July 2009

IreneEarrings1Adding texture to metal gives it such interest and depth.  Smooth metal polished to a high shine has its beauty too, but at least for now, I am drawn to textured metal.  I’m enjoying the exploration of different methods to create texture.  A lot can be done with hammers and chasing tools.  If you’re lucky enough to own or have access to a rolling mill, many different things can be used to create texture.  I’ve seen lace used beautifully to create texture with a rolling mill, for example.

The textured discs in these earrings were made by annealing a small sheet of sterling silver, taking it outside to the sidewalk outside my studio, laying it on the sidewalk and hitting it with a plastic mallet.  I did a test on a piece of copper first and just loved the results.  Now, I find myself looking around for other surfaces that might yield interesting results.   Any ideas?


ArialNecklace1Like many people, I have jars containing buttons, keys, and coins – some from my country and some from other countries.  Jars filled with these items are just friendly and you want to pour them out and sift through the contents.  I was doing that recently and came across the coin featured in this necklace.  It is a twenty-five cents coin from the lovely country of Bermuda.  I had never cut out details from a coin before and always wanted to try.  I decided, now is the time.

My thought was to skirt around the bird and not try to cut it out in detail since I had never cut a coin before.  But when I got to my workbench and had the saw in my hand, I knew I wanted to go for it and cut the bird out in detail.  I’m so glad I did because I got it done.  This was not easy and it took some time.  A lot of time was spent in the areas that are now removed creating access to the different parts of the bird.  And, I found making turns to be difficult.  I think it is because the coin was thicker than any metal I had cut before and if I was not exactly straight vertically with the saw, I would have trouble turning.  A few saw blades were sacrificed in this process.  I found that taking the time to carefully move the saw up and down and become straight before turning helped tremendously. 

I set the coin in a copper tab setting, liking the mix of blue with coppery tones.  Underneath the coin – a little bit of tin cut from an old box that used to hold colored pencils to give it the color of sky.  Worth the effort?  Yes.  Would I do it again?  Another yes.

Seashell in SterlingIn the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time working on prong settings, truthfully somewhat tense in getting the prongs done.  I would make the prongs, prepare the base, and use my center punch to make a little indentations for each prong.  Then I would solder each prong on – one by one.  It got tricky because as I went to solder each one on, I needed to avoid melting or unsoldering the ones I already put on.  And once I had a few of them on, I had more to lose and would try to stay calm, but…

When I went to Penland I asked our studio assistant, Marlene True, about it.  I explained what I had been doing.  She smiled and said – let me show you another way.  She approached it by drilling holes in the base making sure to select a drill bit where the prongs would fit very snugly in the hole.  Then she suspended the piece on a tripod, put a little bit of flux and a snippet of solder right beside each prong, heated it from below, and got them all done at once.  Sweet.  The beauty of this approach is two-fold.  First, you are done so much quicker.  I was having to pickle the piece in between each soldering.  Secondly, because the torch is underneath the base, you don’t have the same worries about melting the prongs.  This piece was made the new way.  I am now soldering prongs angst-free.

Thank you, Marlene True.

Crystal Silver and Glass Pearl NecklaceThe folks at Swarovski just don’t quit.  It seems every time you turn around they are introducing new colors, shapes, and designs.  They are always gorgeous and you can count on consistent quality.  I was browsing around on Artbeads.com (bead shopping being a favorite activity) and just could not resist.  I had not worked with any of the Swarovski pendants before and decided to try the square and rock pendants used in this piece. 

When they arrived, I set them on a blank sheet of white paper to begin sketching and working out a design.  I knew the foundation of the design would be the decision I made in how to hang or attach the square to the rest of the necklace.  My initial thought was to use strips of square stitch – one at the top to attach the square to the necklace and another strip at the bottom to attach the rock pendant, but I knew that would cover up quite a bit of the crystal square.  So, I decided to prong set it in silver and I am so glad I did.

I textured the silver with a pattern with rounded edges to reflect the scroll pattern in the silver beads in the necklace and the scroll used to hang the green rock pendant.  I think those components together with the color of the crystals and glass pearls create a dark romantic feel.  Setting the square slightly askew and letting the prongs extend into the negative space at the center of the square add a bit of attitude.  I’m inspired and would like to work with Swarovski crystal pendants again.  Next, I’m envisioning a rectangular setting where a trio of smaller crystal squares are lined up and prong set.  Maybe romance, attitude, and crystals leads to more crystals.

Olivene and Blue Beads off Long EarwiresI use commercial earwires for many of my earrings but find that I am moving towards using handmade earwires more and more.  I especially love the long ones like those shown here.  They are relatively simple to make and add a beautiful touch to even the simplest earring design.  I made these by cutting lengths of sterling silver wire, using my torch to create a ball on the ends, forming the earwire shape with pliers, and then filing the end that is inserted into the ear so it is smooth.  I love the long, clean look and keep a little batch of them in the storage box with the commercial earwires.  Who knows, someday the handmade ones may take over…


When I studied at Penland in 2008, I saw people creating bowls, bracelets, chokers, and other items from a flat piece of sheet metal in a process called raising.  The results are beautiful and have a special feel to them that is not possible to replicate with mass-produced items, I don’t think.  I knew I wanted to try it but just did not have the time.  It’s such a challenge in classes to absorb all the material presented and try all that you can.

This year, I was determined to give it a try and this is my first attempt.   This bracelet was made from a sheet of 20 gauge copper in a process called anticlastic raising.  What this means is the metal is being shaped in two different directions – it is being shaped downward into a bracelet form and the edges are being shaped upward to form the curve at the edges.  Sounds simple enough, right?

The concept is simple, the execution – a different story.  The difficulty is that the two directions you are trying to take the metal want to fight with each other.  As you work to shape the bracelet downward, the curve at the edges starts to open up.  As you then work to curl up the edges, the bracelet shape starts to open up.   So you go back and forth, coaxing the metal to do what you want.   And you have to anneal the metal – a lot.

I am thrilled with the results of my first attempt and want to try it again.  I could not have made this without the guidance of and instruction from my classmate Andrea, a lovely young lady very skilled at raising.  Thank you, Andrea.

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2910065When we are reaching, stretching, pushing our limits, we make mistakes, have problems, and stuff happens.  I don’t like this anymore than anyone else, but I know that if I never experience problems and mistakes then I am playing it way too safe, relying far too much on what I already know.  And so, I push ahead.

This necklace is an example.  The small black glass cab with a bit of red was the smallest thing I had bezel set at the time.  And I wanted to do it.  I saw the complete pendant in my mind – the wire-wrapped porcelain drop, the black and red cab set properly, and I wanted to do it.

So, I set out to make the bezel setting for the small black and red piece and ran into trouble.  I made rings out of bezel wire, tried to solder them closed, and either solder would run up one side or I toasted the bezel with too much heat and part of it melted.  After destroying a few of them, I stepped back to analyze the situation.  Solder running to one side was a symptom of uneven heating.  This bezel was small so there wasn’t much mass.  I was using the pick to hold the solder beside the seam.  Maybe the pick was drawing too much heat for this small bezel??  I tried it without the pick, and success.  The photo below – the toasted and melted pieces created while learning.  And isn’t learning what it is all about?


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