Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Earrings

I bet you are wondering what in the world does she do with those castings she makes. My friends would tell you I have a ton of unfinished castings around here - I do - I admit it. I keep making wax models and know I haven't nearly enough time to finish things right now.

There are about a half dozen different designs that I "cast in place" using various CZ's. I'm sure I already mentioned why I'm not using the more precious stones in an earlier post. They require a much different burn out cycle and I'm using a shared burnout kiln at the moment. The CZ'z can take the heat - precious, well - they're touchy.

Usually I don't make long earrings. But this was just begging for it. Sorry about the quality of the photo. They are kind of a knock out in person and the final dangle doesn't even shine in the photo. It's a highly polished silver bar I soldered up just for the earrings. Bugger!

Anyhoo, this is what I am doing with the cast earring parts. In this earring there are three pivot points. At the top the whole piece can swing freely - then at the ring and again at the bottom. The rings on the silver bars were soldered at an angle so two of the sides face forward.

If you're going to have bling on - it ought to be blingy. Handmade all the way to the earring wires, including the balled wires to hang the stone chips. Yup, this is what I do with those castings. Before I finish this pair just a tad more I wore them to make sure the weight hung correctly and nothing would tangle up. Like I said, I am pleased. Not heavy on the ear at all - I was worried. Now, it's off for one nice cleaning tumble and a tad more shine

I'm not sure if I should antique them for a romantic look. What do you think?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fire Divas Beads of Courage Auction!

The Fire Divas believe strongly in giving back whenever they can, and here is a collection of gorgeous handmade lampwork beads that the talented artists of The Fire Divas team have contributed to in honor of the Beads Of Courage program. All of the proceeds from this eBay auction HERE will go directly to Beads Of Courage and make it possible for the brave boys and girls battling cancer throughout the United States to enjoy the amazing outreach and cancer support that this wonderful program provides. Not only will you be helping to put a smile on their faces, but you will receive 19 handmade Collector beads that you will cherish for a lifetime!!!

The beads shown were donated by 13 different Fire Diva artisans, who also created a similar set that will be sent directly to Beads of Courage for the children to choose from and enjoy. This is your unique opportunity to pitch in and lend a helping hand to this amazing organization too!

Clockwise from top—Tribal heads: Barb (riversedgeglass); Yellow round: Sonja (SilverRiverGlassWorks); Magic Mice: Lori (ashlyndesign); Multicolor round: Judith (icarusbeads); Blue organic: Rosemarie (spawnofflame); Shuttle: Lara (Lutrick); Blue nugget: Patrice (Shepherdcreations); Yellow car: Karen (giapet); Blue/brown organic: Susan (susanlambert); Critters: Sharon (rightturnartwerks); Blue cubes: Kathleen (uglyducklingbeads); Cupcake: Holly (HollysFollyGlass); Green inchworms: Abigail (abbielyn)

The beads you will be getting include:

* Lovely free-form organics
* A pair of Disney inspired "Magical Mouse" ears
* A sporty roadster car
* A Space Shuttle with a monkey (a similar bead from the same artist went up on the last Shuttle!)
* Fun and festive graphic designs
* A sweet chocolate cupcake (calorie free, of course)
* Happy "critter" face beads
* And the cutest pair of tiny green inchworms!

In addition to this special auction event, we would like to offer another opportunity to our customers and fans: for everyone who places a bid (whether you win or not), or donates directly during the auction week to Beads of Courage via their website, please leave a comment here after this post and let us know. You will be entered to win some great prizes like gorgeous beads or gift certificates from more of the Fire Diva members, chosen by a random drawing. How cool is that?! (more photos coming soon!)

