Thursday, September 10, 2009

MAC Fall Season Shindig

Come on out to the Mesa Arts Center this Friday September 11 for their Fall Season Kick-Off Party. It's free, kid-friendly and we'll be demonstrating cuttle-fish/ plaster casting (jewelry scale). The Mesa Arts Center is located at 1 East Main Street, Mesa AZ and the event time is from 6-10pm.

There is still time to sign up for classes as well. Check out the MAC metals website for details. Hope to see you tomorrow!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall Workshops in the Valley

It's time again to think of classes for fall. The Phoenix Center for the Arts and the Mesa Arts Center both have some great classes planned for fall. Click the links to go to their respective sites!
I will be offering several workshops this fall as well. Check out my classes page for details. I will be making an extra post shortly featuring an incredible enamelist I met this summer. Stay tuned :-)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Life Changes

Well, I've been teaching for South Mountain Community College as an adjunct for 3 rewarding years but 2 weeks before they were set to begin, my classes were given to the new full-time faculty so they would have as close to a full load as possible this fall. So I am a bit adrift at the moment. Polly Smith, metalsmith extraordinaire and head of metals at the Mesa Arts Center where I am one of her residents graciously offered me several more workshops that needed an instructor when the original person had to back out. I am so grateful to Polly for so many things. She's a great person, artist and boss and she's now thrown a net under me twice. The first time was when I'd just finished my tenure at the Phoenix Center for the Arts and had no studio. She offered me the second residency spot when her other resident (I will not mention names) abruptly left. It was perfect timing and I've had such a great experience there since!
So- I'll be offering a much extended line-up of workshops/ classes at MAC this fall. Check out or my Classes page on for more info. Classes start September 8 so if you are interested, sign up soon! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Lazarus Rising (again)

The summer was supposed to be a time for me to catch up on a lot of art and things that I normally don't get to do during the school year, including keeping up with my blog, but somehow, I don't know how, I've gotten so little done! How did I do that and still feel run off my feet most days? Oh well. It is the nature of life and of someone who wears many hats.
I'm re-tooling my blog a bit and will hopefully this fall move it to a Wordpress format when I'm not building sites for other people or teaching... and I'm widening the topic a bit. I will also be posting only once or twice a month since I should be realistic about it and I'm sure I can time manage that if I put it in the day planner :-)
I will be posting about classes I'm teaching, artists I like/ have met, show announcements, talking about art and design in general and including my projects and how-to's. I hope you like it and find it fun and useful. Away we go!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Solder Basics 101

I started writing this Sunday but didn't finish and I've had food poisoning since Monday or this would have been up way sooner.

Okayyyy. Back to the topic of this blog! Last time I wrote anything metals related, I was talking about soldering. I'd like to cover a few more things I've learned over the years, which doesn't mean I don't still screw things up, but knowing a few tricks goes a looong way to minimizing the screw-ups. Plus, I haven't yet created a solder god for my solder-station so I'm flying solo right now!

So, for starters, and forgive me if I repeat info from a previous post, the metal must be clean (no oxidation or oils) and the areas to solder must make physical contact. No gaps. Silver solder does not fill in gaps! I like to hold the join area up to a light source to look for any light coming through. If light comes through, I need to sand or file one of the two pieces to make a tighter fit. If you know one piece is the way you want it, always try to work the other one only to create the fit. Keep one piece constant so you have less variables to deal with. To clean a piece, you can sand the surface or throw it in the pickle (keep your pickle hot and strong and only leave work in briefly). You could remove hand oils and such with soap but if there's oxidation, soap won't help.

As I mentioned before, I like to sweat solder as much as humanly possible. So what is sweat solder? Some people refer to it as "tinning" (sp?), where you cover the area to be connected of one piece with solder (always cover the smaller piece), flow the solder, then place the solder covered piece on the piece you want to connect it to and re-flow the solder, joining the two pieces. The most important thing to remember is to heat the non-solder covered piece up more than the solder-covered piece to facilitate the transfer of solder from one piece to the other. I usually make this a 2 step process but you can do it in one.

With that said, let's go through an actual example.

So here's my set up. I always use a solder pan so I can rotate the work as needed and I solder on an old fashioned kiln brick. When the brick gets dirty, I just take it out to the concrete and sand it smooth and clean. Great stuff.

