Category Archives: Teaching

A Tale of Two Prongs

The last two jewelry making classes that I’ve taught involved working on various types of prong settings. Although I don’t have any more of these scheduled, I’m still intrigued by the unique possibilities that soldered prongs present for jewelry construction.

I think the blue agate piece below might be called “snakes” except that might not be a very appealing title for a customer. I wanted to add a tube setting to this piece and used a 6mm lab grown amethyst. It seems to help bring out the color in the agate.


There’s always considerable problem solving in jewelry construction even when you’ve made the best of plans. I share my mistakes as a pat on the back for those of you who don’t make them (anyone out there???) as well as encouragement for the rest of us. My mantra seems to be “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. After the entire pendant was complete – soldered, filed, sanded, formed, patinated, etc. – I carefully set the stone and positioned the prongs over it. So far so good. Then I placed the amethyst in the tube bezel and used my new bezel setter to secure it . . . beautiful. But then . . . plop. . . out came the stone. Not to be dismayed, I tried again and again and then . . . I realized that I had soldered the tube bezel onto the back plate upside down! I knew I should start again, remove the agate and go back to the torch station.; but I didn’t. I recently read that a renowned jewelry maker/teacher uses glue in certain situations. THIS was my situation. I got that little E-6000 tube out of the drawer, glued that little stone in the tube bezel and if I hadn’t fessed up, you might never have known.


The second prong setting is a green agate. I cut a piece of 22g copper sheet to create the partial bezel and then used a two-legged prong setting at the top. In essence, the bezel simply keep the stone from sliding out the bottom. The prong provides tension from the top and holds the piece against the back plate. I also used a little bit of that E-6000 on the back of the stone so I would feel better. The bezel is a bit of copper tubing soldered on the front and I embellished the pieces by wiring some small glass beads to the prong. By the way, twice I filed and sanded the back of the piece too closely where the prongs come through and had to re-solder them. Oh well, it gave me good practice!

green1   green2

Did I learn anything? I found that self deprecation when something doesn’t go right doesn’t help me in making jewelry. When a prong failed to solder properly, I just said “oh great, now I get to go back down the stairs to the torch room.” (More exercise and more practice can’t be all bad!) Now, if something doesn’t give me a problem, I’m suspicious. Could attitude be 9/10s of the work ethic?

For my soldering students, keep smiling and torch on.

Just Do the Next Thing . . .

As I likely have mentioned before, my great grandmother, Dee Dee Lewis, supported not only herself (post husband) but also my grandmother (post husband) and her two children. Yes, we are a family of lingering women. When someone would get in a muddle and become anxious about what they should do, Dee Dee always said “just do the next thing.” It didn’t really think that was very helpful and often couldn’t even figure out what the next thing was. However, lately, that little phrase has been sounding in my brain and I’ve follow the tenet behind it. I’m no busier than the next person, but sometimes I need a little help from my elders.

I enjoyed the past holidays and actually took some time away from designing to sit quietly and do some crocheting and sewing. It was a welcome respite and gave these hands time to recover from the hurried wire and metal work pre-Christmas.

Then it was suddenly January and there was a list of things that needed ASAP attention. First, I needed products for a silent auction donation to the San Marcos River Foundation. I wanted them to have a choice and they selected the blue tree below and some copper earrings from the three things I offered.

blue tree     Raindrop necklace


The next thing . . . I needed product examples for the three January-February classes I was teaching. Luckily, I had most of the wrapped rocks and cabachons below already done; yet I did need to practice.

Cabs 2014

Then . . . the next thing . . . I needed to create new products for the Hot Metal Mania class coming in February. These took a while as I tried to differentiate the level of skill needed for the products.

Hot Metal

When I completed enough of the Hot products to at least get information out to students, I decided to take a day off, but then the phone rang. Someone that I convinced to be the program chair for one of my groups needed a project/leader for February. She wanted something in metal. I got her into this . . . so I said yes and arose fromf my chair and back to the bench.


bracelet 3

Feeling pleased to have the former completed and tired of following Dee Dee’s advise, I took a some time to try a new scroll design. I thought I was making a bird, but I do believe it turned out to be a hen. She is soldered and the wing flower is torch enameled



Today, I realize that “the next thing” is preparing the products for the Torch Enameling class which is in two weeks. I guess you know what I’ll be working on today.  OK, great grandmother, I think you were right! At least I’m having fun.

More Fall

That’s what I’m wishing for – More Fall. Actually, I would take any Fall at all since we are having 100 degree plus days here in central Texas. I’m sure Fall is coming, but I’m a bit premature with my daily wish.

