June 2009

One thing I really like about Penland’s metal studios are the abundance and availability of tools and equipment that many of us may not have access to in our own studios or workshops.  This is the rack of hammers in Lower Metals.  I think you can see that there are front and back rows on both the top and bottom.  Impressive by my standards.

TheHammersAt this time, I have eight hammers in my personal hammer collection so I am no where near being able to touch this collection.  I ordered a planishing hammer when I got back.  I am also looking for a tiny ball peen and a tiny cross peen.  If anyone knows a source for these, please let me know.  My smallest ball peen is a two ounce hammer and I am looking for one even smaller if I can find it.

What is even better than the availability of the tools and equipment is the fact that the instructors and metals staff know how to properly  use and care for them.  They are also knowledgeable about safety and precautions one should take when using tools and equipment.  The various catalogs and websites of those selling tools try really hard to explain these things, but it is no where near as helpful as having someone stand beside you how to use something, and then stand beside you while you try.


The first day of class, I was excited, not sure what the class would bring or how it would be, but definitely looking forward to it.  After introductions, we gathered together to discuss jewelry, art, design, and creativity.  Then we were given our first assignment.  Each of us was given a little packet and told we had to use two different items in the packet to make whatever we wanted.  We could use the two items together or separately.  The only additional material we could use was wire.  And we were allowed to use tools.  This is what the packet contained:



OK, I can do this, I thought.  I decided to use the playing cards first, envisioning a design where I cut them into strips. drilled holes in the stacks of strips, and held the strips together with wire.  Did I mention that it was around 11:00 am and we had a deadline of 4pm?  It took a bit of fiddling and fussing, but I managed to get a decent bracelet concept done.  It is no where near a finished piece, but I like the idea and the instructor really liked the subtle play of the designs printed on the cards that was slightly visible on the strips.


So, I start to work on the second piece and decided to really challenge myself and use the plastic cutlery.  What was I thinking?  I began cutting it up into little pieces thinking I could make a mosaic using a bottle top and some white craft glue.  Then I remembered that we could only use wire.  At this point the fork and knife were cut up into little pieces.  I guess I could have shoved them under the napkin and selected something else, but I kept going.

I decided to encase them in a wire structure and started with a spider web type form.  That did not work because the spoke-type wires are further and further apart as you work from the center out and would not hold the little pieces.  So, I began creating this structure that looked like a tangled birds nest.  It held the pieces but was not tall enough to completely encase them. 

So, I started adding more wire.  Do I need to say that this was not going well and all I could think about was the clock ticking?  You know how it is when a train wreck starts unfolding and you keep doing more and adding more stuff to stop it and all it does is accelerate the inevitable?  That’s what happened with this piece.  I got it done but knew it was a mess. 


The instructor and I discussed it, looking at elements that worked and those that did not.  There was still a bit of time left in the day (we got an extension to 5:30pm) so he suggested I try something else.  I decided to do so and chose the poker chips.  I drilled them off center and began creating a wire-wrapped choker style necklace.  I did not complete all of the wire-wrapping but felt proud I could even see a direction to go with the poker chips.


Overall, it was a good day because it loosened us all up, got us thinking totally out of the box, and got everyone ready to work with both traditional and non-traditional jewelry-making supplies.  This post would not be complete without mention of the jewelry and small sculptural pieces my classmates made, some of which were truly amazing.


This is the sign leading to what is called Lower Metals.  Penland School of Craft has two metal studios – one is upstairs and called Upper Metals, the other is downstairs and called Lower Metals.  Both times I have been at Penland, I have been in Lower Metals.  In fact, I’ve been at the exact same desk.  It’s a desk that works for be because its location keeps my left-handedness from affecting others.

I’m excited about the class I am taking – Jewelry as Personal Adornment.  The instructor is Robert Ebendorf, who is well known in the art jewelry world.  I am lucky to be in the class.  There were more applicants than spots, so all of us that are here got in on lottery.  I hope it is a good two weeks and I get a lot out of it.

Dear Reader, Please note I have returned from Penland.  I wrote a series of posts long hand while there and will be posting them over the next few weeks.

Seashells and Ceramic BeadsI think many of us that make handcrafted items are influenced at times by the seasons – I know I certainly am.  Summertime can inspire designs using shell, wood, and other beads that bring the beach to mind or have a light, summery feel.  This necklace is one example. 

As soon as I felt the strand of square shell beads in my hand at a local bead store, I had to have them.  Being natural beads, they are not identical – some have more curvature than others.  I used small seed beads in the same color as little spacers to accommodate the natural variations.  I think the necklace flows nicely from the square edges and very tight repetition in the front to the larger ceramic, wood, glass, and other beads in the back.  The colors bring to mind sandy beaches and caramel.

YvetteEarrings1I had these little olivine briolette beads and tiny teardrops and really wanted to use them in a pair of earrings.  The trick was figuring out how.  The first decision was what to string them on – beading wire or regular metal wire.  I tried beading wire first.  It is flexible but has to be terminated using a crimp bead and after a few attempts, I couldn’t get it to hang properly.  Then I tried regular wire and found I could get it to work by making a loop, stringing the beads, curving the wire very gently, and then making the other loop.  I am very, very happy with the results.  I love it when a design comes together.

BeadingThreadFor bead weaving, I use Nymo and C-Lon thread.  The little spools of thread in the bobbin case and the large white cone of thread are Nymo.  The three tubes of little spools are C-Lon.  Both are very strong given the thinness of a single strand.

I like Nymo because it comes in various sizes.  Size D is the size I use with size 11 seed beads and Delicas.  Sizes B, 0, and 00 are thinner and are used with size 14 and 15 seed beads.  C-Lon is very strong and comes in a larger array of colors than Nymo, but as far as I know, there is only one size so you can’t use it in situations where you need thinner thread.  Nymo has the sizes, but just does not come in as many colors.  Maybe they will marry and produce children in multiple sizes and colors.  That would be divine.

SabrinaNecklace1This pendant was made using the same technique used for the blue flower earrings, except I made two different components and developed a way to link the two components together.  It was not easy to get through.  I mean – physically.  The two pendant components were made using square stitch.    On its own, square stitch is a stitch that requires quite a few passes through each bead.  As a result, it’s a very strong stitch and one that is very difficult to take apart when you need to correct a mistake.

The layering and stitching technique used to make this pendant and the earrings requires even more passes through the beads.  I start out using a #10 beading needle.  They are easier to thread and handle.  Once the beads start filling up with thread and get harder and harder to get through, I change to a smaller #13 needle – hard to thread and not as easy to work with.  Near the end, I must tread a careful line between using enough force to make the necessary stitches and not using so much that I break any beads.  I completed it and love the results.  The #13 needle – a bit mangled from the pressure of my hands, but it did the job.

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