Here is one of the pieces I'll use for my example. This is another one of the Primal Scream pins. The surface is sanded and I'm ready to solder. The smaller items to the right are my name stamp plate, the backs of the bezel cups and the pin findings, all with a little solder already flown. The stamp plate has hard, pin findings have medium and the bezel cups have easy.

Here is the piece fluxed and with the stamp plate on top.

I want to heat the sheet and not the stamp plate until the flux goes clear and I can tell the larger piece is at soldering temperature. Then I brush the flame over the stamp plate and watch for a mercury-like seam of solder to appear between the two pieces of metal.

FYI- always make sure your solder brick is as level as humanly possible. Gravity is not your friend when soldering. Also, use just the haziest coating of flux possible. I've seen pieces slide and solder way off where you'd want them when there's too much flux and the brick isn't level.

I pickled the piece and refluxed and added the pin findings. Again, I'm just going to heat the large sheet until it gets up to soldering temperature then I'll let the flame hit the pin findings.
Once the back is done, it's time to solder the bezel cups.

I coat the back solder area with yellow ochre because I'm going to have to flip the piece over and- gravity is not my friend :-)
Speaking of gravity, now that the pin findings are soldered to the back, I no longer have a level surface to solder my bezel cups to. I don't want to hang the pin findings off the side of the brick because- gravity is not my friend! So I need a way to level out the piece so my bezel cups will stay where I put them and solder nicely. Any old non-flammable, not likely to solder to the piece, not likely to off gas toxic fumes when heated object will do and I just happened to have an old piece of binding wire lying around and the height was right so that's what I used.

Once I'm done soldering I transfer my pieces to a clean steel block so they'll cool fast before pickling. I don't quench anything and I especially don't quench silver and you should never throw hot metal into pickle of course. The steel block works great because it acts as a heat sink and sucks the heat out of my pieces lickety split.

To quench or not to quench and 101 uses for binding wire will have to wait for another time. Hope this was helpful!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yellow Ochre

I had a question from a reader (Hi Heather!) concerning finding yellow ochre powder. I didn't find it listed on Lonnie's website (but I'd call Susan and ask directly) but Rio Grande carries it under the obfuscatorily :-) named
Rio No-Flo™ Anti-Flux Powder.

Hope that helps!


Well, I had no idea it had been so long since but my last post, but here's why:

I love this action shot!

Meet Mr. Cutie Pie himself: Ollie at 8 weeks. I adopted him March 27 from a really wonderful young man trying to find good homes for his kitty's babies. I promise Ollie is very loved and spoiled rotten already, Brent! He's sleeping in my lap as I write :-)

Plus this beast was added to the mix 5 days later.

My husband got him from the pound at 8 weeks as well. He's a relatively mellow puppy as puppies go and he is a good natured little guy. He seems to learn fairly quickly but he needs more focused and orderly training b/c I'm washing an awful lot of throw rugs, towels and blankets right now... Oy!
He and Ollie want to play fight all the time but we have to monitor them and make sure puppy doesn't get too rough. Ollie seems to love it but I'm a nervous mommy and I separate them after they start to get too worked up.

Also, two dear friends were in town from Kauai and I got to spend several WONDERFUL days with them. They are very talented artists as well as just all around amazing human beings. Check out their website here.

Aloha Becky and Marilou! I miss you!!!!!
I will get back to my regular topic of conversation ASAP. I've been getting into the studio at least one day a week but there's been no time to post with my schedule and the little ones on top of the normal craziness. But I'll get there :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Paralysis Over

Yesterday was a really good day in the studio. That doesn't mean I didn't have some hiccups but overall, it was really good :-)
Although I can't get into the studio until 1-2 on Fridays, the MAC is so quiet then that it seems like it's the best day to really get work done. So I spent about 4 hours in the studio this week, which doesn't seem like much, but it's not the amount of time, it's what you feel you've accomplished that's important, and I felt like I accomplished a lot! For one, I finally got the jumprings soldered to the setting for that enamel I was talking about last week. I also took so many photos of my solder set up that I'm going to break the technical info on that up into a couple/ few posts. I also finished soldering all the findings onto the Primal Scream pins and I finished all the depletion gilding so I've got 3 pieces ready for the tumbler. Once they are tumbled, I'll set the stones, send them for photographs and move on!

