Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wow. It's been a long time and a lot has happened

I pulled my blog up today and was shocked and horrified to see that it had actually been over a year since I last posted. I had no idea it had been that long. It certainly hasn't felt that long. A ton has happened.

What happened:
  • Since 2012, I held down an adjunct teaching gig at Phoenix College, taught 2 classes a night at MAC and worked ~32 hours/ week at the Heard 
  • December 2013 a dear student and friend committed suicide
  • I made almost no work of my own :-(
  • I did take an Argentium class at the MAC and I'm totally hooked!
  • No knitting :-(
  • My one creative endeavor was a memorial plaque for my student to hang at the MAC, which I am proud of but I wish I had my friend back
My dear Nadine. Enameled and etched panels screwed to a box form copper base.
It will hang in the enameling studio. She'll be our kiln angel :-)
approx. 8x10"
  • My grandmother died in April
  • Eczema....
  • On and off horrendous back pain; physical therapy, attempts at exercise, etc. 
  • We ran out of money to finish our house renovation and didn't earn enough for the bank to give us a loan. We are still in new house limbo....
  • Financial stress, stress, stress
  • A good friend helped me get hired on with a web and design agency out of Canada for freelance
  • I quit my job at the museum to pursue freelance
  • The museum hired me back at a new position that was too good to turn down
  • This fall I took a PHP class at MCC on top of everything else
  • I finished teaching for Phoenix College

The end result:
  • For the first time in I can't remember how long, I'll only have 2 main jobs
  • This should allow me to actually make my own work and have a life. Yay!
  • I look forward to more studio posts and sharing what I know and continue to learn here on a much more regular basis.

It was a whirlwind of a year (the last 2 I'd rather not repeat, actually) and I'm feeling very lucky, very blessed and very hopeful for 2015 to be a great year professionally, creatively and personally. Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Great book most metalsmiths probably don't know about

I have to preface this article with a BIG thanks to Teri Jo Kinnison who alerted me to this book.

"Tech Text" comprises a collection of technical articles which originally appeared in SNAG News and previous SNAG publications from 1975- 2010. It's available through Blurb:

and although the production value isn't superb (the articles are literally scanned pages of old newsletters) the information and nostalgia factor are off the charts. Table of Contents include:
  • Diffusion Lamination (i.e. mokume-gane) by Hiroko and Gene Pijanowski
  • Shell Structures by Heikki Seppa
  • Spray Etching by Linda Threadgill
  • Interior Dies by Lee Marshall
and many more techniques to read up on from people we know and love. Enjoy!

Friday, August 2, 2013

How to Make an Economical Rotating Soldering Surface

As you may be aware, traditional soldering pans are wonderful but quite pricey ($50-60.00 for a large pan). I own one and can't imagine working without it but as an instructor at a facility with limited resources (not the MAC!), we have them in short supply. So I decided to make some that would do the job just as well. You'll need a small lazy Susan (hardware included) which you can purchase at a well equipped Ace for around $5-6.00. You'll also need a hard 12 inch Solderite board which costs about $24.00. You could get away with a 6 inch board if that's all you have. It will work just as well and costs less than $10.00 (prices taken from the Rio Grande website).

Lazy Susan and 12 inch Solderite board

Take a ruler and pencil and mark lines from corner to corner.

Solderite board with corner marks

Here's the trick to centering your Lazy Susan under the board: line the screw holes up along the pencil lines so that each line bisects the holes. When all the lines bisect the holes, the Lazy Susan will be centered. No other measuring required!

Lazy Susan centered along lines

Once you have the Lazy Susan positioned, insert the screws (they should be fairly short- you only have 1/2 inch thickness on the board) and secure the Lazy Susan to the underside of the Solderite board. You can pre-drill if you like but I just started squirming them in until they caught since the board material is fairly soft.

Lazy Susan secured!

Put a second board on top of the first one to keep it clean so you don't have to replace it as often. This is optional. Alternately, work on top of the board with a kiln brick.

Second board on top

Although a second board is on top of the Lazy Susan, you could opt just for the kiln brick.