Please help us spread the word about our first Annual Beads of Courage Auction and don't forget that the bidding will end on Wednesday, June 1st at 6 pm PST. Thank you so much for your support!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away

This is how I feel - I have a house to paint. On the upside it's more bead making time :-) and I have a lot to do there too. There aren't any tornados and I feel terrible for so many people who are in those areas. I guess "just rain" isn't so bad after all.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Working with Clio

Finally, some time at the torch. I've playing with the Clio glass rods (from Double Helix) again. My stash was purchased at the Gathering last year. From the posts on Lampwork, etc. I learned a few tricks for working with it. Thank Goodness for Haley Tsang, and others, who work with silvered glasses and are so willing to post their tips and result beads on the LE forum. Both of these beads contain the precious Clio. One was Clio layered over a cobalt glass base and I think reduced a little too much (the blue bead) and the other was made over a white base with layers of transparent orange and ink blue before the Clio, encasement and shard decorations. I’m pretty pleased with the results. I need more “silver” working time at the torch but onward and upward..

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Recycled Solar Jars

I like canning - mostly when I do can it's tomatoes, jams, or jellies. My daughter sent me a jpg from Etsy of some lights she'd like to have on our deck for the wedding, scattered about the yard so people don't trip on things. I thought they were a great idea - but our budget is tight. Good thing Mom likes to figure things out. It's not like I have tons of time to do this - but, when it's your only daughter - our baby of the family - well - you do what you do.

First off - I recognize the solar pieces. If you've been in Home Depot or any place they carry the solar lights you light a path with then so do you. They are not pricey (under $4.00). Cool beans - but could I do it? Oh hell yeah! Once I figured out - thanks to the neat display at HD - I found I could easily take the stake out. For good measure I cut off the plastic that was formed to hold it on - and - TAH DAH - they sit EXACTLY on a standard jar top - well.......there it is.

This is what they look like (day light and at night)- I sprayed the jar rings to match and just have to silicone them down or something. They cast a unique light on the deck steps. I like it - she will love it.

Onward and Upward.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Diva by Any Other Name

I am tickled pink about joining the Fire Divas. They are a motivated group of artists who work very hard at marketing and supporting one another with a open door policy. I like that. They communicate better than I do too so I'm going to have to step it up...

Lampworking when it first came on the scene, thanks to modern updates by Cindy Jenkin's and her Hot Head Torches, was always full of artists who spoke openly about their craft and the "how-to" of bead making. It was heaven - no enormous secrets. Everyone was helping everyone. As more artists took up torch working over the decade+ years things moved to a different phase as people became competitive in a narrowing marketplace. I liked the Divas long before I joined because so many members had spoken openly via forums in an effort to instruct peers who were struggling with various problems. They even aided me several times with their candid advice on beadmaking and photography (as I struggled with that new Nikon digital I so covet!).

Recently I have updated my blog list and have been trying to get all of my fellow Divas listed. (If I've missed any of you please email me.) What I noticed from a marketing standpoint was something that I had considered before but didn't realize how important it might be. Literally, I butchered some peoples names (or couldn't find them) as I tried to update the blog roll. I think "branding" is important. What I found was some people did not list their "real" names anywhere. Since I have always listed blogs via artists given names - followed by their business names I ended up in a royal pickle and with egg on my face as I tried.

Maybe others don't think it is important to have their personal names listed. But, unless you are "The Artist", formerly known as Prince it doesn't seem logical in - Sharon World. Actually, it ended up not so logical to "the artist" either and he eventually returned to his stage name. So maybe it's JUST ME - it could be, you know. Everything I have read indicates you should find a moniker - and stick to it. A business name - and as the CEO of your company you too!
Like I said - it could be me - but I value others opinions and am interested. What do you think and why do you choose to do that way?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Printing Postcards

I always like to send out a postcard with an order. It looks nice in the box and leaves the customer with something they can post on a fridge or work area for next time. It also can let you highlight beads that normally aren't seen or considered for a piece of jewelry.

My husband (pre-retirement for 27 years) was an organic toymaker and we used postcards to reach his customers and let them know what his upcoming shows were. I can't tell you how many repeat customers we got off of those mailings.

This year I need postcards for the ISGB - IF I can get them photographed and done in time. It's always a time and energy problem, isn't it? UGH. Making the .jpg for the postcards is a relatively easy process and it's fun. Since most beadmakers and artists take their own photos most of us are familiar with editing programs. Translating that into a postcard is made easy by the many companies that make them.

