Category Archives: Torch Work

Positive Comments

Isn’t is wonderful how a few truthful and positive words can provide a great moral boost? When I show my work to someone, I’m really just sharing and not necessarily looking for accolades. I think my family should just know what I’ve been making. Luckily, they’ve learned to accept my “show and tell” without feeling any real obligation to like what they see. I’ve tried to encourage them to view my process and growth rather than just the art.

Today, I spent a good deal of time trying some new torch enameling techniques.

enamel

I’ve been working in my comfort zone for quite some time following the class that I taught and decided that today was the day to stretch. (sometimes stretching is hard)

First, that little bird pendant gave me fits. It’s difficult to tell the details on her from this photo, but suffice it to say they are there. It takes numerous firings on this type design and several times after I applied the enamel and set the pendant on the trivet for torching, the whole thing fell off on the floor. Then I had to start anew. I think it was a test to see if I really wanted to persevere. I worked through the frustration and when I brought the pendant to my spouse he actually knew what it was supposed to be. That provided a positive stroke. He even told me that it was an orange tanager. (If I had been on the ball, I would have said that was what I planned – but I wasn’t on the ball.) His remarks made me forget my frustration.

The final pair of earrings for the day was the orange and purple pair which I designed based on a piece of fabric called dimples. I thought they were really ugly, but when I showed them to my husband he said “great colors”. That helped me see them differently and I accepted another positive stroke. I guess they are rather funky.

My adult piano students used to say they always knew when I was going to correct something in their playing because I started with a compliment. I think some of them secretly wished I would just get to the correction. Yet, it helped me to find the good in what they had done rather than just searching for something to fix. I now need to find the good in my own work before worrying about what went wrong.

I wouldn’t want to hear “fake” positive comment, but once in a while a sincere one is really welcomed. Focusing on what turned out well can help me retain that part of a piece while seeking to improve the part that wasn’t so good. Oft times I only see the problems in the piece and need someone else to point out what worked well.

I am thankful for a supportive spouse who is always truthful and helps me see the good when I’ve missed it.

Sharing Hearts

It isn’t even February, yet, I’m making heart shaped pendants. It just seems like the thing to do! I prepared the two in the photo because I wanted to experiment with making bails for an upcoming meetup of designers.

hearts

The bail for the heart on the left is made from a small piece of copper sheet soldered on the back. The one on the right utilizes a bail made from wire, also soldered on the back. My grandson told me that this heart has heartworms! Hmm, I really didn’t see it that way, but I’m not three years old. I used my new leather sand bag as a base for creating the doming effect on both pieces. I dimpled them with dimple pliers. By the way, thanks to a talented friend, I was able to saw the heart shape from the middle of each piece. Thanks Adele!

Following is another photo of a heart pendant made for the same meetup. I torch enameled the copper rectangle and riveted the heart, cut out of the center of a piece shown above, to the metal. I used a tube rivet which gives it some dimension. The back shows the small piece of tube I soldered to the metal for a bail.

heartfront  tube bezel

The photo below doesn’t seem to fit with this blog entry . . . yet, it is the essence of “heart”. It was commissioned by one adult sister for another in remembrance of their girlhood when they watched the cardinals together. I’ve shared this previously online, but wanted to repeat. Wouldn’t you say the giving sister was “sharing heart”?

cardinal complete

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I hope that commercialism doesn’t remove the heart from the giving. It often seems that men, in particular, are harassed by the advertisements to a point where they feel they must spend a good deal of money for their sweeties. I hope the men I know will understand that this woman just wants a little “heart” in one form or another.

Shields

 

After running the Christmas gauntlet of jewelry shows, I wondered if I would have any ideas left for starting anew. I shouldn’t have worried since the holiday’s usually close with renewed inspiration to create again. This year, I’m making an honest effort to add some different looks to my pieces.

One new idea in particular resulted from a metal disc my son-in-law hammered while showing me how to use my new leather sandbag.  While the family tried to rest after Christmas dinner, the two of us sat on my studio floor and hammered. Oh what fun . . . Later, I picked up the disc he made and turned it into a shield.

shield1

This shield is on the top left. It has multiple dimensions and weavings and is adorned with turquoise and lapis. The challenge for this piece was adding extra pieces of wire and trying to keep the weaving even. I wasn’t completely successful on the latter.

The shield on the top right sports a sterling silver bezel on textured copper. I added both sterling silver and copper wire to support the weaving.

The bottom piece was simple to make and may need more embellishment before it is complete. I used dimple pliers to create interest on the disc.

The challenge for now is how to best hang these pieces to enhance the look. It would be easy for me to end up with a box full of pendants, but these need to become necklaces soon.

The final photo is of a shield that did become a necklace. It’s too bad that close up shots not only show the flaws in the wire work, but also those on the face! Oh well, I earned every one of them.

karenshield

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.

birdie

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.

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!

bird

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?

           sue

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.

Laughter and Productivity

Most of us know that laughter is an excellent way to prepare for creative thinking. The research certainly backs this up and I can attest to it. When I worked with the Creativity Division of the National Association for Gifted Children, it seemed the other divisions tried to avoid our proximity during our meetings. We were probably the loudest and most fun group in the building. Most years, the division meetings were all held at the same time and in various parts of the same large room. The Creativity Division could clear out the entire room when we met. While many probably thought we were just goof offs, we were one of the most productive divisions in the association. Our spontaneous eruptions usually led to a new idea that proved beneficial.

Lately, I’ve seemed to be in need of some of the Division’s spontaneity. At this point in December, I’m feeling a bit spent and my productivity has waned. It’s obvious to me that creativity and productivity are inextricably linked for me. If I’m not producing, I’m not problem solving and therefore am not being creative.

Yesterday, I got a little help with this problem from a friend . . . my mother. When I arrived at the nursing home to visit her, she informed me that it was about time I got there. She had on one earring and was trying to get the other stud on. I couldn’t help but wonder how long she had been at it. We laughed when she was finally “fixed”.

Then I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Without missing a beat she said, “my TWO FRONT TEETH” and flashed me a big toothless grin. Indeed, her two front teeth are missing and she does need a couple! Again, we laughed and laughed. I think it was her spontaneity as well as her answer that got me. We went shopping together and then grabbed some lunch, but I just kept thinking about her Christmas wish.

This little episode reminded me of last year when we asked her where she was when she and my father got married. Again, without missing a beat, she said, “Out of My MIND!” The woman, who will be 91 in January, is quite clever.

When I got home yesterday, I continued to chuckle and decided to try a bit or jewelry work. That’s when things began to flow nicely and the ideas became present again. Was it just time to design or did the laughter really help. I vote that it was the latter.

I mainly worked with cabochons yesterday, but was pleased with a couple of the new wrappings and the bezel I created.  The first stone is a boulder opal and all the rest are turquoise (yes, even the brown one). See what you think.

boulder                     brown turq

turqsI’m hoping to hang on to this productive thinking and continue to get some good work completed. I’m a believer that for me, at least, laughter leads to productivity and creative thinking.

I guess that the moral of this entry is . . . find something to laugh about and if you can’t find anything, go visit my mother!

Forming with Folds

Those of us who love to learn new things sometimes move to new avenues for this too soon. Either the initial fun wears off, something new calls our name, or time for the learning simply runs out. Often for me, I move on to something new before completely exploring the myriad of possibilities for creative development in the existing arena. This may have been the case with fold forming, a technique  developed by Charles Lewton-Brain. “Mr. Fold Form's” book, Foldforming, contains a wealth of information on how to construct various shapes from metal; yet, it doesn’t show as many completed pieces of jewelry as I would like to see.

Frequent and long time readers may recall that fold forming was the new technique I chose to develop last December and January during the winter lull between completion of the Fall products and the development of the Spring designs. Unfortunately, I may have moved too quickly from fold forming last year and back into rapid production for my customers. Also, I “closed” on the technique partly because I couldn’t figure out new things to do with it. I chose not to face the somewhat discouraging struggle that forces one into creative generation. I currently have renewed interest in fold forming due to a couple of happenings. Two of my lucky friends took a recent workshop with Kim St. Jean at the Texas Beadfest and their discussion of the class helped add to my refinement of the technique. Also, I gave a demonstration on the technique at a recent gathering of wire workers. Therefore, I had to practice.

The trick for me with fold forming has been trying to make something besides a leaf that would comfortably work as a piece of jewelry. First, I practiced some different ways to hammer on a few leaves and learned how to better ruffle the edges. Then I created a couple of copper cuff bracelets. I like using a long diagonal fold to start the bracelet design and following this with appropriate texture. I quickly learned that it’s important to begin with a longer and wider piece of metal than the size of the anticipated product. I folded the metal first and then cut the final bracelet shape. When I annealed the metal bracelets with a torch during the fold forming process, beautiful colors appeared on the pieces.

brace cuff

I’ve also been experimenting with a star shape shown in Newton-Brain’s book. First I made several pairs of earrings and then I created a larger star and used it as a pendant on a strand of coral. I gave the pendant a liver of suphur bath, tumbled it and then used the torch on it again. It adopted a very rich color.

star                   star2

coral Now the struggle is to try to develop some ideas of my own for fold formed shapes. Hopefully, I’ll have the time this year to stick with fold forming until I’ve either developed some new ideas or convinced myself that I CAN’T come up with anything new. Wish me luck.

Cross

It’s that time of the year when many people begin to gear up for the holidays. For designers, that often means art/craft show after show after show. We speculate by buying materials and creating our products and then hope that we’ve designed things that people will want. It often seems like design roulette. The time and monetary investment in the products can weigh us down, but could it also make us cross?

I hope the season is remaining pleasant for you as it is for me. This year, instead of being cross, I chose to make a cross. One cross led to another and I am beginning to think I should just start a cross store. See what you think. Below are just a very few of those I’ve made.

crosses lots

The plain wire crosses are the easiest to make being composed of two pieces of 14 gauge wire soldered and then wire wrapped in the middle. These are then patinated and textured to provide the look of wood.

The flower-like wire crosses are a little more challenging. I eyeball the shape and occasionally create one that’s not as symmetrical as I would like. Yes, I know that I could use a jig and make them perfect, but that wouldn’t be me. Although you can’t see it very well in this photo the fold formed leaf at the top shares a jump ring with one of this style crosses.

The embellished cross required some problem solving before hatching. I saw a pendant in a magazine that was made by attaching beads to a filigree with wire. I tried this and liked the look except for the back shown below.

filigree backThis was one big mess! As I pondered how to cover the mess, I, of course, thought about making it into a cross. First I soldered a wire cross onto a sheet metal disc.

cross back 

Rather than overlapping the wires for the cross, I cut the side pieces and placed them beside the vertical wire. This made the cross a bit flatter. Finally, I wired the decorative filigree to the wire of the cross and finished the piece.

 

 cross done

 

I made a smaller cross, not pictured, by whittling down the filigree piece. This removed the lovely outer curves and I didn’t like it as well.

Finally, I created a scroll type cross using double wires rather than single.

scroll cross

 

 

 

Customers at my last show seemed to enjoy selecting a cross and then choosing either chain or leather to go with it. They also had a choice of selecting a sterling silver cross. I’ve made these in various sizes.

silver

 

 

Now it seems that every time I contemplate a new design, I can see the product made as a cross. Yet, I guess this is better than being CROSS! (I think I just heard a loud “Amen” from the other room.)

Spangled Bangles

Do you spangle?

I’ve been enjoying making bangle bracelets the last couple of weeks. They are certainly the easiest bracelet that I’ve made in quite some time and with slight variations in diameter they fit most folks.

banglesThose in the above photo are formed with a basic 12 gauge copper wire armature that I soldered together and then hammered into shape. With a liver of sulphur bath and only a couple of hours of tumbling, they are ready to be spangled.

I thought I knew about “spangles”, but did look up the term just to be sure. A spangle is a small shiny/sparkling spot or object. It might be a sequin, a piece of metal or a bead, etc. If you spangle something, the dictionary suggests that you are sprinkling it with spangles. Hmm . . . it didn’t take any deep thinking to figure out that one, did it?

I wrap the base of my bangles with different sizes of copper or artistic wire and decorate them with small beads or charms.  Most of these are adorned with gemstones, but the red one shown below features glass beads. The turquoise spangled bangles seem to be the most appreciated.

brace

 

I tried putting just a few charms on one of the bangle and like the look. I haven’t yet given it a trial wear and don’t know if it will be comfortable. I made small loops in the wrapping wire and attached the charms as I wrapped.

 

charms

 

 

It remains to be seen whether these spangled bangles will be popular with customers and friends. I do, however, know that people like spangles of one kind and another. Whether these are on jewelry, garments or in the form of smiles on friendly faces, we can all use a spangle now and then. How will you create yours?

Pickle Face

Long time readers may recall a blog entry some time ago wherein I wrote about “pickle pants”. I was referring to the holes that I found in my shorts after dripping pickle across them after I soldered something. If you aren’t familiar with pickle, it is used after soldering to help remove fire scale. I heat my pickle in a small crock pot so it works faster than cold pickle.

Yesterday, rather than dripping the pickle across something, I managed to splash it. My copper tongs weren’t working well as I attempted to grab a small piece of wire from the crock pot and I bent over the pickle to look at it closely. Just as I peered in, the tongs snapped sending splashes of pickle onto my face. Although it only felt wet, I knew I should wash it right off. I wasn’t sure if any had splashed into my eyes, but ran upstairs and used my special eye wash to thoroughly wash my peepers. At the same time, I said a audible “thank you” to my son-in-law who purchased and mailed me the eye wash that I mounted above my sink. He said he wanted me to be able to “see” his son as he grew up. I think he’s a very smart fellow.

eye

When my wits returned, I wondered why I take my safety goggles off following soldering and before I rescue pieces from the pickle. From now on, I’ll be leaving them on until I’m ready to leave the torch room.

I was lucky, the pickle on my face caused no harm – just a bit of excitement. It was, however, a big reminder about safety. When I rush around or when I’m totally comfortable with a potentially harmful technique, I think I tend to wave some precautions. This is just STUPID! If I don’t watch out for my health, I won’t be making jewelry or anything else. How about you? Let’s all be careful at whatever we are doing and stay safe!

By the way, if you don’t have a son-in-law like mine or husband like mine who makes me torch in a safe environment, get yourself a surrogate. We all need someone to watch after us.