That's it! My students have been using them for a semester now and they are very happy.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Student Work from Phoenix College

Yeesh, I had no idea it had been this long since I posted! The spring semester at Phoenix College has started, I'm still working full time at the Heard and I just finished teaching a 6 week hammer setting class at the MAC. I'm still teaching enameling at MAC and I'm currently teaching casting at the Phoenix Center while John T. is on sabbatical this semester. Needless, to say, time has been tightly scheduled with practically no free time of late. And, starting in a couple of weeks I'm taking a short course in html5 and css3 at MCC through May! I haven't had a chance to make much of my own art for a while but my students at PC are going gangbusters! I am going to have to ask my MAC enamelists if they'll leave me their stuff to be photographed because they are doing some great work as well, but for now here is some of what my PC students are doing. The Jewelry I students had to make a bracelet with texture and rivets. My Jewelry II students had to make a neckpiece with enamel. My independent study student worked on enamel and colored pencil on metal. I'm very proud of all of them.

Jordan Abernathy- Jewelry I- rivets

Christina Soto- Jewelry I- rivets

Vicki Colter- Jewelry I- rivets

Lisa O'Rourke- Jewelry II- enamel

Margaret Murphy- Jewelry II- enamel detail

Margaret Murphy- Jewelry II- enamel
This was a neat piece. Margaret created a pendant
that one could slide different enamel plates into.

Vicki Gudger- Ind. Study- colored pencil/ enamel

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Student Work- Phoenix College Jewelry I & II

I had a great first semester teaching metals at Phoenix College and it was certainly due to a fabulous group of students as well as a great faculty and facilities. This is a fledgling program and although we don't have all the wonderful equipment that MAC has, the program really has potential (we can always get the equipment down the line). Beginning students learned the classics: sawing, piercing, rivets, box ring soldering and casting. Intermediate/ Advanced students worked on forging and fold forming, etching and hinges and a box. I haven't had time to process the final project images but here is just a highlight of some of the work in no particular order:

Lisa O'Rourke- Jewelry I

Lisa O'Rourke- Jewelry I

Liz Christensen- Jewelry I

Liz Christensen- Jewelry I

Malai Suriyasataporn- Independent Study

Malai Suriyasataporn- Independent Study

Malai Suriyasataporn- Independent Study

Malai Suriyasataporn- Independent Study

Malai Suriyasataporn- Independent Study

Margaret Murphy- Jewelry II
Margaret Murphy- Jewelry II

Margaret Murphy- Jewelry II

Vickie Gudger- Independent Study
Vickie Gudger- Independent Study

Vionnie Boykins- Jewelry II

The class meets MW 9-11.45 am. If you are interested you can register through Phoenix College. Jewelry I will always be the same- sawing, filing, textures, riveting, soldering and casting. Jewelry II changes from semester to semester. For Spring I'm planning on teaching chains, marriage of metal and torch fire enameling. Contact me if you have any questions!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Industrial Metals- helpful tip

How many of us who get our copper and brass from Industrial Metals have forgotten our metal gauges and had to guess what size we were getting because they label their sheet in ounces? Well, here's a handy sheet gauge, courtesy of Alaskan Copper and Brass Company that I found online. I'm never going to curse leaving my B&S gauge in the studio again!

You can click on this image (it's much larger than this) and download it for printing.

Happy metals buying!

Low Tech Die Forming

The demo begins!

This week we had a Metalink demo at the ASU Metals Studio on Low Tech Die Forming. ASU's Visiting Professor, John Tzelepis, did the demo. This is a technique that combines the principle effects of the hydraulic press and chasing and repousse with neither a press nor pitch. It is a technique John learned from metalsmith Keith Lewis at a workshop. I did this technique as an undergrad but we worked a little differently and I think this version has some advantages. You need minimum 3/4 inch MDF and masonite, which you laminate together. You'll need a scroll saw or similar to cut out your designs. Keep the edge of the design at least an inch from the edge of the block.

Profile of a finished die with the formed example next to it

You will also need a sheet of 16-18g brass. Cut the brass to exactly match the edge of the MDF/ masonite design. The brass serves as a sharper edge to the wood and allows you to get a really crisp edge. If you do not use the brass and just have wood, your die-formed edge will never be sharp. Drill 4 holes approximately 1 in from the corners of the die on the diagonal. John uses the same size screws and drill bit for all his dies, about 3/8 inch. Any standard screw with sufficient length will work but make sure you use wingnuts to tighten rather than regular bolts. It's easier and faster to remove the screws.