I just finished my daughter's Wedding Invitations/ RSVP cards for this fall's festivities. She's a modern kind of girl but wanted something her friends and family could post of the fridge. We did a double card so we could adhere clear mailing stickers to the set and once opened they'd have all of the info they needed and a conveniently pre-stamped return postcard. Both cards carry a theme that is running through all of the wedding planning....she is a romantic, techno nerd, outdoor girl ;-).

Personally, I use Overnight Prints. But, I have used many others and they are good too. I'd play programs from several of the companies before you hit that "Buy Now" button. You can see what works best for you.

Other companies you might want to consider: 123 Print, Modern Postcard, Got Print, and Sharp Dots. There are others. I've only used 123 Print and Overnight. I hear the others are great but why mess with success.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Studio Spaces

I received the recent update from Crafthaus and one of the articles is about studio spaces. The artists send in photographs of their sanctuaries and we get to peruse their areas.

When Jeri Warhaftig was writing her new book "Creating Glass Beads" we (the focus group) were asked to send in photos of our work areas. Not everyone, it seemed, was terribly cooperative with that endeavor. I get it! My bench is normally a mess. The glass on top of it at the moment is about a half an inch thick. It's not terribly conducive to working - let alone finding things. It definitely needs to be cleaned up. DO I HEAR A VOLUNTEER?

After looking at the Crafthaus benches I decided to look up those photos of mine. Hey, so that is what the work area looks like cleaned - LOL.

Of note - which is why I have posted this - I work on a computer desk. It was a cheapy from one of the big box stores. I put the torch on the keyboard drawer. It lowers it so you are not killing your arms and is below eye level a bit. It makes it easier to see where in the flame you are. You also do not have to use a "high heeled" chair to get yourself up there....better for the legs.

Attached to the table top (with wing nuts and washers) are two long boards to which padding at attached. These can swing in and out to any position I need and hold my elbows are a great position so I can utilize the creation station hand rests to their best advantage. I love them both and will never work without them again.

My favorite tool - what a crack up. What I use more than anything is those plastic handle cheap paring knives you purchase in the cheapo section of the big box stores. They come like 2/$1.00 or something like that. Thin steel blade and great for just about anything. The second most adored tool is one that was altered. It is a heavy pair of tweezers that a fellow Glass Act artist altered during a retreat. He used a grinder and took off the serrated edges and ground the tips to a heavy point. They are heavenly. See what I mean - Fix your tools to suit the job you want to do!

If you have any questions about anything you are seeing on that bench - just ask - I'm a sharer and will be glad to pass it on.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been. ~Robert Brault

I love that quote - it's like a world wide Mafia of Motherhood - - - - we are everywhere. Maybe we should take over the world. Think about it. Oh, but then..maybe we have, Hahahaha. Love You All!

Have a wonderful Mother's Day

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Slow Updates

I've been working on the blog - - - I also accidently eliminated my Blog Roll and now I have to fix it. Darn darn darn. So, if your favorite link is missing I apologize. I'm working on getting them all re-entered but it's going to take me a day or two to track them all down by hand.

Also, here's a update (photo) of the casting area. I never knew hanging venting was going to be this easy. But then I have lots of joists to work with. And Gorilla tape - whoo hoo - the stuff is like glue to tape these pieces together. You can see the in-line ventilator behind a board it's hooked to. It comes with a metal stand that you can screw to a board or to the wall. Pretty nifty and a no brainer to hang.

By the way - the counters where I solder are floor underlayment - it's kind of an impregnanted cement wall board that is fire proof. It's under all of the casting equipment - kilns - soldering areas. It's what they have at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association in their workshop and works like a charm. So, if you are worried about what to solder on - go get a piece from your local Home Depot. It's pretty cheap too - like under $10.00. I have a full size sheet on a 6 foot folding table and halves on the casting station.

I love making progress - by tomorrow it will be done.....with the piping at least....maybe.

