Category Archives: Metal Work

Suntan for Copper


Today, I watched a video on demonstrating how to patina metal. Although it was likely designed to introduce customers to their new Patina Gel, the two part video was informative and did what good lessons should. It both confirmed things I already knew while also adding new information. Of course the video also did what it was designed to do; it caused me to want to order their product. Yet, I resisted and used some of my remaining liquid liver of sulfur to patina the above pictured earrings.

It’s interesting to view how various factors effect the look achieved from the patina process. It seems to me that its a bit like getting a suntan. The longer the metal remains in the liver of sulfur solution, the darker it becomes. That works for most people who are getting a suntan and get darker the more time they spend in the sun. That’s true unless you overdo it and turn red. Then you wait for that sunburn to peel before getting your natural color back. If you leave the metal in the patina too long, it turns so dark that you have to sand and polish (peel) until you recognize the metal again.

At my age, the word suntan congers up pictures of dry, wrinkled skin and reminds me of the threat of skin cancer. While giving metal a suntan also has unpleasantries, (the liver of sulfur smells bad) it’s the only type tanning I’ll be doing this summer. Isn’t it nice that in this 106 degree weather we can tan indoors?

New Vendor Find


I enjoyed attending the Bead Jamboree in San Antonio last weekend. Being a bit of a home body, I tried to talk myself out of going several times, but finally went ahead. I currently purchase most everything from and really didn’t need to go to the show. Yet, I wanted to support my friends who were vending and teaching at this venue.

Luckily, I met a “new-to-me” vendor and enjoyed exploring the possibilities her merchandise provided. ( The cross necklace at the left resulted from the use of her metal products and I have several other pieces that will evolve from visiting this vendor. She sells metal charms, etc. such as those shown in the picture below. While it may not be a new technique, she talked with me about layering gemstones on her pieces. Prices were quite reasonable and I’m trying some of her ideas. The first few customers who saw this cross wanted it and I’m hoping the designs will be pleasing.  findings

Economically speaking, the price point for these plated silver and gemstone pieces will be very affordable for customers. While I didn’t use expensive turquoise in the necklace shown, it is still pretty and Mother says it will be meaningful to those who see it. (She was sure that I had made it for her . . . hint, hint.)

I’m pleased to find another helpful, pleasant vendor, but I still want to support those suppliers who have been good to me. This “new find” simply adds one more possibility to design options.

Work Hardened


As I learn about metal and wire work, the term work hardened arises often. It’s the idea of manipulating and/or hammering a piece until is becomes more hardened or brittle. When a piece is hardened just right, it helps it retain its shape and stability. I’ve learned the hard way that too much manipulation of a piece of wire makes it more difficult to bend. This is not unlike over doing when we exercise our bodies. I’m also learning that I shouldn’t hammer a piece too early in the design process, but rather wait until I have the shape I want. The best part is that I do have an excuse for pounding something. It’s great to stop in the middle of a frustrating day and just whack away!

This process is not unlike what is currently occurring here at the ranch. It’s been an exciting couple of weeks at Dreamcatcher. Each May, our bulls arrive back home from their feed test after spending the winter months at another location. We send them away as big calves and they arrive back as big bulls. I enjoy sitting at the very top of a fence watching these magnificent beasts come off the truck and back into our pasture. I never cease to be shocked at the change they make in just a few short months. The goal of the feed test is for the bulls to eat and grow; therefore they mainly just stand around and eat from the bunks. We can’t sell them to our customers at this point because they would melt if they had to work. These 110+ bulls get a rude awakening when they come back home. While they have delicious grass to eat in the pasture at the bottom of a hill, their water is at the top of that rocky hill. Since they’ve just been standing on flat ground eating during the winter, the climb to the top of that hill and back down is monumental, but important.

work hard bulls

Through this exercise, the bull’s hooves become hardened and their bodies become muscular. While the climb by the complaining bulls is currently precipitated by a barking, nipping blue heeler, a honking jeep and yelling people, in a few short weeks it will be easy and they will go willingly. As they become work hardened, they will be ready to serve our customers.

While there probably should be a third picture to this blog, I’ll refrain from inserting it. People seem to also get work hardened in both positive and negative ways. Are the wrinkles on my face a result of this process? Has the optimism we became accustomed to during prosperous economic times been work hardened with the current economic drop? If the analogy derived from both the metal work and the conditioning by design of our bulls applies to our economy, becoming work hardened could be a good thing. As with the wire work, will the resulting economy be more stable? Will we take more time to make important decisions? As with the bulls, will becoming work hardened make us better prepared for the future? Let’s just hope so.

