Category Archives: Metal Work

Color Your World

What colors your world? There is probably an obvious literal answer if you simply look outdoors. Here in the Texas Hill Country, we’re enjoying the Spring growth that follows the blooming Bluebonnets and other wildflowers. We’ve had a bit of rain and our pastures here at Dreamcatcher Ranch have greened nicely. You can see someone else who colors our world in the photo below.

blue G

It seems only fitting that I try to add more color to my metal work and “Spring” it up a bit at this time of the year. Of course, the torch enameling has helped with this, but there are other techniques. I’ve used various purchased patinas to help provide more color but largely stayed with Liver of Sulphur. Yesterday I varied my approach and was relatively pleased with the results.

colors I added some ammonia to the LOS solution before dipping the butterfly. It’s hard to identify in the photo, but it reveals more of an iridescent look. I created the circles on the butterfly using a technique created and taught to me by Carolyn Gebert. She demonstrated how to place the metal inside an embossing template and hammer it. I also used a torch enameled piece of metal inside the bezel. The circles were formed (or malformed) by hammering them on a sandbag. Then, I torch fired each piece. It’s always exciting to see what develops with this process and I have no idea how to exactly repeat what I achieve. I soldered a tube rivet onto the larger circle and used an amethyst crystal. The other two circles are adorned with small sterling silver balls. I think these three will become a necklace. I realize that the Spring colors outdoors will soon change as our usually harsh summer commences but perhaps knowing they are short lived helps us appreciate them even more. Cognizant of the fact that the colors on the metal can also dissipate in the atmosphere, I sealed all of these pieces with an automotive spray paint sealer which I’ve used before. You can’t preserve everything . . . but I try. I’m just glad that my world gets colored in many different ways and hope yours does too.

Creataholic

Anyone who knows me probably realizes that I’m a creataholic. I tend to make things all day, everyday. Yes, I still wash the clothes, cook, play with the dogs, yell at my husband (not really!), etc. but I really like to make things!

I spent so many years learning about and teaching about creative thinking that it’s really fun to get to actually “DO” creative thinking. No matter what I’m making, I find myself asking “how many different ways can I ……?” This phrase is generated following the ideas of Alex Osborne about fluency. One of my other favorite phrases from the formal Creative Problem Solving procedure (Trefinger) is “In what ways might I . . . ?”

One of the tasks this week has been considering those two questioning phrases in terms of a new woven bracelet I’m developing. The form utilizes a simple weave wherein two outer pieces of wire are woven together with a copper strip about 1/2 inch wide. I’ve been punching holes in the copper strip so it could be part of the weave.

woven bracelets

The prototype bracelet is the one at the bottom of the photo. I torch painted the copper strip to get the red color and left the copper wire its natural color. It will, of course, oxidize later based on the environment. The other two are the first answers to the “how many ways” question. I embellished the one on the top right with some natural turquoise cut in button shapes with two holes. The bracelet on the top left has fewer holes and I cut them all in the center rather than on both sides of the copper strip. It has quite a different look from the other two when viewed close up. Both stone embellished bracelets were dipped in liver of sulphur to which I added a tablespoon of ammonia. It gives it a slightly different patina from plain liver of suphur.

Now the challenge will be in finding other ways to change this basic design without losing its simplicity. I may just have to conger up some basic creative thinking processes to help me continue to vary this design. Hmm . . . there’s something about fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration . . . and then there were those Six Thinking Hats (DeBono) . . . (so many choices).

Revisiting a Friend

Recently, I rediscovered an old friend – a metal necklace that was popular before I moved on to other things. One of my boutique customers suggested that she could use another of the disc necklaces shown below and I revisited the design for her. Of course, I couldn’t just make it like the original and enjoyed exploring different texturing techniques for the discs.

disc2

I couldn’t just stop at “same old, same old;” so I explored alternative shapes and finally chose the rectangular shape, also in graduated sizes. I layered smaller rectangles on top of the first group and then balled some sterling silver for embellishment. I like the way this piece lays on the neck when worn.

metal1

Finally, I went a bit overboard with the mixed metals and started dapping and dimpling various circles before also layering them. These are soldered onto a piece of copper tubing that I annealed and hammered. I found this piece much more difficult to make than the first two necklaces. It was next to impossible to clean the layered/soldered/dapped discs and in soldering one part of the necklace, a silver disc decided to partially melt. Hmm . . . Then I had to go back and melt part of another one in order for this artistic flaw to appear planned. Shush – don’t tell anyone!

circles

I want to experiment with some other shapes as well, but am aware that shapes with severe angles, such as diamonds, may not conform as well in multiples. Currently, I considering some free-form shaped ovals and hoping they won’t just look like funny little ghosts. Do you have any shape ideas?

You just never know what might hatch in this studio.

Joining

 

earrings2

I’m not a joiner. I don’t do clubs and only belong to one “society”. Yet, I think that once in a while we all need to join. I join my family for lots of gatherings and even plan a “join” now and then. I also enjoy “joining” with friends who share a common interest or endeavor.

I think it’s the rules that usually come with clubs and societies that bother me. I also find that as these groups plan events there are often conflicting opinions of how to do or run things leading to hurt feelings and sour faces. I guess that’s why I enjoy the “Faux” bead group that I meet with monthly (no dues, no officers, no minutes, no bylaws . . . get the picture?) This enables to group to be dynamic and continually bending towards the needs of those who are participating at the time. I wrote a brief description of this group  http://www.magpiegemstones.com/san_marcos_faux_bead_society.html  

earrings1

I guess I’m thinking about “joining” because I’ve been working on joins with my jewelry designs this week. Perhaps it’s a stretch, but I keep running into parallels between the two types of “joining”. Just as groups have rules and procedures, soldering has them too and when I don’t follow them, the join usually doesn’t work. I guess there really is a need for them. This week, it seems that each time I tried to skip things in the soldering process, I failed and had to return to the rules.

I did, however, realize that at times, when I’m trying to create something new and different, I must come up with my own rules and procedures. Often what I’m doing doesn’t exactly follow the guidelines for soldering and I just have to figure it out. In other words, this process is also dynamic and that’s what makes it intriguing.

My thought is that both types of “joining” require flexibility and problem solving. Just as I have to step away from the soldering at times in order to get a fresh perspective, I think I often need to step away from groups that cause consternation. But then, if I enjoy the metalsmith “join” perhaps I should try a bit more of joining with a group. What do you think? . . . (no, I think I’ll just keep soldering – ha!)

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.

Waving

How do you wave at folks? Do you just raise one little pointer finger to acknowledge them are are you an all-out-use-your-whole-arm waver? The latter is the kind I see outside a certain San Marcos business. He’s waving with his entire body as he dances to the music emitted into his earphones. He’s been waving there for so long that they’ve even made a billboard about him. Did I mention he’s really skinny too? All that waving seems to pay off in one way or another.

I’ve been waving with my wire jewelry for years. I started with a simple wire wave bracelet and continued by making wave necklaces. Originally, these were made from recycled copper wire, but now I use new 14 gauge for the pieces. They've also gotten a bit shorter recently. You can see the bracelet contrast in the photo below. Obviously the shorter piece is not yet completed. If you want to make these yourself, I have a free tutorial for the bracelet published on the Magpie Gemstones’ (www.magpiegemstones.com) site: http://www.magpiegemstones.com/wave_bracelet.html

short wave

I’ve also tried waving with different shapes.

wave tri

Here are a couple of versions of the newer wave necklaces. The first features riveted copper charms (faith, hope and love).

wave necklace2

The second is embellished with amethyst stones and the wave is a bit more full.

wave3

I guess I’ll keep coming back to this standard in my jewelry line and continue to perfect my wave. How about you? What kind of waver are you?

Coloring and the Lines

 

enamel necklace

Do you color within the lines? My first reaction to this question would be “absolutely not;” yet on second thought . . . the idea of coloring within the lines might be situational.  When someone poses this query, they usually don’t actually want to know about color, but rather about whether you follow the rules or parameters set for a task. While most highly creative individuals intentionally stray from the rules others try to impose on their art form, they may follow the rules in other instances. For example, this might be to pay the bills on time, get the car registration sticker to avoid a ticket, etc. Rules and parameters can be important.

This is the case with some jewelry techniques. For example, on Sunday I did some etching on copper which requires mixing an acid solution. I read the directions three times before ever opening the bottle of acid. The rules were important to keep me from burning myself. I’ve also found some of the suggested “rules” for torch enameling are quite helpful for this technique.

If I use counter enamel on the back of a metal piece, it has less of a tendency to curve under when I apply several enamel coats on the top. Also, I’ve found that it’s helpful to use the suggested liquid that helps hold the enamel powder on the surface of the metal. Go ahead. Ask me how many tiny bits of colored enamel threads rolled off my pieces and fell on the floor of the work room before I discovered this agent.

A past post showed a few examples of torch enameled pieces of jewelry, but I wanted to share some of the newer work. The necklace at the top shows a variety of techniques with which I’ve experimented. Below are a few of the earrings sets I’ve made.

enamel1

enamel

The Gingerbread family below was tricky to make and I’m not sure why Gingerbread Pop has more sugar on him than the others . . . ?

gingerbread family

It’s rather obvious that I didn’t color between the lines on these pieces but rather I often just let the enamel stay where it landed. I’ll follow the rules/lines on something else that I’m doing, but not in my art form. How about you?

If At First You Don’t Succeed . . .

I thought I knew the correct ending for the title phrase, but I’ve learned that “try, try again” doesn’t always work.

For the past two months I’ve been trying to teach myself how to do torch enamel. It looked so easy when a friend demonstrated the technique at a meetup. She even let me do one following her demo and I did just fine. Yet, after ordering my own enamel and giving it a try, I found things weren’t so easy after all.

I don’t give up easily and believe that if I just practice something long and hard enough, I’ll eventually get it. That was not the case with torch enameling. I’ve been trying to enamel flat copper disks, but they either turned out bubbly or bumpy or mottled. Thinking I had one of the variables wrong,  I tried altering various things. I tried several different gauges of copper sheet metal. No luck. Then I tried various colors of enamel thinking perhaps one color had a problem. No luck. I even switched torches, trying three different ones. . . no luck. I also took my inferior disks to my friend who did the demo, but she didn’t know what was wrong either.

Finally, I was asked to bring my torch and help the same friend work with a large group at another meetup. During our time together, she let me use some of her enamel. LUCK! I torch enameled those disks like a pro and learned that the problem was the brand of enamel I was using. Although I’m relieved to know it wasn’t me, I’m upset that I spent so much time trying to alleviate my difficulty.

Now, I have purchased Thompsons’ enamels and am having a great time with the technique.  The blue earrings below look like they have some white on them, but this is just the glare.

enamel

This learning episode reminds me of when I was taking doctorate level statistics. The professor said we shouldn’t struggle with a problem more than 30 minutes before seeking assistance. I believe her advise stems to more things than statistics. The next time I can’t get something to work, I’m going to visit a successful friend.