Nevertheless, it is Fall in the studio. Some of you have previously seen the leaves I’ve posted elsewhere. These are for a class that I’m preparing.

chain necklace

These copper leaves were torch painted with a little butane torch. Their friend, the dragonfly, is from a wire tutorial I just finished for my etsy shop. It was requested by the people who wanted the leaf workshop.

Here’s a little different type leaf. I turned these red by annealing them with the torch and then throwing them in Crisco cooking oil. I also tried some in sesame oil and the red is about the same.

red leaf

Here’s a comparison of the cooking oil vs. the sesame oil. The sesame dipped leaf is on the left. The difference in color is slight.

red leaf comparison

Finally, this set of leaves was also torch painted and I made a brass chain. I like the difference in color. Torch painting always provides surprises.

leaf brass

The only time consuming part of this project is cutting out each leaf. It makes my hands unhappy!

Let’s just hope my leaves are a harbinger of Fall (the real one with the cooler temperatures). I’m ready for clothes with leaves and shoes with toes!

In the News

Following is a nice article that was published in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung several weeks ago. I apologize for the grainy photos, but they were scanned from the newspaper. (Can you tell by the photos how much I enjoy teaching these classes?)

Reprinted with permission from the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung:

Jewelry Lessons   image

By Betty Taylor

The Herald-Zeitung

A group of 11 women hammered away Tuesday night at copper wire in the art room at New Braunfels Ninth Grade Center, before holding up tiny loop clasps and comparing their work.

“I’m ready to open a jewelry store now,” said Gail Profant, as she and friend Patricia Schlichting burst out laughing.

The Jewelry Making and Wire Work class was the first of a set of three taught by Dr. Karen Meador of San Marcos as part of New Braunfels ISD’s Community Education program. Meador said she has been making jewelry for about 12 years. She also teaches torch enameling and basic soldering.

On Tuesday, participants learned how to make earrings and a necklace. Techniques included crimping and how to bind beads to wire.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to make jewelry,” Schlichting said.

Carole Bartram also signed up with friends for the class.

“We just all wanted to learn how to make jewelry and have some fun doing it,” she said.

Meador provided the supplies for the class as well as tips on the best kind of beading wire; how to keep copper from turning color; and keeping beads from popping off of necklaces.

Marilyn Johnson has been making jewelry for more than 10 years, but wanted to take the class to learn more techniques. Chris Newton said she wanted to learn how to repair her own jewelry.

For the next two classes, students will be making chains with S-links and jump rings that they will turn into charm bracelets and necklaces; a “smile” necklace featuring a curved piece of copper set with beads; and a copper wave bracelet embellished with beads.


It’s Come to This!

There’s a new word that has been popping up in my mind and on my lips since the Christmas holidays. The term shambolic was used by someone during a CNN discussion about Congress. Liking the sound of the word and curious about it’s full meaning, I consulted Webster.  It means “obviously disorganized or confused”. This is not a word that I would like as an adjective for Karen. Yet, you might think it appropriate if you saw my studio.

I think artists often work from a chaotic, but productive, state. The seeming disarray of materials and tools in a studio can lead to wonderful juxtaposition of colors and designs and result in art. What seems disorganized to a visitor may actually be exactly what the artist requires for productive creativity. Still, today I don’t want to be shambolic.

The old saying “too many irons in the fire” could easily fit my upcoming week; so I decided to get organized. In one corner of the studio I can find the materials needed for the three classes I’m teaching this week. The materials for these are also spread out (or organized?) on the dining room table.


earri bags

Another corner houses the metal that I’m cutting for next week’s torch enamel class. When I announced to the class that I would bring the metal components I didn’t really think about the fact that we are making several sets of earrings. Let’s see, that’s ten people, 20 ears and two sets a piece = 40 discs.


It was a good holiday season for most of the boutiques I serve, but I’m wondering if they gave away the earrings. Where did they all go? I’m in high production on earrings at the bead table and wishing that I wasn’t so particular that I feel the need to make my own ear wires.


Finally, I have trays of partially completed jewelry sets to be offered at the Methodist’s Heart Warming Affair on February 9th. Let’s just hope the pieces all have hand made clasps by that time.


The moral of this tale is that I keep hearing “shambolic” in my mind dueted with my great grandmother saying “just do the next thing.” Today, I’m organizing, doing the next thing and hoping it pays off during the next two weeks. How about you . . . shambolic?


I’ve tried to avoid writing this entry and I do so now, not because I want to, but rather because I need to.

