Friday, December 27, 2013

Adding beach sand onto glass beads

I had a request to make necklaces for a group of long time friends who have ties to a beach area.  Since the beach is an important part of their history, part of the request was to add sand from that beach to glass beads.  I love getting requests like this one because I probably would have never tried it and like to experiment.

I wasn't sure what to expect so I did a test run with craft sand from Hobby Lobby.  I made the beads as usual, then rolled them in the craft sand to embed some of it on the surface.

Then I put them in the kiln and had to walk away.  When beads go into the kiln it's not always easy to tell what the final product will be - I thought they might be ok but not really all that pretty with sand all over the surface.

I was wrong.  I loved them.  The sand added a little bit of character without overwhelming the bead and I was excited to try it with the beach sand. 

Here's an important thing I've found out during this process: real sand and craft sand = very different.  Even though I knew that, I didn't really know it until I opened up the beach sand to add to the beads.  The beach sand granules are much bigger than the craft version, so adding it to the surface was less like a dusting and more like introducing gravel. I used a wire sifter to keep the bigger pieces out and try not to overwhelm the glass.

The sand was wet (which makes came from the beach and it's December). Rather than rolling the molten bead in the sand, I brought a little scoop full of sand to the flame to make sure it was dry before applying it to the beads.  I was careful not to add too much - the more foreign matter you introduce to a bead, the more likely it will crack.

Anytime I'm trying something new like this I make extra beads so I can have my pick when the time comes to use them.

Here are the finished beads - I added them to necklaces with leather cording and small sterling initial charms.

Since these are gifts, I won't name names - hopefully they went out in the mail early enough to be part of the Christmas celebration.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Side trip: a new look for the copper dome

No matter what I might think about how much it cost, the first time I saw the new dome on the Kansas State Capitol building I couldn't believe what a change it was.  

I used to work in Topeka so I got used to seeing the patina on the dome (and then, for an eternity, the scaffolding around the dome while renovations took place).  But I hadn't been through in a while and when I saw that the renovations were complete I made sure to bring my camera on the next trip.

I'm really fond of adding patinas to copper and I loved the old look but the new deep color is stunning.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Guest post: Swimming duck cupcakes

My 12 year old niece Grace made the cutest swimming duck cupcakes last weekend and is letting me share her process here.  (Thanks to my sister Susan for taking and sending me the pictures!)

Adorable, right?  She made the cupcakes from scratch and let them cool completely, then added a layer of frosting to adhere the head and tail - a donut hole and a marshmallow cut on an angle.

She melted yellow frosting by heating it in the microwave, then turned the cupcakes over and dipped them one at a time.  This step takes some time - you have to hold the cupcake upside down for a minute or so while the frosting cools.

She cut Starburst candy and squeezed them into beaks and feet and sorted mini m&ms to get sets of eyes. The final step was attaching the candy with little dabs of frosting.  

A fleet of ducks!  They all seem to have their own little personalities.

This one looks like the puppy at the shelter compelling you to take it home; I don't think I could eat this one.  Unless I closed my eyes.

Great job, Grace - thanks for letting me post the project here! 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Artist's Synchroblog - December project

The Artists Synchroblog is a group of bloggers who post every other month on the same topic, sharing our experience or perspective. On alternate months we undertake a Pinterest Project where we each take inspiration from a Pinterest picture, create something (art, a meal, a DIY project, etc) and then post about it.  You can read more about the Artists Synchroblog here.

As much as I like random texture and pattern, I'm also drawn to repetition.  There is something really tidy about a pattern that continues through a piece of metal or glass. I have several images from Hally's blog pinned to my Art/Inspiration board on Pinterest - when I look at these pictures the repeating pattern is what I notice first. 

Hally Grace Photography: Oh Calgary, My Calgary
Image source - Hally Crangle

 Image source - Hally Crangle

I made this pair of earrings using the hydraulic press and a diamond pattern die to try to mimic that fence pattern in copper earrings. I like the little points it added - they look a little bit sharp but they aren't. And the pattern looks really cool from the front or the back - I had trouble deciding which side should face out.

And of course it seems like lately I can't make anything in copper without adding a heat patina...

Don't forget to visit the other bloggers involved in the Artists Synchroblog to see what projects they made from their Pinterest inspirations:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Copper wine glass charms

A friend asked me if I could make a set of these for a holiday I'm thinking I might need a set of my own!  (Ok, not really.  I never, ever have people over to entertain so that would be a waste.  But maybe I will make a set to give as a gift to someone more extroverted than me.)

She asked for the copper charms to be numbered, one through eight.  I've seen a lot of wine glass charms, but I don't remember ever seeing them numbered and I think it's a fabulous idea.  They can work with any set of guests.

Each of the charms has a polished agate bead dangle added in colors that are complimentary to the copper.  I added a little bit of a patina to bring out the detail on the numbers and those should just get better with time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ben's art show

Every year the Bizarre Bazaar is held the weekend after Thanksgiving.  It's the only show I do every year...I'm not very committed to selling my work at shows but this one is fun and full of energy and just has a great vibe to it. The gallery lighting in the venue is a little bit weird so the pictures aren't great, but here is a shot of my table as the event was starting:

I used to try to figure out different ways to display things and finally realized that this seems to work - I try to keep it fairly clean and simple and there is enough variation on the height of the displays to highlight some pieces nicely. 

But enough about's old news.  I've been doing the show for about 12 years. 