Belted Perseverance


Finally! For several weeks I’ve been attempting to make a copper belt. I could show pictures of all the different prototypes, but then there would be no room for words in this entry. The belt idea began when I worked diligently to create a long necklace of different shaped hammered copper links. The necklace grew too long and I tried to turn it into a belt. It wasn’t bad, but needed a few modifications. Unfortunately, I would rather make something new than fix something; therefore I started another long piece of copper links for a belt. That piece actually did become a long necklace.

Eventually, after examining one of my purchased older silver Concho belts I attempted a modification of that design. I’ve always felt the Concho belts were a bit uncomfortable in the back; so this copper belt has just a few ovals and those in the back are small. I added the turquoise on a few ovals for interest and put some dangles at the end. The large hook clasp and open links allow for the belt to be attached at various places. I used a heavy copper wire from the recycling establishment for the links and hand cut the ovals from a sheet of copper. Also, I spent a good deal of time filing and sanding since I didn’t want the belt to snag on clothing. The next one will have a second hook clasp on the opposite end from the first so that part of the belt can be doubled. I can visualize it made from different shapes and/or different stones.

Now that I have the belt ready for creating variations, what shall I do to create a tiny waist and flat stomach for it to adorn?

Pearl Pod Patience


Pods are a popular form in metal work, but my modified pod podrefused to develop. Several month ago, I made the metal pod and tried to fill it, but nothing seemed to work. Inclined to pitch it in that big round file cabinet (the waste basket), I decided to remain patient and hope for the light. Last night, after looking at the June Bead and Button issue and examining the work on page 63, I nurtured that pod again. It’s getting better even if it’s not perfect.

I am not a patient person! I enjoy the process of creating more than the pleasure of looking at or wearing the finished product. Therefore, my tendency is to throw away things that don’t work and move on. Lately, however, I’ve been trying to remember that “patience is a virtue” and allow pieces to wait for their time. Inspiration appears from strange places and the beginning of an idea may require impetus from something at a later date in order to reach design completion.

Artists often keep a sketch notebook housing ideas to which they want to return. As a composer, I kept a file filled with manuscript paper containing a few measures of a musical motif. It would seem that unfinished objects, like the pod, need to reside in an idea box so the designer can return to them later. I have an idea bin, but during irrational moments (usually when someone is coming to visit and I’m straightening the studio), I often throw away its entire contents. While some of my objects need to go to that happy object place in the sky, others do not and a little design wisdom is all that I need. Unfortunately, there’s still the problem of knowing what to pitch and what to keep. Maybe one day I’ll be struck with both patience and wisdom. At the least, I can hope.

Challenging Neck Armor

Today is the posting date for pictures of designs completed in a Yahoo group to which I belong ( About a month ago, those who participated in the group’s challenge received a small package of beads with which we were to complete a project. Basically the only stipulation was to use most of the beads and include some wire work. The package contained a few glass beads, rounds, copper spacers, a small black donut and a large crystal nugget. The latter two didn’t seem to fit with the others and the challenge began! Being majorly compulsive, I wanted to dive right in when the beads arrived, but made myself leave them alone. I lay them out in a saucer on my desk and peered at them for a week or so while repeating, “incubation is a good thing.”

Part of my goal with the challenge was to combine multiple elements of metal and wire with more delicate seed bead work. At first, I envisioned a netting of tiny seed beads covering the crystal nugget and providing some color. While this worked well, and I now know how to do this, the crystal still didn’t fit with the other beads. I added a pewter butterfly and some ribbon and gradually, things grew worse! PICT05539 Laying it aside, I picked up that black donut. “Now what?” I wound ribbon around it, wrapped this with 24 gauge copper wire and finally embellished it with a bit of seed bead embroidery. I also created several different sizes of wrapped rings to go with this one and hung the ugly crystal inside the largest circle. Using wire links to put the necklace together it looked great in my mind but pretty yucky in real life. Would I post a picture of this one challenge day? Definitely not!

Finally, feeling that I had been challenged enough, I designed a moon shaped copper piece cut from sheet metal and hung dangles from the holes I drilled. The seed bead embellished donut now hangs from the center of the piece and the crystal nugget? Oh dear, . . . I must have lost it somewhere! PICT0548

Did I learn anything from this challenge? You bet!

· I learned that my skills do not always enable me to make what I see in my mind.

· I have again confirmed that too much embellishment, as in the case of the crystal nugget, can ruin a piece.

· I learned how to cover beads with netting and how to change the look of a form with ribbon and wire to create a unique pendant or link for a strand.

· I realized that incubation and resistance to closure is still hard for me even though I continue trying to improve.

· I am reminded that there is a certain level of frustration in a challenging situation that is good and propels us, while too much frustration inhibits progress. It’s a delicate balance and the physical and emotional place we are in at the time of the challenge greatly affects the rigor we can handle. I believe that we each have to learn what level helps us grow and branch new dendrites.