Die with 18g copper plate screwed in and ready for forming

You also drill matching holes in your plate to be die-formed. In this case, John is demonstrating with 18g copper. In this photo he has set up the plate in the jaws of a pretty good sized vise, which is optimal. If you don't have one of these, you can clamp the piece to the side of a table, which is what he does for larger pieces that don't fit in even this size vise.

First course- creating the initial pillowed form

John is using a large dapping punch and just pounding into the hollow form underneath the center of his copper sheet. You can use a ball peen hammer but this is gentler and is less likely to warp or smash the brass plate underneath. You can also hammer with rounded wood or Delrin dowels if you like.

Truing the edge

 As you work the plate, the screws will hold the metal in place but the plate will start to lift away from the die as it is pulled inward. Take a nice planishing hammer and gently tap the plate back down around the edge of the opening. This will help create a nice sharp edge on the piece and also keep the metal true to the shape.

Pillowed form complete, the plate is turned over
and the top is worked

Once you have pillowed the form to the desired height, you can reverse the set up ON THE OTHER SIDE of the die (flip the MDF/masonite AND brass) and work on the top of the form to create detail. The screw holes will only line up one way so unless you make some alignment marks you may have to play with it until it all fits back together. This is normal :-) Here John has drawn some lines he's going to chase. He used traditional metal chasing tools for this part.

First course- chasing line detail
In this photo John is also demonstrating
the WRONG way to wear your safety glasses :-)

A note about annealing: Typically, you want to pull the die-formed plate off and anneal in between courses, however, it really depends how quickly you are trying to push the  metal. You can bust through your plate if you let it get too work hardened while trying to push it too fast, especially in tight areas. So pay attention to how the metal is behaving and use your best judgment.

Pillowed and first line course chased

John pillowed the form, flipped it and chased the first course of line design before he annealed this piece.

More detail work- re-establishing the high parts

After he annealed, John flipped the piece back over and with Delrin and hard wood tools  he made (John likes Maple), he punched some of the height back into the un-chased areas. The wood/ delrin tools are non-marring so you get very nice soft pillowed forms this way. By working both sides you also increase the height difference in the design. John worked two courses of deepening the lines on one side and pushing the un-worked areas from the other.

Remember to true the edges periodically throughout the process

Increasing line detail from the back

More of the same as above

In order to create a sharper line detail on the front, John finished the demo by demonstrating how to push the channel of the line closer together from the back. This sharpens the line. He again used a traditional metal chasing tool rather than the Delrin/ wood tools.

Our in-process piece and a finished version

This is a great process for anyone who can't afford a hydraulic press and who doesn't want to mess with pitch. It's relatively immediate once the die is made. John said the dies last indefinitely if used properly. I suspect the only part of the die that may need replacing over time would be the brass plate.

There was a lot of inquiry about where to acquire Delrin rod for tool making. John likes the company McMaster Carr for Delrin and other tools/ materials.

Many thanks to John and to our wonderful Metalink coordinator, Ingrid Donaldson! If you are a local metalsmithh and would like to learn more about our group or get notices on our meetings/ demos, feel free to contact me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Polishing De-Mystified

I just cam across a really nifty PDf on polishing wheels and buffs that looks very handy. It's from a company called Caswell. You can download the PDF here as it would take forever to re-format it for this layout. It's worth it!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Millefiori, Decals and Hand Polishing

Decal Pendant by Jessica Calderwood
We've been talking about decals and hand polishing enamels in class recently so I went searching for information for my students. I've unfortunately come up with little to nothing on hand polishing enamels. I'm starting to think it just isn't done anymore. At least not in a country with a blogging community willing to share their techniques :-) But I did find an article on decals and using millefiori from an old Glass on Metal article. The Glass on Metal website is super old so I've copied and re- formatted the information for easy and efficient printing. You can download it in PDF form here. As soon as I try it myself, I'll post images of the process. Ceramic "waterslide" decals appear to be the type you'd look for. You can also have your own made and / or order them from numerous ceramic supply companies.
Here are some resource sites: - info on how-to make your own - ordering transfer paper or complete decals

Concerning hand polishing, here's my "cheat" to get that soft satin finish. I fire polish my piece as usual but then I use a very high grit sand paper, like 1500+ (you can order these grits through jewelry suppliers like Rio Grande or find them in the auto body sections at car parts shops) and with strong running water, I hand sand until I get the effect I want. At that grit it can take some work to get an evenly soft finish, but it takes the surface shine down just a bit and can be just lovely. With cloisonne it also serves to sand the wires back down to the level of the glass since when you do that final fire polish with cloisonne the glass sinks a little and the wires will be felt by the hand.

