Sunday, April 13, 2014

New Bracelets

A few years ago, I became aware of fold forming, a technique of metal manipulation that involves folding, annealing, opening and hammering a piece of metal.
The development of fold forming is credited to Charles Lewton-Brain whose work is beautifully illustrated in his book, 'Foldforming'.
I decided I had to learn about this technique and bought Lewton-Brain's book, read any article that I could find, looked up YouTube videos and took a workshop with Wendy Edsall-Kerwin.
In Wendy's workshop, I made a couple of foldformed cuffs, and thought that I had found
'my thing'...the thing that I could explore and take small ownership of in my own way.
None of the shops where I sell had anything like the foldformed cuffs that I began to make, so I got busy.
I worked primarily in brass because I like the color that developed with multiple annealings.
With each cuff, I learned more about how to move the metal and how to sometimes let the metal take me in a different direction than I had planned.
I began delivering my cuffs to the shops and then a disappointing thing happened....
nothing. wasn't a total nothing.
The cuffs did get customer's attention because they do kind of call for people to pick them up and touch them.
But they weren't selling.
I came to appreciate that with wide cuffs like the ones I made, they either fit perfectly or they don't fit at all.
There is no comfortable middle ground.
I feel proud of the work that I was doing and even though I wanted to continue to make foldformed cuffs, it didn't make sense.
Like anyone trying to make some kind of living with their artwork or craft, if it doesn't sell, it doesn't pay the bills.
I don't have the luxury of pursuing an artistic outlet just because it satisfies my soul.
It also has to at least try to satisfy my bank account.
I started to take a different approach with my bracelets, thinking that if they were somewhat fluid, they would be a more comfortable fit for more people.
I began combining etched and milled metals, linking segments together with heavy gauge jump rings.
I like to have a central focus like a resin set image or a bezel set stone.
Like the foldformed cuffs, these bracelets have been getting customer's attention.
And....oh happy day....some of those customers are buying.
The bottom two bracelets will be available at
on Saturday, May 3.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bead Fest Tools

Beadfest is in town for the weekend, and that can usually mean trouble for my wallet.
It's entirely too easy to convince myself that my bead supply is lacking particular colors and that I need more tools.
I could just not go to the show, but that's just silly.
I always know I'm going to go.
I'm proud that I showed tremendous restraint and only bought the items that I intended to get.
I didn't intend to get the mandrel, but I didn't know one was available at that size so I didn't even know to want/need it until I saw it.
This is how one's wallet can get into trouble.
I got a long wished for anneal pan so that when I'm annealing pieces, I won't pick up leftover soldering scrunge.
All right....scrunge is not a word, but if you do soldering, you know what I'm talking about and that stuff should be called scrunge.
I got a third hand tweezer with base for those delicately balanced soldering jobs.
And the item that I was especially happy to get is a new, small wooden dapping block with 2 punches.
This is such a simple and inexpensive item, but it's one that I use
I forget how many years I've had my older, now retired dapping block, but it's kind of beaten up.
I didn't mind too much that the depressions in the block had seen better days, because the block still did the job.
The problem was the punch that I prefer to use.
I was recently shaping etched discs for some earrings and with one of my hammer hits...
little pieces of wood went flying.
It's never good to have bits flying when shaping metal.
The impact end of my punch was disintegrating.
Of course, I kept using it, but I was using caution with my hammer strikes which meant I wasn't distributing force in an even manner.
Time for retirement.
Several vendors had small wooden dapping blocks, but the first three that I saw had punches that I didn't like....they were too narrow.
When I find something that works, I stick with it so I would not compromise.
Lucky me...the last tool vendor had exactly what I wanted and
I can get back to shaping my discs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Pendant, New Necklace

