Friday, April 29, 2011

Pin Backs

Well, back to some technical stuff.  Jewelry for me is one of the media I use for expression. Whether it's narrative or design oriented doesn't matter.  But the one fundamental principle about jewelry regardless of what it looks like is that it should be wearable.  With that in mind, here's a little how-to on pin backs:

I use commercial pin backs. The kind with the little rolling catch.  Nickel silver.  I know how to make handmade pin backs but unless I'm going to do something really high end I don't see a point.  To me, a pin back is like the eye hooks and wire for a picture; it should be well-made, do it's job and be unobtrusive.  And even is I were making something high-end I would just buy higher end pin backs unless the pin was an integral design element of the piece.  When I purchase pin backs, I always buy the catch and joint that matches and make sure you get a stem with the rivet in it.

Pin Catch

Pin Joint

Pin Stem with rivet

I buy the longest pin stems I can get because I will cut them to size as needed.  You NEVER want the point of your pin stem to extend beyond the end of the catch enough for the wearer to feel it. Also, always solder the pin catch open-side DOWN.

So here are pin backs already soldered on (I went through this part of the process in a previous post) and now I've placed the pin stems to the pieces and cut them down.

First I clamp the pin stem up in my ring clamp and file a new point, then sand and polish that point. It is important that the point NOT be long and thin but rather short and sort of blunt. This prevents the point from tearing through thread.  A shorter, slightly blunt point will work it's way between a weave but a long sharp point acts like a needle and can split threads.

The pin stem is properly sharpened and does not extend beyond the end of the clutch.  Now to clamp it into the joint.

The joint has 2 holes on either side in which the rivet of the pin stem fits. The trick is to get them lined up and even pressure applied so one side of the joint doesn't move in more than the other.  I like to use parallel jaw pliers for this and I do it slowly. You'll notice that the pin stem is angled above the catch as it gets seated.  That is because I soldered the joint at an angle. You want the pin stem to have to be pulled down and have it pop into the catch a little. This helps the pin stem stay in the catch even if the little roller gets rolled up over the course of the day.  It's a safety feature.  That's it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MAC Jewelry Classes website gets a facelift

I am using the MAC jewelry classes website as my guinea pig to learn WordPress and I now have a working site (albeit with plenty more to do) up and running.  If you haven't seen it yet, check it out because if you are interested in taking metals classes there, this site is a way better way to find out about what's going on than the official MAC website!  Yikes.  Sorry to have to say that.  Anyway, check it out here.

I will be adding more media (movies/ pics/ news/ etc.) and adding to the Resources list as well as tweaking the look.  Feedback is appreciated!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fiber Techniques in Metal Summer Class

In addition to my regular enameling class, I'm also offering an 8 week fiber techniques in metals class at MAC this summer.  I taught this class a couple of years ago so I don't offer it very often.  We will be taking basic fiber techniques such as twining, lanyard, weaving, coiling, multi-strand braiding, etc. and using wire and flat strip as our material.  I took a similar class a couple of times with metalsmith extraordinaire Susan Wood and assisted her with the class at MAKER in 2004 before she passed away.  She was one of my metals heroes and an amazing human being all around.  Here is a small sampling of some of the techniques we'll be doing.  I'm looking forward to this class being longer so we can do more things.

Examples include: coiling, lanyard, twill weave with varying thickness of flat strip, God's Eye
and multi-strand braiding
Registration for classes starts April 22.  You can receive 10% off your registration for up to 2 classes if you register in the first week!  You can view the Mesa Arts Center classes at their website and you can see my classes at my website on my Classes page (click the link at right under "Links Schminks"). Email me from there if you have any questions!

For a complete copy of the MAC Summer Classes brochure, click here (pdf)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm in a Show!

The Shemer Art Center is having a show titled "House of Fun", the theme being art that makes you smile.  I had 2 pieces of jewelry and a photo selected.  The opening is Thursday April 21 from 7-9pm at the Shemer Art Center- would love to see you there if you're in town.
Click here for their website
The show runs through May 25. 

Primal Scream Series
Primal Scream Series

I started this pin series after sitting in on a sawing class with Michael David Sturlin.  It inspired me to get back to some basics.  When I just need to relax in the studio and focus on one thing, I draw up a simple line drawing face and just practice my sawing. These pieces are 20-18g and about 2- 2.5 inches tall if I remember correctly. 

"Who is that Fabulous Masked Man?"
I took this photo in Bisbee through the shop window of a closed antique store. 
It is part of my Inanimata Series.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Enameled Pendants Class

Spring Break at the MAC was a neat affair.  All week long people could sign up for a "get your feet wet" class in all kinds of topics. I taught an enameled pendants class to introduce people to enameling.  I had 8 enthusiastic students who produced some wonderful pieces in only 3 hours.  Some had no metals experience and none had any enameling experience.  It was a great class!

Students worked on either 2 inch or 1 1/4 inch copper discs which I had pre-cut.  They learned to sift then worked with sprinkling color and enamel threads.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Here's a Pretty Thing

I have a great student, Diana, in my class(es) this spring who has studied enameling for years in California with an old school crowd and I am learning as much or more from her as she is from me (one of the reasons I love teaching).  I had always used Thompsons 1995 Black for, well, black.  But 1996 black does a really cool thing if you over fire it. You heard me- over fire it. I didn't fire it over 1500 F, I just fired it longer than necessary.

At the top of this photo is a copper piece with 1995 black. On the left is 1996 black fired properly.  Although you can't see it in this photo (have a mentioned how difficult it is to photograph shiny enamel on a curved surface????) the 1996 is actually slightly purplish and just a hair translucent, unlike 1995, which is completely opaque and flat black.  On the right is the same 1996 black over-fired a couple of times (just to make sure).  There's absolutely nothing else on that piece of copper but 1996.   Gorgeous!  I'm looking forward to doing more with this little bit of info :-)

Friday, April 1, 2011


Well, of course it's gone now so for those of you who didn't go, I hope these photos inspire you to NOT skip the next MAC special event.  You can learn more about this particular project here.

Outside and not looking that impressive
Then you go inside.....

 I actually got lost. It's amazing how disorienting the space becomes.  I took soooo many more photos but I think these give the gist.  The color is produced from natural light shining through colored vinyl/ plastic (can't remember) that is less than a mm thick.  I didn't make any color enhancements to these images.