammers. I’m not sure if I am happy with all of the polymer beads; I might make some new polymer beads at Clayathon . But here’s what I have so far.
My friend Sandeye gave me these glass chunks. They were left over from a glass installation she and Phil Jurus assisted with in New York City some years ago.
Sandeye wondered how the glass would looked made into beads fumed with fine silver, I said I would give it a go and see what turned out.
First, I pulled the chunks into rods and stringers. Slowly, I might add.
Then I started making beads.
I couldn’t mix the glass since I didn’t know the COE of any of it, so I experimented with silver fuming.
Then I got bolder.
I even thinned aluminum foil in my rolling mill to see how that would work. Not too well.
See those dark spots? That’s copper scrubber I cut with scissors.
Eventually, I used up all the glass.
I’ve been busy, haven’t I?
Think Sandeye will be surprised when she gets her beads? Don’t worry. I will keep a few.
I broke Susan’s cobalt blue candy dish. An old cobalt blue candy dish. It was probably an heirloom. Susan took one look and said “Phooey.” Then she smiled. “Make me something from the pieces.” So I took the pieces home and stared at them. I got an idea. I put them in my rock tumbler and tumbled them into velvety looking beach glass. I didn’t know what to do next. I showed them to Susan and asked what she thought. “I liked it better shiny,” she commented. Phooey, I thought. I put the glass away. That was twenty-five years ago.
One day I took the glass out and stared at it because the time had come to make something for Susan out of the glass. The glass was talking to me. Not only that, I had taken up lampworking in the twenty-five years that had passed, and I will stick mostly anything in the flame. Well, that’s not exactly true. I don’t cook in the flame or light combustibles or body parts. I respect the flame. But I love to play and experiment.
I made lots of beads for Susan using all kinds of inclusions where the COE of the glass didn’t matter. I had didn’t have a plan or directions; I just heeded the laws of chemistry and improvised as I went. After kiln annealing, I put the beads in a box along with with some findings and jewelry tools and other beads and gave them to Susan. She took one look and clapped her hands. “Oh, goody gumdrops!” she exclaimed.
One day when I can tie her down, we will make things with the beads. Here’s to the next 25 years, Susan!
Here are the beads I kept.
I will post next week on how I get these effects with scrap glass.
- O GOLDEN month! How high thy gold is heaped!
- The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung
- On wands; the chestnut’s yellow pennons tongue
- To every wind its harvest challenge. Steeped
- In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped;
- And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among
- The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung
- Her utmost gold. To highest boughs have leaped
- The purple grape,–last thing to ripen, late
- By very reason of its precious cost.
- O Heart, remember, vintages are lost
- If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
- Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy’s estate,
- Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!
- Helen Hunt Jackson
Embrace Autumn! If you’re in Philadelphia this weekend, try to catch one of these special events
The thought of doing a major renovation gives me the shakes. Maybe that’s why I still have wall to wall carpet 20 years after moving into my house. Until I can gird my loins and steel myself in preparation for moving furniture, ripping up things and upsetting the cat, I will have to content myself with room by room redecorating.
I don’t have any before pictures of my bathroom, but let me give you an idea: the tub, toilet and sink were an indescribable yellow somewhere between mustard and school bus. We had an ugly plastic medicine cabinet with make up lights and three mirrored doors that were corroded. There was no storage space for cleaning supplies or anything else. The bathroom was cluttered. In a moment of weakness, I had painted the walls yellow with blue and green accent. It looked OK 20 years ago, but was starting to grate on me.
I wanted something relaxing, where I could get rid of clutter yet find things when I needed them. We had to replace the toilet two years ago, and I wanted the sink and tub to match. The tile was in good shape and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. We had the tub reglazed, and replaced the sink. The mirror cost five dollars at a sidewalk sale. The cherry medicine chest came from ebay. The two decker wire basket was another cheap house sale find. The rug was free-I found it in a free bin at a local thrift store. It was filthy, so I soaked it in dish washing powder and warm water for a couple of days. Now it looks like new.
I altered the toilet paper holder and spray painted the waste can and towel rack to match the brushed nickel fixtures we got at Home Depot. Throw in two storage cabinets and baskets from Ikea, and the cost for everything including the plumber and electrician (but not the toilet) was just under one thousand dollars.
And while we’re on the subject of re purposing and reusing, here’s a picture of bookshelves I made by inserting an old ladder I found into a small niche in our upstairs hall way. I nailed boards onto the ladder steps and the scalloped ornamentation on the front is made from Dollar Store place mats I painted to match.
First I cut the clear glass and a piece of stained glass (from scraps) for the back. The tiny collages come from my scrap paper collection- magazines, menus, calligraphy, newspapers, metal leaf, washi paper. (I like to troll the streets on recycling day). I also used some Dover images of Japanese woodcuts. (If you are ever in Tokyo, do not miss the Tokyo National Museum where you can almost get your fill of them.) I also used bits of wire, stones and tumbled stained glass that I drilled holes through, and pieces of twigs colored with Prisma markers and coated with epoxy resin. The frames are wrapped with copper foil tape and soldered with lead free solder.
Here’s some more from an earlier post.
I didn’t know what to do with the shells, so I decided to wait until they talked to me. I only knew I wanted to do something in Shari’s memory. A few weeks ago, I made these pendants for five women: Leigh, Robin, Sandeye, Colleen and me. I wanted to make something that would remind us of the ocean and the last days we spent with Shari. Lapis was Shari s favorite stone, so I wired a small lapis bead onto each clasp.
When we look at these pendants, we will remember.