Home alone last weekend as the news of the school shooting rang out, I chose to ignore it. I didn’t turn on the television or radio and avoided the internet news and posts per the subject. Two days later, when my husband returned home and turned on the TV, I left the room each and every time reports of the shooting were aired. I simply ignored them, worked frantically on my business and avoided the inevitable. It was as though I put up a concrete wall to protect my emotions from the pain so many felt. Yet, that wall was a porous, constructed subconsciously as a useless shield.

I managed quite well until Monday when the funerals began and I finally cried. It was as though the faces of those young children shown on television were those in my own classrooms so many years ago. Those faces still reside in my memory box although the children are now grown or well on their way to adulthood. I remember all the angels and the rascals and would have protected them with all my might.

I cried not only for the parents and grandparents of the lost children and adults, but also for those at the school and what they now face. It is possible that some of those children will never resume the emotional stability that is their birthright. The spiral of evil, initiated by a single young man, will likely continue to effect many in ways we will never comprehend.

As I think about my own former students, I cannot help but recognize my own fear of and for a very few of them. As a teacher, I approached mental health carefully yet forthrightly, speaking with parents and counselors when I sensed deep seeded issues in a child. While parents usually listened to my concerns, I don’t know of any instance where they took action to seek professional help for their children. Now, I cannot help but wonder what type of people these youngsters became and whether I should have pushed harder to get help for them. Yet, it is a rough ride on the horse of guilt if you choose to consider the “what ifs”. What if I missed a child who called out for help? Was he or she the one capable of horrific deeds? What if I missed the actions of a parent toward a child that I might have saved? What if, I was just too wrapped up in my own life to recognize problems that grow until they become destructive?

It’s too late for me; my days in the classroom are past; yet I hope that teachers will always care enough to trust their instincts and that parents will care enough to listen and act if things do not seem quite right with their offspring. I believe we are all trying.

. . . and so I write because it helps me recognize what I’m feeling. I write because it guides me toward healing. I write because I care.

Fishing for Ideas

If you’ve ever worked with preschoolers, I’ll bet you’ve enjoyed magnet fishing. You put a paper clip on the ends of paper fish and a magnet on the end of a homemade, kid-sized fishing pole and then “attract” fish. My grandson likes to put his fish in a bucket and use it as a fishing pond. We’ve been playing this for over a year and it doesn’t seem to get old.

G fishin

Many times, I end up “fishin” too, but it’s usually not in a bucket. It’s usually in my head when I’m fishing for ideas. I may be looking for something new and different to add to a design or for some way to solve a problem. This week it was the latter.

I’ve been stuck on making birds lately and have explored how to do it with embossing and torch enameling.

torch bird

After making a couple of these, I realized that the two don’t mix real well. For embossing, we need a light gauge metal and for torch enamel a heavier metal. When I use the gauge I need for embossing and then enamel the piece, it curves a bit toward the back. Yesterday, while fishing for ideas, I tried riveting another piece of metal to the embossed one and then enameling. It was NOT a good idea. Much of the heat was lost between the layers and I completed a very rough and ugly bird. No, you cannot see it because it’s in the trash. So, I guess I’m going to need to get my idea fishing pole out and try again.

I did, however, have one bird that turned out well. He/she is a sample piece that combines elements from several of the classes I teach, soldering, riveting, wire wrapping, forging, etc. Although you can’t tell from the photo, I used tube rivets to help the bird stand about 1/4 inch away from the back plate. The bird is mixed metal including copper sheet, 1/10 silver wire and brass wire for the nest. Today’s issue is how to make it smaller.


I asked my spouse if he thought I needed eggs in the bird’s nest, but he didn’t think so. We decided that bird was just too young to mate. After all it did just hatch at Dreamcatcher Designs.

Here’s hoping you catch whatever you are fishing for.

Bracelets Galore

I’m beginning to think there are more people who like to make bracelets than there are people who like to wear them. (Let’s hope not!) I subscribe to a number of daily jewelry newsletters and you might not believe the number of bracelets that are featured each week. But then . . why not . . . bracelets are often quicker to make and require less materials . . . and, if I were to tell the truth, I’d have to admit I really like to make them too.

One of my beginner classes made bracelets the other evening and we were quite proud of ourselves. These were the traditional wire bracelets with bindings.


The participants made the bracelet on the upper left corner of the photo.

Measurements for these bracelets seems to be the trickiest part. I’ve made a good number of them that didn’t quite fit my wrist correctly.

Last week, I set out to write a tutorial for the bracelet below. It looks easy doesn’t it?  Well, it was NOT easy to write.