I'll talk about that enamel setting first. It is always tricky to solder very tiny objects to a much larger piece. The issue lies in heat transference and the fact that solder flows to the hottest object. The large piece has to be heated to solder temperature in order for the solder to flow equally between the larger piece and the smaller piece, otherwise, the solder will just flow to the smaller piece and there will be no bond between the two. As I mentioned in my last post, I sweat solder as much as is humanly possible in order to avoid solder spills/ cleanup.

I made very small jumprings out of 20g sterling. BTW, always saw your jumprings- never never snip them. I will save the reasoning for a separate post b/c I can already tell this one is going to be a bit long. Then I took my filing jig (one of the most useful tools I own- I don't have a pic but you can see one- click here) and I filed a flat spot on each jumpring. Then I flowed easy solder (rolled thin and cut small) on the flat spot. I don't worry too much about the solder rolling up the sides of such a small jumpring. It's practically unavoidable in my opinion and by the time the rings are heated a few times, much of the fine silver will mask the solder and remember, these jumprings will be mostly obscured by beads.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the size of the rings compared to the piece as well as what that little flat spot looks like where the solder has been applied. I would never recommend trying to solder a round object to a flat surface because there is simply not enough contact area for the solder to make a good bond. Always try to create as much area contact as possible when soldering two items together.

I do not have "under the torch" shots of how I soldered the jumprings on like I do for the Primal Scream pins because this operation required all my concentration plus both hands. I hold the torch in my left hand and tweezers or my solder pick in my right 99% of the time. Even though the jumprings had a perfect flat spot on them, the flowed solder made that area rounded and they had to be coaxed over and over to maintain an upright position in order to get them to solder where and how I wanted them. I also soldered them one at a time in one operation. I did not pickle in between but laid them out around the rim onto the brick so that I had a decent idea of how they needed to be spaced out (I wasn't trying to put them in super-specific spots or I'd have made marks to let me know where they needed to go- I eyeballed it for this piece) and then put one on at a time, soldered it down, then put the next one on, etc. To get the solder to flow from the tiny jumpring to the big setting, I rarely put the torch directly onto the jumpring. I kept it on the large piece and only when I was sure that the large piece was close to soldering temp did I just brush the flame over the jumpring until I saw that liquid silver seam appear.

In preparation to solder, I quickly pickled everything (30 seconds or so- just to make sure there was no oxidation on them since they'd been sitting in storage for a week), rinsed it well then I applied yellow ochre to all the previous solder seams. I love yellow ochre. Yellow ochre is a solder flow inhibitor. It is a very traditional material and is just an earth mineral pigment so it's really safe. Please please do not use White Out for your solder flow inhibitor. It fumes toxic gas when heated! When I was first introduced to yellow ochre in school (it comes usually in a dry powder), everyone had been taught to mix it with water but the problem with that is the water spits and sizzles and sends the darn stuff all over your piece, contaminating your fluxed areas, if you don't wait for it to dry- and who has time for that? I'd abandoned using it thinking it was useless until I took a workshop with the great Susan Wood (RIP) and she mixed it with oil! What a revelation! It works beautifully, stays where you put it (don't use too much oil) and the oil helps dirty the seams you don't want to reflow! Any light oil is fine- kitchen or sewing machine style. Some yellow ochre pre-mixes use alcohol and while that would evaporate very quickly, I still find that it's too liquidy during application and you absolutely have to let it dry still- I'm too impatient.

So here is what the piece looked like prepped for soldering. Yellow ochre on all previous seams, including the interior of the bezel and a very thin layer of flux on the flat perimeter of the front where the jumprings were to go.

The yellow ochre flames (that's the oil) and turns black. The jumprings are black on top b/c I didn't put any flux there and remember, the copper in sterling oxidizes instantly when exposed to heat and air. The area of the perimeter (and the undersides of the jumprings) is still white silver where the flux was applied. Although getting all of the jumprings on took quite a while and I kept the piece hot the whole time and I had a very very thin layer of flux on the piece, my flux didn't burn off because I was using a much softer flame than I used to. I had a big tip on (about a 2 maybe?) and very little hiss. I've been using a softer flame since taking workshops with Michael David Sturlin who says a softer flame produces less firescale and it does certainly extend my working time under the torch.

