Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pillars of Metalwork

Ramona Solberg, Found Object Jewelry Master

In an earlier post I talked about a legendary sculptor, Alexander Calder, who also made jewelry and whose work is currently on exhibit.

It made me curious about other legends of art who worked with wire, metal and found objects to create jewelry.

In this post I'm thinking about a wonderful jewelry artist, who was featured in the PBS Program Craft in America and the accompanying book, which was given to me as a gift.

Her name is Ramona Solberg (1921-2005) - and although she influenced many artists whose names and careers I knew and that were familiar, I did not know about her until recently.

She was the subject of the 2001 book written by Vicki Halper, "Findings: The Jewelry of Ramona Solberg" which is now out of print. She pioneered the use of found and exotic objects in jewelry, at a time when jewelry was primarily precious metals and precious stones.

I love ethnic beads, use of silver, turquoise, amber and ornaments from other cultures. Ramona Solberg traveled to many countries and collected those ethnic elements and used them in her jewelry designs and as an influence on her own metalwork.

Solberg used stones, coins, ivory, game pieces and buttons in her jewelry, but her pieces were intended to be worn, not put away in a safe deposit box or hung on a museum wall as an exhibit.

Her jewelry making career stretched across six decades, and she has been compared to Calder. Both artists created pins called fibulas, a Roman jewelry style that goes back into antiquity but which both artists updated in their own vision.

She continued teaching and creating jewelry well into her eighties, influencing many current creators of jewelry art today.

Born in Watertown, South Dakota, she lived, worked and taught in Seattle, Washington.

An article in Ornament magazine (Autumn 2001 Vol 25, No. 1) mentions her in "Milestone: Ramona Solberg" as well as Lapidary Journal (October 2001) in "Spotlight on Solberg" and to learn more about her there is an interview in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian where she tells her story in her own words on March 23, 2001.

Her work can be found at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Contemporary Craft; she was a Fellow of the American Craft Counsel; in 2001 she was awarded the National Metalsmiths Hall of Fame Award and in 2003 she was the recipient of the Twining Humber Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

ARTICLES AND LINKS for more information:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wings Old World Style

The No Rules Beading Non-Plan

I create in many small stages, often depending on how much time is available and which jar is most empty.
If I only have a few minutes for creativity, like before leaving in the morning to start a weekday, there might only be enough time to put some costume pearls into dye and leave until the evening.

I squeak in creative time here and there during the day, through the week. Probably you do the same thing.

The results from the this-and-that here-and-there creativity sessions accumulate in plastic tubs and jars, waiting until more time is available. Glass beads, focal faux-tiques, hand dyed costume pearls, forged steel wire clasps. Made at different times, assembled and waiting.

I wrote a review as a guest blogger on the Art Bead Scene on the June issue of Simply Beads Magazine and was inspired by the Siren's Song design by Heather Powers on the cover. I didn't have her disk beads or the specific things she calls for in her featured design, but I wanted to make a necklace influenced by the style and shape of her original design.

This necklace is inspired by Heather's Siren's Song design but has quite different colors and an autumn feeling instead of the blues and silvers of summer used in her necklace.

The 'Old World Wings' jewelry necklace piece is the result of dipping into my jars of freshwater pearls, faux-tique focals, patinaed chain and charms, glass beads and hand dyed costume pearls.

The colors are picked up from the focal bead, I liked how it turned out and wanted to make something special with it. It's one of my faux ceramic oval beads with gray-blue smoky wings, autumn, jewel-toned colors.

Ceramic and glass beads in warm tones and colors of bronze, apricot and ripe pomegranate fruits. Dark olives and blue-green eggplants, peaches and currents. The harvest time colors. An asian brass coin and a brass skeleton key charm add mystery and storytelling elements to the necklace, with patinaed weathered chain and a golden-toned wire handmade clasp.

I like how it turned out, with a warm antiqued and golden look. The colors remind me of a vintage map of the old world, with hand colored tints, faded and softly aged.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Three Bags Full

Bags, jars, tins.

Full of glass beads, natural colored and hand dyed costume pearls.

Like candy in a candy store window.

It's inspiring just to see them, intermingled in the jar, poured out into the lid of a tin.

Rustling through them with my fingers, feeling the shapes, visually sorting them.