The New Casting Area

Soldering Station

New Casting Area

Here is the humble beginning of where I will cast. When I purchased the equipment from Diane she wanted to show me something she considered very important. To me, anything to do with glass and metal is important.- top that off with my great respect for Diane and I was all ears. I asked why she was selling this equipment and she said she wasn’t interested in casting anymore. That if she desired to work in metal she would fabricate and it was just “time” to pass it on to someone else who would respect and love the equipment. She most certainly found that!

She confided something because she wanted me to listen closely and to pass on a solid piece of advice.– maybe she heard the subtle wheeze I frequently have. Diane said she has emphysema. I was shocked. She took me over to a piece of equipment I was not buying that day, a NuTone ILF 250 in-line ventilator. She showed me how it was hooked via a dryer vent to the window. From there two intake vents, one positioned about the burnout kiln and the other positioned behind the soldering station, removed lung killing vile fumes from her working area. She was quick to point out that for the better part of her career she had not used one and instead inhaled those fumes. Her doctor told her that not taking better care to remove those irritants had contributed greatly to her illness.

I have a small NuTone range hood above my glass torch. It vents out of a window and is hooked to a rheostat so I can control the airflow. BUT, since it is above me it is likely I still inhale some of the irritants I create while torching. Not the best – but I was trying.

Diane most certainly opened my eyes – and probably my lungs as well. The first purchase made after the casting equipment was that industrial size Nutone. No doubt, it’s expensive ($250.00). There will be a vent hovering above both the kiln and behind the soldering station. When they are complete we will re-vent the torch area too. The new NuTone is large enough to handle all of them.

I hope you like what I’m doing to the studio – and if you need more info on what I’ve used to make it safer to breathe just ask. When it’s all complete I’ll blog some more photos.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dressing Your Metalsmithing and Lampworking Tools

These are my favorite tools to make ruffles in beads.

Some times the jaws of pliers will press the glass too thin. So thin it will crack. First you widen the concave surface with a grinding tool.

When you have a larger space created for the glass it can flow and ruffle rather than being squished to the cracking point. You should polish the groove. I have a small polishing bullet in my foredom and it fits right into the groove.Here you can see the nicely polished and widened tip. No more broken glass!

Tools are very important when you make jewelry. If you haven’t studied with an experienced teacher you miss the tips that they have to offer about the proper use of tools or how to make them better. Even the best of pliers come with a nicely tooled edge. By nicely tooled I mean they are steel, they’ve been milled on a machine, and generally they are as sharp as hell. They also might not be the right size. This is pretty cool – until you go to bend something (or squeeze something) and not only do you get a corner but you often get “tool marks”. You know – those awful little nicks in your work that you have to file and polish out. Not cool.

A couple of years ago I was privileged enough to be included in a group at Bead and Button that got to talk to the editors from Art Jewelry. We were asked what we’d like to see in the magazine. One of my suggestions was a section on tool use and tips geared toward more intermediate artists. There are always lots of articles on how to do this or that – but – more often than not, there is always a tool alteration or some little “thang” that goes unmentioned. One of my suggestions was explain to jewelers that to get the most out of those great expensive chain nose, flat, or speciality pliers most experienced metal workers “dress” their tools.

Ever hear of that? I bet I had fifteen years of so called experience before some totally slick jeweler taught me that. Every tool you have needs maintenance and attention. Your chain nose pliers, to be efficient and without much marring of your metal, need to have the edges broken. It’s not that you are turning them into round nose pliers. You are carefully taking the sharpness of that edge off and re-polishing the face. Since I’ve done this I don’t have as many pliers gouges to refinish. And, I use the same system to alter my lampworking tools too!

The pictures above and captions explain the process done to a pair of pliers I use for making ruffles in hot glass. The process is the same for a pair of flat nose pliers you use for metalsmithing. I have barely sanded the edge of my chain nose pliers using wet/dry 600 grit sandpaper attached to a sanding stick. I used this stick to carefully file the sharp edges. Then I polished the edges with jewelry polish (white diamond to be exact). You have to be careful when you do this so try it out on a cheap pair first. You still want to be able to bend a good 90 degree angle if you want one but you will be surprised how well this technique works for altering pliers for both lampworking and metal work.