I had a couple of jumprings that did not seat completely so I had to go back after the first pickling and re-yellow ochre/ flux and heat, but they sealed on the second go and once the final pickling was done, so was I! I will have pics post tumbling and pre-setting next time. I will also go over my general solder set up, etc. Stay tuned!

PS- I'm playing around with the layout of my site so if you have any likes/ dislikes with what changes appear, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Studio Friday

It was so nice to get back into the studio after such a long hiatus. On top of the trip we took a few weeks ago and my wonderful parents coming in to town to visit, teaching has kept me very busy and my stepson has been sick with the flu. Fortunately I didn't catch it but something is in the air here as I've been feeling very much low in the tank for the last week or so- everything is starting to bloom- maybe that's it. Regardless, after classes on Friday, I popped a couple of ibuprofen and headed for the studio! Unless I'm running fever or have a gastrointestinal complaint that requires my attention in a fixed location...I don't see any reason to let my regular fatigue and aches and pains dictate my plans for the day. Life is too short!

I am still balking at finishing the setting for a lovely enamel I've made but I made a little progress on it yesterday. Sometimes you've spent so much time on something already, the thought of screwing it up on the last operation is just paralyzing. Basically, I need to solder these incredibly tiny little jumprings to the ledge of the front of the setting in order to run a band of beads (18th C style) around to embellish the front. I managed to get the solder onto the jumprings yesterday so really all that's left is soldering them on and raising the fine silver prior to tumbling. Since each annealing for the raising process removes a little solder, I think I'll raise the fine silver halfway at least before I attempt to solder the jumprings down. When I can take a good shot of the setup I'm talking about, I'll talk more about the potential problems and the tricks to making this kind of solder job more likely to work.

I spent the rest of my time working on the faces for some new Primal Scream pins. I have everything done except the soldering. I spent way too much time on the curls for one face and it's obvious I need to practice my sawing skills some more! 22 years at this and I'm still practicing. It never ends, which is okay. If I weren't still being challenged in the studio I'd be bored and I'd probably lose interest in doing it anymore. As you can see in the photos below, the curly headed figure has pink eyes. These are lab grown cz's that I'm setting upside down in the serrated bezel cups. I think it will be a fun departure from the norm.

I sweat solder as much as I possibly can when fabricating. So the pin backs, my name plate and the bezel cups (not shown in the pic) always have solder flown on their backs first, then they are placed on the piece to be connected to and the solder is re-flown. This eliminates clean up of solder spills. I also thin my solder in the rolling mill (I use wire solder) before cutting (you can also hammer it). This allows me to have less solder in any one place to again minimize cleanup puddles. Sometimes I sweat the backs of the pieces (always flow the solder to the smaller piece- not the larger one) first, pickle, then set up for the connection and sometimes I flow the solder and while the piece is still hot, I flip it onto the larger piece to be connected. I find the flux holds fine if I'm using a soft flame and there is plenty of time to get things to re-flow without the
connecting area going black. It just depends on my mood and time constraints. I will try to take pics of my setup next time I'm in the studio. Stay tuned! :-)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Long Time No See!

Wow. It's been too long. I've been really busy with non- metals related stuff these last 2 weeks. I think February 19 was the last day I went in. The family went to Flagstaff for the long holiday weekend. We went to take the boy sledding. There was tons of snow and he loves snow! He had a blast. I hate the cold but I managed to do fairly well and fortunately the hostel had an amazing gas furnace in the room and eternal hot water. I took many many photos but otherwise got very little done, which I suppose, is the point of a vacation :-)