Taking advantage of my increased soldering confidence, thanks to the recent sea glass necklace, I soldered a few new bezels to be used in bracelets.
I decided I really like the bail that I designed for the sea glass pendant and made a similar one for a new pendant.
This new bail is made from copper that has a subtle roll printed texture and it's soldered on to a piece of 20 gauge copper that I had previously etched.
The soldering should have been simple, so of was not.
I sweat soldered the back of the bail, propped the end of the etched copper just a tad to account for the dimension of the curled shape.
I'm not even sure what I did wrong, but after two soldering attempts, I still had two separate pieces.
I decided that I would give it one more try before I gave up for the evening, and I pulled out the secret weapon...
paste solder.
Using my soldering pic, I held the bail in place (all right....I was so frustrated, I was actually stabbing it) and the solder flowed the way I needed it to flow.
After a soak in the pickle pot and a cleaning with the brass brush, 
I used balled copper wire to rivet the bail backing to the etched brass front piece.
A few years ago, I had purchased a variety of stone cabochons so that I could practice my bezel making skills.
I have no idea what this stone is, but it makes me think of an Easter egg, so I thought it appropriate to use it as the holiday approaches.
I liked the recycled copper wire links that I used in my jasper pendant necklace, so I made more.
This time, I decided to use one of my steel stamps to add some texture to each side of the links.
Complementing the hints of color in the pendant stone, I worked with prehnite and honey jade beads.
More etched copper was used to make bead cape for the honey jade beads.
Once everything was assembled, the necklace was treated with liver of sulfur....
and then cleaned with fine grit sandpaper.
Completed necklace...
with recycled copper wire links, formed and drilled copper discs, sterling wire wrapped prehnite and honey jade beads, sterling chain and sterling clasp...
and one Easter egg pendant.
This necklace will be part of my inventory at Woodmere Art Museum's
on Saturday, May 3.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Necklace- Bezel Set Jasper Pendant

A few years ago, I bought a strand of round jasper beads. I had no idea how I would eventually use them, but found these beads so beautiful because of the interesting crystalline formations and the range of colors.
These beads have a single hole drilled through the center, but I decided to a bezel setting.
After my (eventual) sea glass success, I was feeling more confident about making a large bezel and laid out the likely candidates for a new necklace.
I made links out of heavy gauge , recycled copper wire and cut a piece of brass that had been roll printed with ornamental grass from my garden.
Preparing to make the bezel, I realized that the bezel wire I had purchased for the sea glass pendant was not wide enough to make a secure setting for the jasper bead.
I thought..."not necessarily a problem...I'll make a bezel out of etched copper."
The reason that many bezels are made out of sterling silver (and especially out of fine sterling silver) is that during the fabrication process, the sterling stays soft enough to press it into place with a bezel roller.
I thought if my copper was a light gauge, I would be able to shape it without much difficulty.
Well...not really.
I sized my bezel strip using geometry....yes, math really does come in handy.
I soldered the strip to form the circle and then soldered it onto my brass base with surprisingly little difficulty.
The challenge was rolling the top of the bezel into place to secure my jasper bead.
The first few compressions with my bezel roller were beautiful....firm but gentle pressure moved the copper easily.
The thing is...the more metal is moved, the more work hardened it becomes, and pretty soon, my copper bezel was seriously resisting my firm but gentle pressure.
It took quite a while to get the bezel to the point where the jasper was in place and I had a relatively smooth form (acccck....I couldn't completely smooth out that part just past one o'clock). 
The brass-with-bezel was then riveted on to a piece of etched copper that had 2 copper jump rings soldered in place for connecting my chain.
The pieces then started to come together.
I chose aquamarine and citrine beads to complement the colors in the jasper beads and wrapped them with sterling wire.
Heavy gauge sterling jump rings were used to make connections.
After the necklace was assembled, I gave it a liver of sulfur treatment...
and cleaned all surfaces with a fine grit sanding block.
As usual, I made the back of the pendant interesting...
by using some etched copper.