Waiting to combine them with the focal beads, the faux-tiques.

A fleur d'lis, an ancient-looking crown pendant. A replica enameled pin, a faux carved stone lotus blossom.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Boxes of Hearts and Wings

Take Heart, Take Wing

These little boxes are made from etched brass. Inside are hearts and wings, riveted into the boxes. Attached with rivets are copper word tags stamped with metal letter stamps with 'Take Wing' on one, and 'Take Heart' on the other. Longfellow wrote a Psalm of Life in 1839, and quoted here is part of it:

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
a forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing,
with a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Engrave this quote in Our Store!
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Psalm of Life, 1839

Some time ago I did a little rough sketch in my sketchbook, a winged heart with the words 'Take Heart' above it and 'Take Wing' below.

That drawing has been the inspiration for these little handmade brass and copper boxes.

'The moment is short, but love lasts an eternity ... let it take wing and fly through your hearts' --R.M.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Apron and Toolbelt Saturday

Rolling Up the Sleeves, Putting On the Apron

Made a trip up to the Glasshopper Studio yesterday to replenish the supply of fine silver wire. Amazing how quickly I can go through the wire.

They also have precious metal clay, and classes. There's one coming up next month on using silver metal clay and making hinges, it sounds interesting. Fits in with the ideas brewing in my head to make some lockets. I love lockets!

Add the fresh supply of 16 gauge fine silver wire to the butane I bought earlier in the week, and it's time to make some silver links. I will make up a bunch for me to use and post some to the expeditionD Etsy shop later today, after they've been patinaed and tumbled.

Also got in my package from Rio Grande with my brand spanking new metal ring mandrel. Just never bought one before, but with the ring shank I made in the Kate McKinnon silver metal clay class needing shaping, I decided it was time to buy another tool.

I made a headpin in the class and the ring shank, with the plan that the headpin with the metal clay decoration would become the spindle for the ring shank. That way beads, ornaments and fused glass can be changed out on the ring shank. See the holes at the left side of the ring shank - the headpin will fit through those to hold the bead onto the ring.

I need to anneal the ring shank again before forming it, and figure out what size to make it so there's plenty of room for bulky beads on the ring. I think this first one is for me, but if it turns out well I'll make some more and list on the Etsy shop.

Have stayed away from making rings in the past because of the sizing issues, but they are so fun to wear, just couldn't resist any longer.

When I get it all put together I'll take some pictures, just don't mind the glass grinder manicure I usually have - I always seem to have lopsided nails!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Invitation to Conversation on Creativity May-I

Where Do New Ideas Come From, The Stork? (or look, all the other kids are doing it)

I am wondering if I am the only one (yes, the single person in the entire planet) who goes through this creative thought process, and am hoping that (through comments and replies to this post or if you prefer email, by clicking on the picture of the Ringleader of LLYYNN on the left) you will tell me that I am not alone in doing this. Ready?

Sometimes I have trouble giving myself mental permission to do certain design or technical things.

There, I said it. Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

What does that mean? Here's one example (I could give a zillion, but will just give a few) that may show what I mean.

When I first started making jewelry I used only beading wire with crimp beads and clasps, the usual stuff. I was very proud when I learned the best way to make a nice clean crimp and make a bracelet or necklace with pearls or crystals or whatever. And adding charms and dangles, that stuff.

Then I started using wire and just loved making my own headpins, and being able to wire wrap beads, combine them to make chain. All that.

But for some reason, maybe because I learned them separately, or at different times and contexts, I didn't use the two things together. It didn't seem to me to be 'allowed' to string some things on beadwire and combine that with wire wrapped beads. Like the BeadPolice would come and confiscate my tools or something.

Here's a beautiful example of a necklace by Lorelei Eurto that has beads on beadwire, and also wire wrapped beads, used in the same design. See, it can be done! And doesn't it look natural to do?

When I see that it's the only way something will work (say that the wire is too big to go through stick pearls and I need to use beading wire because the pearl is too narrow to safely ream the hole) and I challenge the thought 'you can't mix those two together' my brain has to go through this whole permissions thing, asking 'WHY NOT' - and if the answer isn't anything except 'Because you haven't done that before' - it makes me wonder why I get myself all boxed in like that in the first place.