February 19 (or whatever day it was that week) was a tough day. I wasn't feeling well and was down for some reason. I went into the studio with very little enthusiasm. I was stressed out and it was just a blah day. I knew we were going out of town for the weekend, which makes for all kinds of work- laundry, cleaning, etc. (I have to come home to a clean house and have put fresh linens on the bed before I go- and yes, I realize that's a little neurotic) and on top of that, my mom and step dad were coming to visit the first week of March and I was in a panic trying to get the house cleaned and organized and dragging M with me- he's not naturally prone to tidyness. I'd finished the heart chain clasp (sorry no pics at the moment- I'm still in a panic trying to get the house cleaned) and there wasn't much in the studio that fit my mood to work on. And in reality, I only had about 1 1/2- 2hrs max to work that day. I pulled out my projects (many many in-process) and just sort of stared at my desk for a while.
You know, there is value in just sitting sometimes and particularly that day, it was beneficial to just sit at my bench for a while. I was away from the house and there wasn't anything else I could do- no grading, photography, knitting, nothing. I sat there and I thought about my work, my projects, what I was going to do next, next, next and ended up managing to forget about my woes and focusing on metals, even if it was just in my head. I'm so busy so much of the time I'm constantly rushing from one thing to another, crossing things off my to-do list that never ends and I never get (or rather, make) time to just sit and think about what I want to do. So in this instance, doing nothing in the studio ended up being incredibly productive! Once I sort of came to, I pulled out some metal and started making some new Primal Scream pins. I needed something simple so that the peace I'd achieved wasn't marred by any technical stresses and they are wonderfully straightforward to fabricate.
So my thought for this post is, take some time to just sit at your bench every now and then, let you mind wander through your projects and absolutely do not think about how many you have unfinished or how much time it's going to take you to finish them, just wander and think about production process, what you will do, what might be the next project, etc. I know it helped me recharge. I hope it works for you, too :-)

M forgot about Valentines Day over the weekend while we were in Flagstaff and felt bad he didn't even have a card for me (I didn't care- having someone to share the holiday with was all the bonus I needed). On our last day, he and the boy went out into the park to make a snowman. It was already time to get back to Phoenix so I was feeling a little impatient and my impatience kept growing as I watched them (mainly M, the boy was too interested in throwing snowballs) labor over this snowman. I couldn't get close because I was wearing street shoes and the snow went well above ankle height in some places. Well, the snowman was looking really odd and I was thinking M was trying to do some crazy snow sculpture we really didn't have time for, so of course I was getting annoyed. We needed to have the boy back in time to feed him and get him to bed to go to school the next morning and I didn't want us to be driving into the night. Finally, M comes over and wants me to come see the snowman. Because of the shoe issue, he carried me piggy back over to where they'd built the snowman. I'll let you see what it was rather than tell you. What a guy.

It says, "Happy V Day J. Love, M&A"
Awwww :-)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

so little time...

Only a couple of hours in the studio this week. I've been cleaning up and shooting my fold form line that I used to make years ago but I can't do that much hammering any more so I'm selling the remainder on Etsy. I have a portion of the line that I decorated with kumboo, a Korean overlay technique on silver with 24k gold. I love the technique but I've never been all that happy with the result on these pieces. The silver is so shiny and textured you can hardly see the gold. So I finally took a chance and patina'd the silver with liver of sulphur. The nice thing about liver of sulphur is it doesn't touch gold so the silver went black and the gold just popped out. Then I threw the pieces back in the tumbler. I love to tumble liver of sulphur pieces b/c when they come out they've got this amazing shiny gunmetal black surface and the patina is burnished and sealed in really well. I still have to take a pic of the fold form pieces but I did do this with the little pendant I photographed below so here are the before and after pics.
The pieces came out great in my opinion. They are shiny grey, the hammer texture comes out and the gold looks great. I think it will take a more adventurous jewelry person to wear black metal but the end result is quite striking and very different from the gold- free versions so I'm happy.
FYI- whenever you patina your silver make sure you don't have any tarnish on the surface. The patina really only wants to stick to clean metal. I missed cleaning a handfull of the old pieces but patina'd them anyway and after tumbling it was evident that the surface coloration was not uniform. The areas where there was some tarnish underneath was mottled. So I'm going to have to clean those pieces, re-patina and re-tumble.

First pic- before tumbling- stone is just laying in the setting- it's not going to be tumbled
Second pic- Tumbled and stone is set

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect and the Value of Notetaking

I just managed a few hours in the studio this week and at first it was quite a frustrating time. A while back I made a loop in loop bracelet that I call the double heart since the links look like hearts to me. Well, it's kind of hard on my hands so I made a looser version that is only a single link version. It's still lovely but goes together a little easier. I'd devised a neat catch for the double heart that worked really well with this unusual chain and I thought it would be easy to duplicate it for the single heart bracelet. Wrong. The original was too big and the hook part was too narrow proportionally and it looked awkward. So I started trying to make it smaller and I didn't have the right width rectangular wire so I kept trying to roll out round wire width the right thickness. When I tried the first new catch, the hook was rolled around too tight but I'd already cut it to the right length so when I unrolled it and gave it more height so the chain would sit right, the hook was too short! So then I thought maybe I was soldering it at the wrong angle so I turned the solder spot up on the edge of the jumpring but that didn't help the chain sit well at all. I went back to the original design and did it again, this time with the wider rolled wire, a smaller jumpring and I rolled the hook around larger and finally it worked.