This year Ben had a table next to mine.  He put together mason jar solar lights to sell and we asked my sister Hally for some help with how to display them.  The lights are beautiful, but it can be hard to tell that in well-lit areas.  The first several hours of the show take place in the evening so we knew it would eventually get darker and the lights wouldn't need too much help. But at the beginning of the show it's hard to see that they are lights at all.  Hally suggested we build a little dark box to have a couple sitting in there and print out some pictures of the lights at dusk. She was right - those things definitely made a difference.

So the show started and Ben was doing big business.  To the point that he really needed help managing the demand...he is quite a salesman and has no trouble engaging customers.  I could probably take some tips from him, but I won't.  I just get way too embarrassed.

I spent most of the first few hours behind Ben, wrapping up his lights to give to his customers (everyone was walking around with bags that were lit up - it was kind of comical) and ignoring my table. He brought a good stash of the lights, keeping extras in plastic tubs under his table.  He sold out within the first three hours of the show.  It was incredible to watch it all unfold and how excited he was to sell all of his stock. And then he had plenty of time to walk around and see what the other vendors had to offer before the first day of the show ended.

The second day of the show went great for me as well (although I definitely did not sell out) and when it was all said and done we were both very happy with the experience.  I'm also really glad that I don't have to do it again for another year....I don't know how people do show after show after show all year long.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Easy Thanksgiving desserts

Need some easy Thanksgiving desserts?  I wanted to bring dessert for a family gathering and ended up going with a couple of favorites that are really, really easy to make and travel well. 

First I made fudge brownies with chocolate ganache and peanut butter cups.  It's very hard to go wrong with these - people love them.  And if you need to take a dessert in the car and don't want to worry about a cake box or a pan, just bake them directly in small mason jars and pack them in the car with all the rest of your luggage.  I froze these overnight before packing them up to make the drive.

I used to be very precise with my ganache recipe, but now I just wing it and it seems to work out fine.  Too thin?  Add more chocolate. 

Then I made chocolate peppermint bark sugar cookies - also incredibly easy.  Cookie dough that bakes all at one time?  I like it.   I am not really a peppermint kind of person, but these things are addictive.

Now to just stay out of them while we make the drive...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Show prep

There is only one art show I do every year and it's coming up in a few days.  This last weekend it was so incredibly cold that I didn't spend much time at the workbench.  I just didn't last very long.  There is a point where my fingers just stop doing what I will them to and it's time to go inside.

So instead I spent some time tidying up loose ends on copper projects that I started but never finished - some of them are fairly recent but a couple have literally been sitting on my desk for almost a year. 

This pair of anticlastic copper earrings:

What I thought would be a quick pair of wire wrapped earrings. (Not quick. I still don't really know why.)

A smaller version of the "bubble earrings" I made a few weeks ago:

I'll add this pendant to a leather cord before I consider it done, but I really love how it turned out. I textured copper with a hammer, "puffed" it using the hydraulic press and finished with a heat patina:

And a set of copper bangles with a heat patina:


I've decided I won't list any of these in my Etsy shop; after the show is over I'll see what's left and update listings.  That's always a good time to kind of clean up my shop and start fresh!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tiny mirrors

Last weekend I made this pair of earrings in silver to match the copper pair I made recently. I used the hydraulic press to get the texture and added some copper rivets for contrast. I thought about giving them a brushed satin finish but finally went with a shiny polish instead. This has created an issue; I can't seem to get a good picture of them. 

I try to take most pictures of my jewelry outside because the natural light almost completely removes any need for color balancing in the photos and makes quick work of listing the pieces on Etsy.  Generally this works well as long as the sun isn't totally beating down on the deck railing I use as the backdrop.  But apparently shade isn't enough for these earrings - I might need completely overcast skies.  When I look at these pictures I miss the jewelry completely because I'm drawn to the tiny, repetitive tree reflections in the texture.


I actually love the reflections - they are kind of mesmerizing. 

Enchanting, but not too useful when it comes to getting pictures for a listing of the earrings in my Etsy shop. They are really pretty; big pieces of silver that are perfect for statement jewelry...not that anyone could tell. If I still have them to list after the Bizarre Bazaar in a couple of weeks, I'll try the pictures again in a light tent.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Artists Synchroblog - November Studio Tour

The Artists Synchroblog is a group of bloggers who post every other month on the same topic, sharing our experience or perspective. On alternate months we undertake a Pinterest Project where we each take inspiration from a Pinterest picture, create something (art, a meal, a DIY project, etc) and then post about it.  You can read more about the Artists Synchroblog here.

The November Synchroblog topic is a studio/home tour.

Although I do some finishing at a desk in my bedroom, most of the work is done in my garage.  This space has grown over time - I've been making jewelry for about 13 years and started out with a small area and a few tools. In the last few months my husband helped me turn this into my own little area and I love having a dedicated space for it.  Sure it's hot in the summer and will be cold in the winter but unless the temperatures are really extreme I can handle it for an hour or two at a time. 

This is the whole set up as you walk into the work area.

I have a chair to sit on when I use the flex shaft since it has a foot control, but the rest of the time I stand while I work.  I don't know what it is, I just don't like to sit and work on metal or glass. Sometimes I'll come across a video of someone making jewelry and they are sitting at a table...that seems so strange to me.  I can't be the only one who works standing up like that, right? 

The right side of my workbench is for soldering and the left is primarily for glass work.

I keep a variety of tools and materials under my main work area for easy access.  Glass rods, forming and dapping tools, etc.


The tools and equipment I use a little less often are a step to the side or behind my workbench.

Please be sure to visit the other bloggers this month to take a tour of their spaces: