Thursday, January 31, 2013

Component of the Month - The Making of "Pie" Beads

Remember these?

Tomorrow is the Component of the Month Reveal of designs using my "Pie" beads ... meanwhile, I thought you might like a little peak into how I made these little hollow beads...

First I roll out a thin slab of porcelain. Then after cutting out
ruffle-edged disc shapes, I form each into a dome shape using a copper form.
Each of these domed discs will be one half (side) of a Pie bead.

I tap down and flatten the edges to form a rim for joining the halves later.

Once they have dried a little bit on the dome form, I use my own 
handmade porcelain stamps to create the pattern on each side.

Then, when the porcelain has reached "leather hard" state,
I remove the halves from the copper form.

I use scraps of porcelain to create a creamy white slip (watery mud). 

Looks kinda yummy but I'm certain it isn't edible!

I carefully roughen (scratch) the surface areas 
of the rims to prepare them for joining. 

Then I paint on some slip and stick the two halves together. 

I use an old knitting needle to help smooth the joints and restore the indented areas.  

I use the same tool to create a hole straight through the center,
one side to the other (like a lentil bead).
I then use a rubber-tipped "brush" to smooth the holes.

Next step, is a ball-end embossing tool to create the dimples (my favorite part!).

Voila! Pie Beads!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When your Art becomes Work

This is not the post I was planning so let me tell you why. 
This morning I woke up with a plan for the day in my head.  Yes it is the 30th and the AJE Component of the Month reveal is tomorrow.  I have to finish that piece up and I also have to finish a submission, oh and I need to get my post for you all up for tomorrow.....UMMM wait......OH NO!!!  I have to get it up today!  How did I screw that one up? Okay I need to adjust my morning and write the post before I go have lunch with my son.
This is my typical morning.  Up at 6:30 to get my daughter and hubs out the door and then breakfast for my son, lunch packed, teeth brushed and backpack ready.  He is off at 8:30.  I spend a little bit networking and chatting on FB then housework.  That usually takes me to lunch were I check in with FB and try to catch up on blogs (yes that has been a struggle) Then there is a little more housework and possibly a bit of beading time before my son gets home from school.  Then dinner planning, cooking, homework (yes homework in first grade) more housework.  I usually get about an hour and a half to bead while sitting with the hubs watching TV.
So why did I tell you all of this.  Well as I was rushing around this morning to make a space to write what I had planned it hit me.  It seems 2013 has brought many exciting things to the jewelry aspect of my life in which there is now actual work.  (I am not complaining about that part at all)  I know alot of you have full time jobs on top of your full time "art work and I won't eve"n ask those of you how you do it!  I can not for the life of me figure that out.  What I do what to know from those of you who do stay home and have "art work" with kids (even furry ones require alot of attention) How do you manage your time?
Any assistance is appreciated but I will warn you cutting the housework part will fall on deaf ears because I have way to much OCD for that.  LOLOL
Have a great day!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eye Candy of an Entirely Different Sort

I am endlessly fascinated by the things that feed the lives of artists. We have very interesting conversations about this from time to time in the Art Jewelry Elements contributors lounge (would you believe that for some of us, Crunchie bars from the UK inspire a special passion??), so last week I asked my fellow contributors to share with me some of the artists they particularly love. What you'll see here today is all non-jewelry art and none of the artists necessarily inspire or influence our own jewelry work. But they are artists whose work speaks to us in some way, feed our spirit, or make us think. And I suppose in some way, that winds up influencing us as artists, right?

I first came across Jeannie Laske's work a few years ago, when this print turned up in an Etsy search for "silent." It made me cry the first time I saw it.

Silent for a Time

Among other things I do and love in my life, I am a singer. I have been on the worship team at every church we've been a part of since the mid-90's, and it is one of those things that just feeds my spirit. There's something deep and intimate about making music with others in the first place, and when the element of worship is added in, it's really transcendent. Then when we moved to Texas, I was beset with horrible allergies for the first time in my life, especially an allergy to mountain cedar. At their worst, I am nearly incapable of singing - my voice just seizes up for about three months of the year and I have come to dread the late fall and winter. Being silent in that way has been heartbreaking for me. This print speaks to that part of my life, how my time in worship feels when my voice fails me - the utter abandon of the figure, raising his arms to the sky, and being met with silence. I love this print so much, because it reminds me that the silence is temporary.