Some things make sense, like not firing polymer clay with glass (DUH! at 1500 degrees F there won't be much purpose and it's also not smart) but there are other things that took me a while to try because 'that's not how I do that.'

Again, what do I mean?

An example of that is the idea to make the fused glass clasps with the fine silver toggle. The original idea was to drill the hole in the glass and either - 1. - Pass Wire Through and Make A Wire Bail or 2. - Put Chain Through and Hang Glass Directly On Chain. (both do work, by the way) .

One day I was wearing a chain pulled directly through the drilled hole in the glass, and while I was putting it on, the bead slipped and went zinging and zipping down the length of chain until the toggle bar stopped it and it hung there, with the toggle across the hole in the glass.

A-HA! My brain said. Thank goodness for that toggle bar, it stopped the glass hitting the tile floor and maybe cracking.

That's right. It didn't come through at first that ... 'Hey, here's an idea ... use the GLASS for the closure' and I don't know why not. Thank goodness something finally clicked in my head - LOOK at what just happened and think about it in a new way!

Now, for all I know, a million people have done it before, for ages and forever, and I just never happened to see it. But once it happened, it was like someone gave me permission ... here, you can do this, it'll be okay.

And the weird thing was, once I finally saw it as a possibility, it was impossible to see it as anything but an OF COURSE you can do that.

Another example of something in lampworking. I don't do that (terrible torch fears still unconquered) but many others do, to make gorgeous glass beads. I know that to make lampwork beads with the torch a mandrel is used as the base, and later the bead release lets the cooled glass bead slip off the mandrel and the hole is used for stringing the bead.

Then I saw these beads, made onto large skeleton keys, and they stay right on the key. And the hole in the top of the key is used to attach them to jewelry. Cool, huh? Different, unusual. All that.

Here are two designs for necklaces made by Heather Powers using one of them created by the Venerable Bead.

Once I'd seen it, and registered that 'here's a possibility' - it looked like 'OF COURSE you can do that.' It seemed like a natural idea at that point. Why not, why wouldn't someone use a key and put a bead onto it?

But someone had to first look at that key, and look at a bead mandrel and think ... hmmm, I bet I can make a bead right on this thing.

And try it, and find out that, why, yes you CAN. It really does work.

Anyway, do you find yourself limiting how you use things or which things you put together?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who goes through this permission granting creativity process from time to time!

Creativity - May I Take A Giant Step Forward?

Other references to the non-existent Bead Police, I'm not alone in this allusion:
'The Bead Police Won't Get You,' at Beadwork.About.Com
'Watch Out For The Bead Police' - about which beading wire to use

Friday, July 18, 2008

Emblems and Symbols of Time Passing

Wanted this focal unit to look like a very old, revered piece that might have been handed down, very weathered and worn and much-handled.

The dark steel wire helps to give that aged look, and also the color, the way it's irregular and the edges seem chipped and faded.

The way it's made, it could be hung on a picture hanger on the wall, to use as a household decorative piece, or with beads or chain it could be worn as jewelry. (or as someone pointed out to me, dual purpose by taking off the chain and hanging back on the wall after wearing - good idea)

On a trip to Ireland I went into a church in Galway, with its carved effigies and placques in the walls, dating back to the 1500's, built so long ago it seems impossible it could still be standing. The stone walls had such a beautiful look to them, from the generations of hands touching them in passing, slowly and gently polished over time.

That's the look I wanted to catch in this emblem, of use and wear and much handling, and outlasting the hands that used it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Creative Motions

I have too many things almost finished. Need to sit down with this small tray in my lap and finish some things that are just almost-but-not-quite done.

I keep a couple of trays ready to pick up and work on things, mobile creativity sessions.

There are tools, and beads that are interesting, charms with a patina. Tubes of seed beads, plastic boxes of hand dyed costume pearls.

When the time is right or the need arises, I can pick up a tray and work on something.

Sometimes it's an idea that's in development. Something that's a work in progress, testing how certain things work together. Other times it's a beginning of a story that doesn't have an end yet.

Watching a movie on TV, waiting for the muffins in the oven. Wire-wrapping a few beads, stringing some faux pearls.

Later when there's more time, those little components, created in a few found minutes here and there, may be used together with some other beads to finish a chain, become a dangle on a necklace, a charm for a bracelet.

Gives the term 'TV Tray' a whole new definition. And is part of the answer when people ask me, 'where do you find the time' - I keep it on my trays.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Blue Moon Keep On Shining, Shine On The One I Love

Have enjoyed creating these little etched copper charms and wanted to make at least one of them up into a necklace.

These irridescent glass pillow beads have been in a little film container for some time, saved up for that 'special' necklace or bracelet that would be made from them 'someday' - decided to put them together with the etched and patinaed copper charm. They have that same color and sheen, and what good are they all loose inside a firm container? Time to get them out and enjoy using them. Had to make the hook closure three times, kept making it too large for the size of the necklace.

Put irridescent seed beads on loops behind the neck - really don't like wearing necklaces myself that have big lumpy bumpy beads on the neck, so this one has tiny seed beads on bead wire. Much more comfy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beadarizzia Roma

Beading Time Traveler

Have been making more faux-tique beads this week, changing gears a little from the glass and silver work that's been the focus lately, back to the textures and colors of the invented vintage style beads.

The colors of the current batch of beads are warm and very ceramic-looking, like glazed terra cotta or the sienna and umber colors of the earth.
Like the colors of stucco walls in houses in Tuscany.

To me, some resemble white bisque fired clay, with wear and showing a lot of rustic aging. And others look like marble or limestone chipped off an old building, or parts from ancient grecian architecture. Crosses, crowns and filigree trims.

Like a piece of tile or stone uncovered in an archeological dig, an artificial artifact. Something from Pompeii, or the ancient hills of Rome.

Made a 'Wings' focal bead to use in another amulet ornament piece for the Art Bead Etsy shop.

Want to try to be more consistent with the bead designs, to create some that can be reproduced fairly often. None are ever identical, but to have some that are regularly available is a good goal to work toward.

Still playing with the idea of the closure being an integrated part of the design, right up in front and a featured and very visible bead. The large square mauve bead on the right will be part of a clasp, with a hand forged wire hook through it, and a double strand of beads or pearls coming off the right hand side through the holes. Or maybe strands of seed beads looped through the holes in the bead.

Some have wire wrapped attachments, and some have holes through, either side-to-side or top to bottom. Could use some to make tassles, or lariats. May combine with some charms made from strips of etched copper.

Have to get these sanded, buffed and polished to finish them. So, should I use them to make up into finished jewelry myself, or post the beads on their own to spark the creativity of other designers to use in their jewelry? What do you say ... ?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Glass and Cotton

Glass, Cotton and the Blues

Found some interesting things on Etsy, using crochet in jewelry.

Folks are so clever and creative, they come up with some unique solutions!

This is by someone in Israel,
crocheted with wire. Her name is Yael, from her Etsy shop Yoola, wouldn't it look great with a big art bead or glass link on it?

Look at this one, this colorful piece is a
bracelet crocheted in cotton and closed with shell buttons. The artists are two sisters in Melbourne, Australia, Brigitte and Janine, in their Etsy shop Gitte. Could see using handmade art bead buttons for the closure, or adding lampwork beads to the crocheted bracelet for some bling.

Finally, look at this necklace made of cotton, an explosion of crocheted color jewelry. It's from Etsy shop Subrosa123 from Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Might be fun to combine crocheted beads with glass, polymer clay and silver along with the colorful cotton thread crochet necklace. It's fun to see an old art re-invented and reinterpreted, from irish lace crochet flower units used for dressy white lace changed up to use as crocheted funky beads in a necklace, or a crochet pattern usually for floor rugs converted into a design for a chunky colorful wearable bracelet.

Ideas old, made new again! And so fun and diverse, sparks all kind of interesting possiblities.


Had good luck yesterday with getting more fused and enameled glass out of the kiln, still need to put the clear glass caps on top and do the shaping of the beads. With the rain cooling things down outdoors, it wasn't too hot running the kiln in Studio B.

The Autumn Belle Armoire Jewelry issue features this little glass piece, with its Eiffel Tower charm and beveled glass. along with a couple of other glass and enamel pieces.

The title of the article hasn't been finalized yet, but the subject is how to embed the images and color inside the beveled glass using the enamel colors.