The bezel was a bear to form...
but I like the added texture from the etched copper strip.
I don't like to have large, clunky pieces of anything on my neck,
so I chose to use sterling chain near the clasp....
making that portion of the necklace more fluid.
This will be one of my new pieces at Woodmere Art Museum's
on Saturday, May 3.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Protecting A Keepsake

Jewelry making tools and jewelry making know-how can sometimes be very handy when things require fixing.
In general, I don't do jewelry repair, but....
if you're family or a friend and something needs fixing, I'll do my best to help out.
I've restrung necklaces, fixed earwires and unbent gnarled rings.
I had my own problem that required fixing.
My twins are now 20 and when they were 8, my one son did a week of Art Camp at Main Line Art Center.
For a key ring project, the kids each cut out a shape from a sheet of brass which was then soldered onto a square of copper.
My son cut out the shape of a boat and highlighted part of it with a blue stone set in a soldered bezel.
I have always loved this small dangle, and it has been on my key ring for 12 years.
I like that it's with me whenever I leave the house.
But....I recently realized that 12 years of actively carrying my key ring was taking its toll on this little boat.
When it was made, my son punched a hole in the copper square so a key ring could be attached.
Those 12 years of jangling around in my purse and on my wrist had worn down the outer edge of the punched hole, and I knew that I was at risk of losing this little piece of my heart.
Any repair work had to be done without heat (no soldering) to avoid reflowing the existing solder and to protect those 12 years of patina.
I also did not want to do anything that would detract from my son's original design because it is just too wonderful.
I cut a square of copper from a sheet that's been in my studio for a few years, so it already had a nice patina.
Holes were drilled in the corners of both my son's piece and the new square of copper and the two layers were riveted together with little segments of 18 gauge sterling wire.
I was extra careful with my riveting hammer to avoid making unwanted marks.
With the two layers securely connected, I drilled a hole through the new copper backing.
Done....and back on my key ring with new confidence that I won't lose this special keepsake.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Sea Glass Nemesis

I never would have thought that a piece of sea glass could prove to be my nemesis.
Actually, the sea glass was my nemesis for a while....I finally outsmarted a beautiful piece of red sea glass that an acquaintance had found along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay. 
I recognize that most people might think it's not a great accomplishment to claim victory over an inanimate object, but I'm feeling proud of myself, nonetheless.
Months ago, a friend of a friend asked if I might be able to make a pendant out of a treasured piece of glass that she had found.
As sea glass goes, this really is a unique and beautiful specimen.
All surfaces have been weathered to a pitted but consistently smooth texture, and the red is so luscious that the glass looks like a piece of candy.
I don't do a lot of soldering, but I loved the idea of setting the glass in a bezel and said,
"Sure...I can do that!"
Luckily, I didn't qualify that statement with a specific completion time, because things did not go too smoothly for me.
First off...because the glass is an organic shape, it was tricky for me to figure out the right bezel wire dimension.
After my initial attempt, I realized that the bezel wire I had in my supplies would not give me enough depth to secure the glass.
Luckily, I love having an excuse to contact Rio Grande, so new, larger bezel wire was ordered.
My plan was to have layers of texture, so the bezel wire was to be soldered on to a piece of etched silver nickel which in turn would be attached to an underlying piece of textured brass.
I got an OK on the pieces of metal and then I began my soldering odyssey of disappointment.
Because the sea glass is sort of biggish, the bezel is also sort of biggish which required a fair amount of heat to get the solder to flow for the entire circumference.
That fair amount of heat warped my piece of etched metal, and if you've done soldering,
you know that means a loss of direct contact
no solder flow
great frustration.
Instead of immediately going to a piece of thicker gauge silver nickel, I foolishly continued on a path that led to a collection of melted bezel sections.
I finally got the message and FINALLY had a successful soldering of the bezel on thicker metal.
After considering options of how to do the bail, I decided on creating a curl out of another piece of etched silver nickel thinking that the shape would be reminiscent of a wave of water.
Many of my pieces have something of interest on what would be considered to be the 'back', so I let the bail have a tail that extends down the piece of textured brass.
The brass had been textured with dried leaves of ornamental grass from my garden.
The pattern that was created made me think of topographic contours of a watershed...very appropriate for a piece from the Chesapeake Bay.
Once the bail was soldered in place, the two layers of metal were tumbled with steel shot before being riveted together with balled sterling wire.
The process took longer than I would have guessed,
but that lovely piece of glass and I finally came to a happy agreement.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


The necklace that I was planning last week....
I stayed with the components that I had assembled, linking them to segments of sterling silver chain with sterling silver wire wrapping.