You Will Still Be Here Tomorrow But Your Dreams May Not
There is something deeply moving to me about the way the larger figure is cupped around itself, a little protectively, and yet leaning intently forward to hear the earnest encouraging words of the little sprite. When I see this print, I think of the people who speak truth into my life, and most especially those who were supportive of my decision to walk away from 25 years in small business management to pursue a creative life. This figure looks very much the way I felt at the time - a little wounded and tired, but daring to hope. I get a lump in my throat when I look at this one.

With All Quiet Motion
In 2009, I fulfilled a life-long dream of swimming with dolphins. This print reminds me of the joy of that moment, the silent power of the dolphin pulling me through the water, the exhilaration of looking deeply into her eyes and touching her skin. There's something quietly joyous and yet a little melancholy about this print, a sense of solitude but not loneliness, of freedom and peace within reach.

All That it is to Remember
Like many other people in the world, I have been through things in my life that have been deeply painful and challenging. Remembering those things in a way that is constructive and intentional and healthy is hard work sometimes, as is getting past them so that they don't wind up defining us. This print expresses a little of the solitude, the bravery, the accomplishment of that work, the coming out on the other side whole and standing tall.

The Brilliant Hush of Conclusion
Have you ever worked on something you love, worked really hard and come to the end of it and been proud of the work but sorry to see it end? It's a wonderful moment, but also a little bittersweet - because now that thing you loved and immersed yourself in is finished. For me, there have been times and projects that have left me deeply fulfilled at the same time they've left me a little drained, perhaps even on the edge of exhaustion and a little lonely in the finishing of it.

Jeannie's work is very whimsical and I think it would be easy to just label it and move on. But one of the things I love about it is that I see some new detail every time I look at one of her pieces, some little element that escaped me the first time or that makes me reconsider my response to it. And the characters  are so unique and evocative that I am always curious to know what happened in the moment just before we see them, or what's happening in the moments immediately after. Thankfully, she's in the process of writing and illustrating a book, and I'm very much looking forward to a deeper look into her world.

* * * * * * *

In preparing for this post, my AJE teammates introduced me to some of their favorites - and amazingly, I was familiar with none of them. (I actually love that about the collaborative life - that we introduce one another to ideas, techniques, ways of thinking that were entirely unknown to use before we engaged one another.)

Jen Cameron owns a few pieces by Vladimir Kush and is hankering after a few more, including this amazing and surreal piece.

Moonlight Sonata
She likes the incredible detail of his work, and the unexpected elements that sometimes aren't immediately apparent. (Do you see that all the audience members are in cocoons?)

She is also fortunate to have a few pieces by Tom Everhart - because, as she says, "You cannot be in a bad mood when you see those silly Snoopy faces!"


And finally, Jen mentioned Kristina Laurendi Havens, who does stunning figural work.

Guarded - Figure in Deep Blue
Lesley Watt introduced me to Angie Lewin, a Scottish printmaker who works in linocuts, wood engravings, lithographs, and screen printing. Some really fun things here!

Knockando Thrift & Feathers
Thames Fireworks
Jenny Davies-Reazor introduced me to Beth Cavener Stichter, whose ceramic work is unlike anything I have ever seen before. About Beth's work, Jenny says, "Her sculptures are fluid, and graceful and lyrical - yet haunting, emotional and often a little upsetting. Her use of clay amazes me always. She achieves a balance between beauty and sadness that really touches me."


So this is just a peek into the art and artists that speak to some of us, that make us happy or make us think or shake us up just a little bit. There are many more, too many to squeeze into this post, but we'll plan on sharing again at some point in the future. In the meantime, who are the artists that inhabit your world? Share in the comments - we'd love to explore a little with you!

Until next time!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Variation On A Theme...