The jewelry hasn't come back from the photographer yet, can't wait for it to be back again. It was one of the first pieces created using the combination of the glass and enamel fused together.

Have learned a lot more about combining the glass and enamel during the fusing, and how the glass reacts to the enamel colors. Still really like this little glass piece that says 'post card' in french on the front of the beveled glass.

The reverse side of this little beveled glass emblem has a red star inside it, like a postal insignia on an antique french postcard.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tiny Boxes

There's a song Pete Seeger made famous, and the lyrics are:
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.

There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

But your boxes don't have to look just the same, if you use different ornamental or collaged papers. Have noticed a buzz lately about paper, origami, folding ... whatever you prefer to call it.

Different people are doing it lots of ways, that's the great thing about an ancient art like origami, there are many ways of doing the same things. I make small folded boxes for sending out the jewelry. I used to make fancier boxes that took some time to cut and paste, but the origami boxes are portable, quick and fun. I can fold them while watching TV, make a few up ahead to have them ready. They are lightweight and fit in padded mailing envelopes.

Here are some tutorials on making origami boxes, some even include ideas for decorating the paper first. But regular brown kraft paper is good, and because it's recycling - it's green-friendly, too. Or use greeting cards you don't need any more, even magazine pages.

STRANDS has a tutorial on origami paper folded boxes, and these are fancy ones that make a hexagonal box.

A comprehensive tutorial with great photos is on the blog for Jen Lowe.

Cathie Filian has a tutorial for a large lidded folded box on her blog.

I prefer the ones you don't have to use scissors for, but without a lot of steps, so they can be carried around and made up from memory. If you have some more resources, or ideas about origami folded boxes, post in the comments. Always looking for another great way to fold paper to make boxes and bags.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Boggle Toggle Bead

You know that feeling right after a haircut, all fresh and new, a bright outlook on a new world?

That's how these beads feel to me now, after grinding and cleanup, and a fire polish in the kiln.

The edges are all smooth and shapely, the holes are nicely finished, and they have that clear, bright new feeling.

They need their hardward and their toggle bar, and they are all ready to be part of a necklace.

Glass is facinating stuff. It is a solid, but translucent and even transparent. It can be melted to become a liquid, and will flow or slump over a shape. It can be ground and shaped, but is firm and solid. Things can be enclosed inside it, and it can be fused to other glass to make beautiful layers.

There is really nothing else that feels cool to the touch, but warms next to the skin, that lets the light shine through and bounce off its surface.

It takes a bit of courage to take the glass and drill the hole in it to make the clasp hanger. It's nerve-wracking. I'm never so glad to be done with any process as I am when I've gotten through the glass with the bit successfully, no cracks or breaks. Whew. A sigh of relief.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Word Soup - Beads of Glass

Here are some of the fused pieces after they have been through the first two firings.

They haven't been shaped on the grinder yet.

These have designs and words embedded in them.

The 'S-U-M-M-E-R' bead has a shimmery blue image in it, like the designs that sunlight makes on the bottom of a swimming pool .

The 'H-E-A-R-T' bead has a translucent blue color embedded in the middle, and the reverse has some flower stems designs and words for a pattern on in the glass.

These need to be shaped and fire polished before they are ready to wear.

Don't these look summery and light for beads or clasp closures?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Word Beads

Magic Words in Glass to Dream and Inspire

Trying to pull all the pieces and bits together, here are some photos of the newest glass coming out of the kiln. Made some beads, and also this special glass toggle closure.

The toggle bar is fine silver wire, pulled with the torch into paddle shapes, and a loop added to attach the chain.

The idea is that the closure becomes the focal bead of the necklace, right out there in front, with wire wrapped or bead strung to go around the rest of the necklace.

Have found a way to get translucent beads with the words suspended in them, very shiny like glass gemstones, but functional as the clasp of the necklace.

This is a front and back view of a bead with the word 'D-R-E-A-M' embedded inside the glass.

It's shiny and translucent, and has a kind of dreamscape on the back side.

And the word is only visible from the front, like a hazy half-remembered dream.

The light shines through, it's not opaque, but it's kind of foggy, like a mystical image floating in the glass.