Apart from that, what little I've been able to find on hand polishing glass is from the hot glass world and reads a lot like polishing metal; start with coarser grits and work fine. The only difference is they are working wet (natch) and on mechanical wheels and finishing with a very fine polish like cerium oxide.

I have tons of images I need to optimize and put up here. My students have been doing some great things! I hope to be able to post some soon!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

New Gig!

I'm thrilled to announce I'm scheduled to teach Jewelry I and II as adjunct faculty for Phoenix College this fall!
I'll still be working at the Heard (they are so great to be so flexible. I really do have awesome bosses!) and at the Mesa Arts Center where I'll be teaching enameling there plus some workshops in chains and champleve enamel. It's going to be a busy schedule!!!

If you are interested in taking classes in metals, check out Phoenix College and the Mesa Arts Center!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Understanding Blend Modes in Photoshop/ Photoshop Elements

 Here is another handout for my Photoshop Elements students. This information came from  As stated on the photoshopgurus site, this info can be found in the help files but it's nice to have a consolidated version. I formatted it for ease of printing and saved to PDF. This is a really helpful handout to understand Blend Modes and how they can affect your image.

Click here to open/ download the handout.

Remember to try and get some play time in with the program before next week!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

New Section of Intro to Enameling

My Wednesday class was closed and there were still people wanting to register so we split it into 2 sections. If you still want to take Intro to Enameling, you can sign up for either the Wednesday or Friday (6.30-9.30) class. The Wednesday class has already started but the Friday class starts next week June 15. Call the Mesa Arts Center at 480-644-6500 to register.

Photo Basics for my PE10 Students

As requested, I'm uploading the PP I made on photo basics. Starting with a good photo is the foundation for getting a great photo in Pshop. This slideshow goes over some of the differences between point and shoot and dslr cameras, their pros and cons, and some of the most important features to have control over. Please email me if you have any questions!

Click here to download the Power Point slideshow

Full disclosure: the images used were taken from multiple websites. I can't claim credit for  any of them.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mesa Arts Center Classes start Monday!

The summer session is here for MAC classes! We have a great lineup, which you can check out at our dedicated site for the jewelry program: or at the official Mesa Arts Center website:
I'll be teaching an 8 week enameling class for beginners and continuing students wishing to work on their own projects with instructor access.

I know you've seen this before but I'll just include it here again
to give you an idea of the range of enamels. From left to right:
raku, cloisonne, painting, sifting/sgraffito/inlay

I'm also offering an 8 week Introduction to Photoshop Elements class, which still needs one more person. It starts Thursday 6.30-9pm and I'll cover camera basics, and how to optimize and funk up your photos using the much more affordable Photoshop Elements although if you have Photoshop, I'll cover that as well. There's still time to register! Contact me at my yahoooooo! address: hjewelclark if you have any questions :-)

Here is an example of the original photo I took of the courtyard fountain
at the Heard Museum on right, and the finished image on left. I know, this
should be reversed. I used Photoshop for this but I could have gotten the same
results in Elements.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SNAG is here!

Well, the Society of North American Goldsmiths conference is here in Phoenix this week and we started off the events right with some fabulous pre-conference workshops at MAC. Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday we were privileged to host David Huang teaching chasing on vessels. I'll post more photos as I have time of the other presenters for Demo Days and of the conference itself which starts today. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what David's workshop was about.

Everyone is working and getting to know each other.

David is demonstrating tool making here

David's chasing tools

This is a student piece in process. David brought spun vessel blanks for people to work on
and some people brought already raised vessels.

You can learn more about David and his amazing work here:

More to follow!!!!!