There are a number of variables in the bracelet that effect the length and you know how I hate to measure! Yet, I did measure very carefully and finally nailed this tutorial. It seems to be pretty foolproof now and the bracelet isn’t that hard to create once you know the measurements. I also fussed with the clasp on this one and finally chose my pirate’s hook that I use on the wave bracelets. This makes it easier to get on and off.


Now the trick is to quit making these for myself. I keep finding so many variations that it’s hard to move on to the next design project. Don’t be surprised if these pop up again . . . I’m resisting closure on them.



There are several things you can always count on here at Dreamcatcher Ranch when the month is May. These include Summer weather, Spring pollen and ANTS! It seems no matter how hard we fight them, those ants are more determined than we are and we lose the fight.

Last week, however, I got a new perspective on ants from my three-year-old grandson. He actually seems to like them! At the least, he finds them very interesting. During our visit, we checked out online information and videos and talked about the little critters. I couldn’t help but tell him the story of Two Bad Ants, written by Chris Van Allsburg. It’s one of my favorite books that tells about ants coming into a home. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the book with me, so I just told the story of how a couple of ants lingered behind in the sugar bowl while the other, more disciplined ants, carried their treasure out of the house. The entire story is told from the perspective of the ants and it was difficult to get the real effect without the pictures. Yet, my grandson was intrigued.

Tonight, I decided to dig out that book and take with me on my next grandmotherly expedition. At first I couldn’t find it. That meant I had to dig through the many picture books housed in my closet and that’s when I realized. Those books were my old friends. I touched worn copies of Winnie, the Witch, Roxaboxen, Rabbit and the Moon, The Last Dance and other familiar works. My reaquaintance with them didn’t even require page turning as the memories flooded back from the mere sight of them.

I could tell you that I read these to my own children, but that wouldn’t be right. I read these to teachers and university students in my classes. No workshop with me was complete without story time after lunch. While some thought this was silly, others looked forward to this part of our day. I usually told, rather that read, the story as I showed the pictures. At times I used a prop or two such as the shawl I wore in various ways for The Last Dance. I not only remember the stories, but I remember the people and the situations wherein I used them. Those books are like little capsules of my past that hold more than I ever realized until this evening.

Lest you think I neglected my own children, I should tell you that the pages of other books like Drummer Hoff and Where the Wild Things Are have well worn pages as well from our family sharing. I’ll bet my adult son can still recite most of the verses in Drummer Hoff.

I believe in this new period of publishing where many books are ready electronically, but wonder what will remain from these to help hold the memories of sharing books with others. My hope is that we will always share real copies of picture books and that these will be passed from one generation to the next as treasured gifts, not just relics. For now, I’m just anxious to share with another little person . . . hand-on.

Pass It On . . . and On . . . and On

It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me that I like to teach. I tend to grab most any “teachable moment” whether you want me to or not. With adults, I try to curb my appetite for devouring those moments, but little children need to beware!

I’ve truly enjoyed the two jewelry classes that I taught last week, one in Wimberley, TX and the other in San Marcos. I worked with seven women as they learned to make a wrap bracelet in Wimberley and then four more who worked on wrapping cabachons. I enjoyed hearing from the first group about who some of them planned to pass their bracelet to as a gift. I regret not getting a photo of that group, but note the happy intensity on the faces of the second.

cabs girls

It’s common for someone to ask a designer ideas come from. I have no doubt that many of mine come during preparation for teaching. I think that is why it takes me so long to get ready to teach a class. There’s something about this pre-planning that gets my creative juices flowing. I used to fight this urge, trying to stay on task, but now I just go with it. I do, however, have to resist my propensity to want to teach the new idea instead of that which was designated for the class. I just keep wanting to pass it on.

As an example, a couple of gals came over for a little assistance in starting their journey into soldering with a torch. They hardly got off the ranch before I was cutting and planning the piece below. Yes, I know it’s a bit bird-like, but it wasn’t planned that way – oh well, it’s definitely different!


I’ve also done a new soldered design that someone on Facebook suggested is Bohemian. The legs on this piece are soldered to the bottom half of the arc and then wire wrapped. I was tickled that the very first sale of this went to my good friend who often calls and says “is the Dreamcatcher Designs shop open?”  (Of course you know I don’t have a shop!) Sometimes she just runs out to the ranch and gets what she needs. This piece was gifted from her to a co-friend of ours and I’m pleased for her to have it. Do you think you can wear “Bohemian” at the Lutheran Church?


As you read, many things, both concrete and ideational, were passed on last week. From teacher to student, student to teach and friend to friend. I think life was very productive.