I like the way these are turning out, although they are time consuming. It takes three passes through the kiln to get them. One fusing at 1395 degrees F to put the image with enamels on the glass. That ramps up and cools down slowly, then another firing to 1500 degrees F to put the clear glass caps on the enameled image. After that slowly cools, and they have been shaped on the grinder (there's usually extra clear glass after the full fuse) they go back for a fire polish fuse to 1450 degrees F and cool down slowly.

I can only get a few pieces at a time out of a firing in my kiln, so I do other things while they are firing and cooling.

Love glass, there's nothing that looks and acts like it.

It's like M-A-G-I-C - like this little bead with its golden glow!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Slinky Links

These three fine silver links were made using 16 gauge wire, fused and hammered, then tumbled.

They are the bright silver, no patina was put onto them.

Each oval link is fused tightly closed to the others, to make a solid chain 3-link unit.

These 3-link units were also fused together from 18 gauge wire to make the elongated links, and they were patinaed with liver of sulphur to darken them, then tumbled for an hour with stainless steel shot.

The patina goes into all the crevices where the links were hammered and give the silver a rich, dark look.

Wanted to try using some of the silver metal clay disks with chain, so the elongated 18 gauge silver wire links were used together with two small round metal clay silver disks.

This is a five-link chain, the first link is rounded and the other two wire links are ovals.

These might look nice at the end of a necklace close to a clasp. Or just one oval wire link with one round disk used together with a silver earwire, to make a pair of earrings.

Could see a wire-wrapped hook closure going with that round link, and some strung pearls on a bead wire at the other end for the necklace.

Making chain and clasps is fun. Now I need to get busy and make some more beads!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Silver Bells and Cockle Shells

Clay Revolutions

Silver metal clay goes through several state changes before it reaches the final look. This photo is the work I created in the one-day workshop class, in this photo it is partially dried and preparing for firing.

The moisture has gone out of the clay for the most part, it's no longer flexible but at this stage is very fragile. It's sitting on a clear sheet, ready to go into a plastic shoe box with a lid for transporting back to my studio to be put into the kiln.

Some people refer to this stage of the clay before firing as greenware. It's a ceramic term used for clay that is dry but not fired. Before it goes into the kiln for firing it's best for it to be completely dry, or bone dry, to avoid warping during the firing process.

When working with the clay during shaping, texturing and cutting, it's really important to minimize the handling of the silver metal clay to keep it moist and workable. It dries fairly quickly, so having all the materials and tools ready and working quickly is really important. No pressure - but work fast!

The same kiln I use for firing glass is useful for firing silver metal clay, it is programmable and makes the firing very hands-off and easy.

Here are some photos of the same pieces after coming out of the kiln firing. They haven't been patinaed or tumbled yet. Yes, they are fired and solid silver pieces.

They don't really look like silver yet, do they?

When the fired silver metal clay comes out of the kiln, at first it looks oddly bright white in color, not the metallic silver color that is common on silver. That's because the silver surface has oxidized, and is reflecting back all the colors in the light, and that makes it look completely white.

These photos show the metal clay pieces after firing and quenching, and totally brilliant white in color. It's startling to see the metal without its usual reflectivity and color.

The little box shape was built in slabs and assembled, it has a lid with a hole in it but is open on the bottom for possible chain dangles or ornaments coming out of the box.
There are several ways to give the silver its usual color. It can be gently brushed with a brass or steel wire brush, to give it a satin finish. It can be burnished with a metal burnishing tool, to highlight the upper parts with a shiny sleek surface. Or it can be tumbled with steel shot, to give it a shiny silver appearance. And patina (usually liver of sulphur) is applied, to age and color the surface.

What a difference the patina and tumbling makes in the way these pieces look.

The circle shapes can be used with chain. These were fired and can be combined later with unfired links to make a series of joined links and re-fired to join them. The long flat piece with the holes will be wrapped around a ring mandrel to make a ring shank, possibly with a lampwork bead in it, or another unit made from silver metal clay suspended in the holes.

Also made a silver headpin with an ornament on it, a toggle bar to use with chain, and some charms and dangles to use in combination with the other pieces.

It was inspiring to make the units and components without a final plan, just to have the links, charms and dangles to put together later. All of the pieces need to be work hardened so they will be sturdy to use in giving structure to the finished jewelry, and be able to hold up during wearing.