Although it was frustrating, I was reminded of 2 very important lessons. One, be patient. It was highly annoying to keep making these catches and have them be wrong but in the end, the last one was just right so it was worth it. I am now practiced at it and I should be able to make them faster next time. The second lesson is ALWAYS TAKE NOTES (and if possible keep a good prototype in your samples box for physical reference). Now I've got a little piece of paper I can refer to on the proportions (and I put construction notes on the back like how much space to leave when rolling the hook) if I don't come back to making these for awhile. If I do make another one, I'll try to remember to take pics of the process. When they are done, I'll take a pic of what it looks like on the chain :-)

These photos below are of a little pendant I made from scrap. I believe it was in the photo of work to be tumbled but when I put the liver of sulphur on the surface to patina it, I didn't like it after I'd scratchbrushed the surface. So I put more liver of sulphur on and I'm going to tumble it again when I've got a few more pieces ready to go. The tumbler will give the surface a smooth dark shine, which hopefully will do what I want. I will take a pic when it comes out of the tumbler so you can see the difference. I'm also still trying to decide what stone to set in it. I'm leaning towards the moonstone. I think color might throw it off although the jadeite is looking kind of nice, too.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Primal Scream

I was able to squeeze a few hours into the studio this week between car repairs and the first week of classes at SMCC. I got the eye stones set for my new pin series, now titled "Primal Scream", but not much else. But any little bit of progress is good :-)

When positioning pin backs, it's just like hanging a picture. Keep the pin above the mid-line of the piece. Also, angle the pin stem holder (not the catch) so that the pin will lie just a little higher than the catch once it's secured. See the second photo for clarification. Hopefully you can see that the end of the pin stem rests just above the catch. That is so there is tension on the stem to help it stay in the catch even if the rotating catch portion actually rotates up during wear. You should have to apply just a little pressure to seat the pin stem into the catch on a properly aligned pin.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Well, I just found out all my classes are running for the spring, which is nice- don't have to start job hunting in this current economic climate. Now I just have to figure out what days are going to be my studio days for spring....

I've been working on the gallery pages today and when those are done I'll be able to launch my new website! I'm very excited! I will need everyone's help with their browsers to let me know what's looking funny as I can only test on IE7, Firefox3, and my hubby's old version of Safari. Soon! Soon!

We went to Bisbee for a couple of days this week and I can't wait to go back! For photography. But I met some neat people and we went into an old copper mine.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I managed to squeeze a few hours in in the studio today. I was thinking I might be able to finish the enamel piece in time to photograph it for the Enamelist Society show but no such luck. But I did get a number of pieces ready for the tumbler.

For those of you who are not familiar with the quirky properties of sterling, it is prone to a nasty thing called firescale. Firescale occurs when the copper in the sterling alloy is exposed to heat and air (during soldering and/or annealing usually) and it oxidizes. Here is how I understand the reasons behind the two traditional fixes for this issue:
The pickle removes the upper surface layer of the oxidized copper (in fact, pickle only eats copper) but unless one sands into the metal to remove the lower layers that still contain some oxidation, that oxidated copper will show up as a purplish discoloration on the silver. It does not EVER look good. If you sand the metal to remove the firescale, you must not heat it again or you will cause the copper in the alloy to oxidize again and you will have to start your cleaning process all over.

The other way to attack firescale is to anneal and pickle the piece until the pickle has removed all the copper from the surface of the piece, leaving a thin layer of fine silver. Over successive annealings, the exposed copper is oxidized. The pickle eats the copper, but not necessarily all in one go. It may take several heatings and picklings for the pickle to eat all the copper away from the surface of the silver to the point that when next heated, the copper is too far from the surface of the metal to oxidize.