· Lastly, I learned that I like having friends who support my learning.

Low Maintenance

I’ve been called many things, but today my husband said I was “low maintenance.” I’m not sure whether to be insulted or pleased.

You see, yesterday he came home with a present, something I’d been wanting for a long time. It’s a Dremel, my very first power tool. If you are uneducated, as I am, in the field of powers tools normally relegated to the garage, you’ll need to know that this is a hand operated rotary tool with all sorts of attachments. It will polish, grind, sand and do about anything that goes round and round. The great thing is that it’s my size and fits my smallish hand.

This afternoon, I used it to PICT05456grind the rough edges and polish a piece that goes out tomorrow. It’s a new neckwire with removable/interchangable charms. It fastens with leather in the back. While the customer may not see a big difference, I do and feel better about my finishing work. I’m thinking that my new Dremel is my friend and I should say thank you, dear.

But what about my husband? Is “low maintenance” a good or a bad thing? I’m going to have to sleep on that one.

Overdone Reversal

I do not like to make earrings. For years, I’ve mostly made only those that matched a customer’s necklace, but lately a reversal of that phenomenon has occurred. Two things dawned that perpetuated this reversal. First, my friend and wholesale vendor, Szarka ( encouraged me to purchase Lindstrom tools for wirework saying they would improve my efforts and ease the hand strain. Unlike many vendors, who may recommend something because they sell it, she doesn’t even have these for purchase; so I took her advise. A good many dollars later, I had the precious tools. My justification was that if the guys on the ranch could have a hydraulic squeeze chute at the barn then surely I could have some good tools. (I only purchased 3 tools and we’re not going to compare cost of tools vs chute unless it becomes necessary!)  With new tools in hand, I started working on earrings. It was actually fun, the ideas kept flowing and Szarka was right about the value of the right tool.

The second thing that encouraged this reversal is that someone purchased 3 pairs of the new designs. (No that doesn’t even pay for one tool!) Thinking that there may be potential in creating earrings, I’m on my way. The problem may be that I’ve OVERDONE this reversal of my previous behavior. I just keep making earrings. I guess I’m like my Father who never made just one something in his woodworking shop. He made several and then Mother wondered what to do with them all. The picture at the bottom shows a mere fraction of what I’ve created in the past few days. I’ve even run out of ear wires. I guess I’m just going to have to go out looking for people with holes in their ears and show them the new designs. The good thing is that at least I’ve been working with less expensive copper. Perhaps I’ll be more frugal when I’m using sterling silver. Anyone out there need earrings?


Hidden Metal Technique

The pendant shown in the last post required the use of hidden metal for stabilization. While this may be a common technique, I’ve not previously read about it; yet it makes sense. I’ve worried about the use of small cabochons in bead embroidery since the surface area for gluing them is so small. Speculating that more stabilization behind them might help this problem, I’ve been adding a piece of sheet copper or brass behind these pendants between the embroidered top and the Ultra suede bottom. This is likened to the way embroidered cuffs on metal blanks come together. The metal piece for each pendant is the same shape, but slightly smaller that the embroidery work. I’ve been experimenting with this since last July and thus far the technique has been successful. It has helped the pendants remain crisply shaped. My thought is that the more a piece bends, the more likely the cabs to come undone. Other posts with pictures of designs using this technique are dated January 14, 2009, December 26, 2008 and December 28, 2008. There are, of course, other ways to stabilize a piece including adding extra layers of Lacy’s Stiff Stuff, but I’ve found the metal approach quite satisfactory without significantly adding extra thickness.

A new challenge is to incorporate this technique in a manner that tastefully exposes part of the sheet metal with the bead embroidery. That potentially yummy recipe sits simmering on a back burner but is rapidly approaching a boil. We’ll see if anything cooks up.

Woven Window

I’ve been gathering parts for the pendant shown for several weeks. After receiving a copy of Mary Hettmansperger’s Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet from my son for Christmas, I’ve wanted to try a Dreamcatcher rendition of her woven windows pin. My pendant has significantly less weaving than what she shows,  however for a first attempt, I think it’s OK. window final The darkness of the photo negates some of my “gatherings” for the weaving. The basic loom for the window is made of copper mesh from Hobby Lobby. The turquoise colored yarn was secured in an excursion to the Alpaca farm, Old Oaks Ranch, outside of Wimberley, TX. I also used some 20 gauge copper wire for threading a few black onyx beads and one Swarovski crystal. The pieces are put together with dark brown artistic wire. When I first started this piece disappointment set right in as my initial weaving was a disaster. But, banking on my creativity training, I resisted closure until things improved. As you can see from the pictures of the parts of the pendant, separately, they weren’t very impressive, but I think perseverance paid off as I kept frame and back working and hoping for the best.metal loom( I’m thinking turquoise for stringing.)