And what would that theme be....yes. it's earrings of course. While I was making my entries for our AJE challenge last week I got to thinking that If I was going to make a pair of earrings every week for the whole of the year and exhibit them next to those of all the other talented designers; then maybe I need to find ways to change it up a bit and keep things interesting. I was fiddling about with some of my bronze headpins at the time and decided to have a go at adapting the process I use for those to make earring charms with integral ear wires.  

Here you can see the charms at the green ware stage with the wires inserted into the clay. They're still quite fragile at this point so sanding and filing up has to be done very carefully.

After drilling, firing and a good clean-up and tumble this is how they looked - a good tug on the wires with pliers to make sure the pieces are fully fused and then on to the next step.


This was simply a case of forming the wires in the same way as as would usually do (great ear wire tutorial here) - I use looping pliers but a pen or any other round object can be used as a form. I chose kidney shaped wires but wishbone and round wires are just as easy to do.

After trimming the wires to the correct length I hammered them to harden the metal and prevent them from becoming misshapen. I used 22g /.71mm bronze wire which is finer than I would use for silver or copper wires and those I would normally tumble to harden but, bronze wire is harder and more tensile so I find that hammering alone is enough.

After that it was just a case of adding lots of pretties to turn the charms into earrings...

Green patina on charms, enameled flower buds from Gardanne beads,
 copper headpins and seed bead accents.

Periwinkle patina on charms, periwinkle enameled bead caps by SueBeads 
and vintage cultured pearls.

Premium Czech glass beads and Vintaj bead caps

If you like this look but don't use metal clay, the same effect can be achieved by soldering wires to metal charms. I'll be continuing to look for other ways to add a twist to my earring designs so if you have any clever ideas you're willing to share, please do - all inspiration is gratefully received.

The Gossiping Goddess

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Adventures in Goldie Bronze

A few months ago I shared my first foray in to the newest form of Bronze clay called Goldie Bronze.
 The firing instructions call for firing only one layer in the kiln at a time on a layer of carbon and then adding carbon then doing a second phase, well when you make as much inventory as I need to make that is not really a good use of my time.

I asked some questions on the Goldie Bronze Forum on Facebook and several people suggested firing 4-5 open shelf firings and then consolidating them in one Carbon Firing.

So here's what that process looks like.

Here is the first layer

And 2 more layers for 3 total, I think I might have been able to get a 4th layer in.
 They are in the kiln right now.
The first stage of firing is 660F for 30 minutes.
Typically you do this on carbon and just add carbon to the top and do the second phase.
But since I want to do more at one time I'm going to layer all of these in to carbon after the first phase.
I have to let them cool completely before I remove them and transfer them to the carbon.

BEFORE 1st phase firing

Removing them after this first stage is making me very nervous,
they are extremely delicate only partially fired and last time I tried it they fell apart,
but I think it's because I took them out still warm AND I was not as gentle as I should have been.
So after this stage let them cool COMPLETELY and be very gentle as you transfer them to the carbon.

AFTER 1st phase firing

Very carefully removing partially fired pieces and transferring them in to carbon, I started using a knife then felt confident I could use my fingers and that was fine.

1st of 3 layers.
Carbon over the top and another layer.

My only casualty :(

This is the whole batch all tumbled, I would call this a success. 
I wanted to fire a large number at one time and it worked!!

I'm creating alot but not listing all of it on Etsy for a while
 because I'll be a vendor at the
 Whole Bead Show
 May 3-5 at the Lynnwood Convention Center.
But as always if you want something I've shown you just ask!!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Share: Ear wires...with a twist!

With the AJE Earring Challenge in full swing, I decided to post about ear wires.  As artists, we work hard to create beautiful designs. After coming up with a unique design, putting in time and effort to execute an intricate and artistic pair of earrings, why not finish them with your own ear wires!

There are many great, free ear wire tutorials out there...I will link to a few at the end of the post.  Today,though, I wanted to share my own take on basic ear wires and show you a technique and some additional options for making them unique and a cohesive part of your design, rather than a stagnant required component that is just added at the end!