If you use this approach, make sure you beef up your solder seams because solder is eaten by pickle faster than the piece will be eaten and it will evaporate under the torch some as well. If you have wimpy seams when you start your piece, you run the risk of the pickle eating through them during your finish work. Also, you must not sand the piece again because you will remove that layer of fine silver (although you will not then expose firescale, just sterling). This process leaves the piece with a microscopically (sp?) porous surface and it leaves the piece very soft. To work harden the piece and seal the surface, I tumble everything I do (pre-stone setting) with stainless steel shot for at least 18- 24 hrs. I don't like to sand because much of my work has texture and/or large flat expanses with elements on top and I don't want to create any dips from sanding the flat surface nor do I want to ruin my textures. And also, I really don't like to sand.

Both ways have their pros and cons. It's just a matter of preference really. One fabulous advantage to the tumbler is that it finishes chains beautifully. It polishes them safely, work hardens them and makes them more supple than any other method I know.

Here are some of the items I was able to get ready to tumble today. It's so nice to be close to finishing some work!!! Notice how white the metal looks. That's the unpolished fine silver.

BTW, I don't bother raising the fine silver on findings unless I've had to heat them for some reason. Notice I've connected the jumprings. You will be searching through your shot for hours to find those little buggers if you don't string them, hook them together or something.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Life in the Ether

I'm much further along with my new website and Etsy site for my jewelry. I'm really looking forward to uploading it- hopefully by the time school is supposed to start back up. I'll post the URLs once I've got something to show! However, my enrollment is looking very low. I may not have a full load this spring....

Monday, January 5, 2009


Well, today opened up and I decided to get into the studio again just in case my car was in the shop longer than anticipated this week. My hands are starting to stay sore, but not too badly at the moment. It's probably a good thing I'm going to be forced to take a little break. My left thumb is the worst and of course that's the digit that does most of the heavy lifting in jewelry- human clamp, grip, etc. But it was a good day! I finally finished the shaping for the bail on a setting for an enamel I did a while back. I wanted the bail to coordinate conceptually with the imagery so I was going for a sort of tree-branch look. The best part was the soldering went off without a hitch! Now I've got to solder tiny little jumprings onto the ledge of the front because I'm planning on doing an old-fashioned bead edging around the setting. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Also, the first face pin in silver is ready to have the fine silver raised and I finished cutting out the second one. I'm going to set carnelians in the first one and I plan on sending it to Bob Coogan as a belated Christmas present as soon as it's done. Shhhhh. I included the copper prototypes in this pic so you could see what the finished pins should look like. I solder 5mm bezel cups over the eye disc and then I solder a plate with my name stamp, metal grade and copyright symbol along with the pin backs all in one go on the back. I'm starting to do many more solder seams at once with minimal pickling in between. It seems to be working just fine and definitely speeds up my production time. At this point, it looks like I'm going to have a nice little load for the tumbler here in a week or two. Some new finished pieces! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

s-hooks and jump rings

I haven't downloaded any pics from my camera yet so I don't have an exciting picture of what I did in the studio Friday. Mainly, I worked on little stuff- s-hooks, jumprings, bails, etc. We all need s-hooks, jumprings and bails, etc. and I like to make them in batches rather than one at a time anyway. I'm finding that when I'm working on some pieces (and I am) that have design challenges I have to work through, being able to take a break from the intense focus they require and still be productive helps keep my in the studio and slows my antcy-ness down. At this point in my life, I can only work in the studio about 4-5 hours before my hands and/or my brain give out so I have to make the most of the time I am there. Making findings is tedious and not so creative (it's not completely un-creative, but, you know...) but it helps slow me down, give me a mental rest, and re-tune my focus. I get so impatient wanting the work to be done that it helps to be reminded how slow jewelrymaking can be- and that that's okay. A little repetition is a good thing now and then....
My stones and bezel cups finally came in so I'm planning on heading for the studio on Monday before the car really really has to go into the shop. With any luck, I'll get a couple of pieces actually finished (they are close!) and ready to tumble.
I should have some pics at that point....

PS- Here is a pic. They are just shaped- not pickled or polished at this point.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ah the luxury of a teaching schedule

Even if I am a lowly adjunct :-) Well, I had a lovely day in the studio and I'm planning on going back tomorrow since I can't guarantee next week will be very free. I'm still waiting to hear if my school is moving my drawing class to MW afternoons like they'd planned, which would give me TTHs completely free to head to the studio. In any case, I've got to just set a couple of days in stone as my studio days. Here is a shot of some of the pieces I'm working on. I've got so many things half way done I just have to pull out a few at a time to focus on finishing, otherwise the task is paralyzing.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step....