The amount of detail in the silver is amazing and beautiful, after applying the patina and tumbling overnight, this is the look of the silver. The patina in the crevices emphasizes the designs in the silver, and tumbling polishes off the silver oxides and burnishes the surface of the silver. When these pieces went into the tumbler they were very, very dark from the patina, and after tumbling overnight this is the shiny silver surface.

They can have more patina applied now, or the high points can be burnished with a tool to make them super shiny so they show up really well against the dark patina.

Because the silver metal clay shrinks some while it is drying, and shrinks more during the firing process, the detail also gets smaller and more refined, and looks tiny and yet still intricate. It's really beautiful.

The little box had a heavy texture in the silver metal, and when first fired that was almost invisible without the patina in the recessed areas. With the patina and after tumbling, the little box is a shiny brilliant silver color, but with all the detail intact and very visible.

The texture on the lid of the box is tiny leaves, when seen from above it looks like a roof covered with leaves after a rain, all in miniature.

Couldn't wait ... I wanted to wear the box right away, so I put a quick wire twist put on it to slip it onto a faceted ball chain to wear as a necklace. I've been wearing it the last couple of days on this temporary hanger combined with one of my fused glass heart charms. It jingles on the chain, making a tiny ringing sound like a miniature bell. Very fun! My own tiny ringing bell around my neck!

I also want to use some links, especially the smaller ones in front, together with fine silver fused wire links. The small links in the chain won't have to be fused because they will already be silver links! Also think some of the small links would be great as dangles on earrings, very lightweight but shiny silver.

The class was creative and inspiring and I love the results. I have some more silver metal clay to use to make some more units and components in the studio, especially toggles and clasps for use in jewelry designs.

Want to make some more tiny boxes like this one, and charms for bracelets! Hope you enjoyed the posts about the class and the silver metal clay. What do you think about the results?

Write me a comment on how you think you would use the round circle components, I'll give away two of them based on a random drawing from the comments on this blog entry! Can't wait to hear what you might do with these silver links!

The winner will be announced next Saturday ...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Feats of Metal Clay - Part 2

Structural Metal Clay - Inspirations in Creativity With Structural Stability

You can always tell when you are watching someone work who has mastery of the subject. They make everything seem so easy, seamless and effortless. Twirl, clip, tuck and it's done.

Then when you try to take up the materials and tools and try to do it yourself, you realize how much more is involved than you thought.

This work area was the demo area, where Kate Mckinnon showed how to make headpins, clasps, toggles and other useful jewelry components.

She has a distinctive vocabulary and visual style in her work, you can see one of her jewelry pieces in person or in a photograph, and immediately have awareness that it's her work.
Even in the unfired pieces, you can recognize her jewelry style and visual language.

This also flows over into her teaching methods. During this one-day workshop it was not a requirement that everyone create the same project, there was no handout of the steps to create the specific item.

Instead, and more usefully, she taught the way to create textured and structurally sound clasps, toggle bars and large scale fine silver chain links, and the means to translate that information into other expressions.

How to create beautiful silver patinas safely, how to work harden the fine silver fused components so they are sturdy and up to daily wear and use, these and many other useful hints and tips were shared with the group. Individual attention was given to each student and questions answered in detail.

And the student results were supurb. In a one-day workshop there wasn't enough time to put everything in the kiln and fire it, so the photos are of the shaped but unfired metal clay student work.

I think you will agree that the results are simply beautiful.

The little structural houses made by the students were unique and each one was different.

The toggle clasps and the chain links were beautiful and each reflected the student's creativity.

The long thin bands are a type of ring shank. Most of the students in this class are lampwork bead makers, such beautiful glass beads. The style of ring shank being taught will allow them to use their gorgeous torch-made glass beads and wear them as a ring.

Kate also taught how to create and use rivets, how to make spinner rings (so fun!) and making fine silver prongs and settings for use with gemstones, glass beads and other objects that need to be set securely but can't take the high temperatures of firing the fine silver metal.

Brought the pieces of chain, toggles and items back and put them into the kiln to fire them.

Tomorrow, photos of my finished pieces after fusing and before applying the patina and tumbling. The fine silver comes out of the kiln oddly white in color, reflecting the light from its surface and looking unlike the final silver after the patina is applied, the silver is burnished and tumbled to create the highlights.