I prefer using sterling wire exclusively for earrings that I sell or gift.  I realize there are viable and beautiful options, but sterling just seems right for me ;)

Materials needed:
20 gauge sterling wire, half hard - 4 inches
Round nose pliers
Bail-making pliers, or sharpie pen
Planishing hammer
steel block or anvil
flush cutters
26-24 gauge dead soft wire, 2-3 inches (optional)

  • Start by cutting 2 2-inch pieces of 20g half-hard wire.  File both ends to get rid on any burs. 
  • Hammer the tip of the wire to flatten and harden. 
  • Grasp the flattened tip with your round nose pliers and create a loop. 
  • Position your bail-making pliers or sharpie/pen right against the underside of the loop and rap the wire around.  You may have to re-position to go all the way around.  

  • Make a small bend about a ¼ inch from the end of the remaining tail.
  • Hammer the curve gently to work harden.
These are now ready to use...gently open the loop to the side, attach your earring component and close back to position....just like closing jump rings, move it back and forth to work harden and position as close to the back wire as possible.

Now, if you want to take the extra step and make the earwires a cohesive part of your design, you can embellish them in lots of ways.  

Use your scraps of 24-26g dead soft wire and wrap the neck of the earwire as shown. I like to use copper, especially if the overall design is copper.  Often, I add a small bead then attach the wire on one side of the bead, wrap a few times, then wrap over the bead, and wrap an equal number of times on that side.  Always press the ends firmly against the earwire so they don't snag.  File to smooth.

Other options include balling one end of the wire in your torch before making the loop. Sometimes I hammer the ball to flatten it.  Another style I use sometimes is to make the intial loop, then create a 2nd larger loop.  Once you get the hang of it, the possibilities abound.  Change up the shape by using different sized/shaped mandrels, etc!

One of my favorite sources for other styles of earwires and other lovely unique components is Handcrafted Wire Findings by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson.  I used their instructions to create these kidney ear wires.

As I mentioned before, there are many other free earwire tutorials out there...something for everyone!  Here are a few of my favorites...

from Deryn Mentock
from Jewelry Making Daily - make perfectly matched pairs!
from McFarland Designs - these are fun!
from our own Joanne Tinley!

I like to sit down with a bunch of wire and just have an ear wire making session, rather than 1 pair at a time...practice, practice, practice!  Now, go on...go make some earwires!

Melissa Meman
Melismatic Art Jewelry
Art. Life. Love.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Genius loci

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of GENIUS LOCI

: the pervading spirit of a place
: a tutelary deity of a place

The place: Austin TX. 
The time: last weekend. 
The plan: take a walk, enjoy the weather. 
The result: inspiration!

I was born and raised in Maryland, and now live in Delaware. To be sure - I have lived other places, other countries, other regions... but I have four seasons in my blood. So when I was visiting Texas in January, and walking around in a tee shirt - I felt hyper aware of the outdoors, the environment, the ecosystem. 

Nature and natural forms always have inspired me... so trusty iPhone camera and I snapped a few pictures on a 4 mile walk...
Bare branches, net, blue sky. Patterns. 

Agave and sunbeams. 
Contrast. Complementary. 

Lone Star.

In the "spirit of the place" I was inspired to make earrings. (You have heard of our AJE earring challenge, haven't you?) 

Prickly pear: Dimpling with center punch, dimples, freeform similar shapes. Pearl "blossoms". 

Agave: shapes, marking a leaf ridge, mixing enamel colors.

The colors were as inspirational as the shapes. I am pleased with the shapes, and love the red/purple pearl "blossoms". The colors were another matter. The agave was a silvery green grey with hints of blue. The prickly pear was sage to chartreuse! I decided to experiment - feeling like an alchemist I threw together some enamel powders... opaque, greens, white, transparents...

The results are interesting, but not exact. I wish they were swapped, as one is more silvery grey...I like the speckles that result with opaque white in the mix. I could have tested the colors first, and taken notes. (No thanks). My biggest disappointment was the loss of my "dimples" - I would have needed much more transparent colors for the metal divots to show through the enamel. I knew that, but in the color mixing spontaneity I didn't think...I am going to have to revisit these, and keep experimenting.

What is inspiring you today? What new influences do you see in your work?