Oct 282010

People come to jewelry making from many different paths and they learn their skills in many different ways.

I am a self directed learner. My beginnings came in a found boxed wire jewelry kit and grew from there as I went online and sought more information.

Online I met some really wonderful people who helped push me further. I was then fortunate enough to take a couple of one day workshops (still wire jewelry at this point) and eventually my online friends encouraged me to try some hot methods and sheet metal. I learned so much from these online friends.

Somewhere along the way the Jewelry Artists Network was started and the forum quickly became a lively place where many people were learning and sharing. About 6 years ago I decided that I wanted to give back more AND the Jewelry Artists Retreat was born! In a rare stroke of genius I realized how much more we could learn from one another if we got together for a weekend (eventually a week!) and just ‘hung out’ together making stuff.

Well, we just recently had our 5th annual retreat and let me tell you that this is one wickedly awesome and fun way to learn! Assemble artists with varying skill sets and skill levels and bring them together – and prepare to be amazed!

This year the retreat was made up of 13 women. Four whom had never been there before and two who had never met any of us before!

We all toted our tools and supplies arriving on a Sunday and getting right to work setting up a full blown studio in a rather large garage in a big lakehouse on a HUGE lake in NC.

For seven days we shared the house, the garage-studio, tools, supplies, and loads of information. Oh, and lots of laughter too!

Getting together with friends is a FABULOUS way to learn! I highly encourage you to seek out other artists and find a way to get together.(more on that later)

We spend most of our time in the garage, which may not sound terribly exciting, but to us – IT IS !  We share most meals and take turns cooking. And are flexible with schedules, etc.

In terms of techniques, we touch on most everything!

Casting, etching, soldering, chain maille, stone setting, cold connections, all manner of fabrication – in years past we’ve done enamels and resin……and so much more.

This year we may not have done quite as much as in years past. I think this year people settled in and just really enjoyed having uninterrupted time to work.

That is one of the nice things about an informal gathering such as this retreat – you can come and do what you want.

We also bring ‘overstock’ to sell, trade, or giveaway.

These are some of Nancy’s giveaway cabs.

Nice huh?

I’ve seen dapping sets, torches,  an oxygen concentrator and more change hands over the years!

Oh and books.

SO many books. To read, review, share, trade. If you ever wanted to preview a book – its sure to be at the retreat. One of the favorites this year was the book – Indian Jewelry Making. I saw it and bypassed it several times as that style of jewelry doesnt’ appeal to me – but I eventually picked it up. Its now on the top of my ‘to order’ list. It really is an incredible little book full of inspiration and information.

It really is a wonderful thing when artists are so open to sharing with one another.

Everyone benefits!

Here Anne teaches Nancy E. a chainmaille pattern.

In turn, Nancy E showed us all how to make a ring from a silver coin.

She did so on her ‘block’ which is part of an old iron, and on top of her stacking logs. What great tools!

Nancy’s entire set up was really compact and made to travel. (more on that later)

We line up some of our bigger ‘communal’ tools on a nice workbench the house comes equipped with.

Here you can see the sanding belt, bench grinder (polishing lathe in our case), shear, rolling mill.

There is a sink to the left which is great for filling the tumblers and LOSing. And to the right we had a flexshaft hanging with a hammer handpiece.

We modified and cleaned up some tools.

Here Lisa is working on refacing one of her hammers.

The sparks were flying but she was fine! (especially after we moved the can of gasoline that is…there’s a safety tip for you – survey your surroundings prior to using fire or heavy equipment!)

Its great that people bring various tools — like the books, you can try them before you buy them!

The hammer handpiece was really the belle of the ball this year, everyone wanted to try it and it seems that everyone really liked it. I think Rio will be receiving some orders…..

The texturing tip creates dancing all over metal was compared to ‘tiny tap dancers’ and now whenver I use it I can’t help but think ‘here come the tiny dancers!’.

We also were able to try out Anne’s new Swanstrom Disk cutter and centering punch. There she is at left giving us a demo.

And yes, we made loads of beautiful jewelry.

Like the tree pendant to the left which was made by Nancy VT who is, get ready for this, NOT a metalworker! That is her first pierced piece.

Her FIRST! (guess she had great mentors at the retreat…)

Nancy is a very tal ented and VERY prolific wire and bead artist who has been slowly adding sheet metal and cold connections into her work over the past two years. QUICK STUDY! She has no desire to learn to solder and that is A-OK!

We all go at our own pace and learn what we want to learn. We are varied and different and yet come together for a week and get along splendidly! Its the common bond of being jewelry artists. That, and a love of sharing, make this a fabulous way to learn!

More jewelry from the retreat to come!

Sep 302010

From way back I’ve been a “texture girl”. It affects a lot of things for me – from the food I eat to the clothes I wear, and yes, to the jewelry I make. 🙂 Texture can make or break things for me. I don’t like scratchy clothes, gritty foods, smooth dishcloths. I don’t like corn tortillas, instead I favor flour ones, because I don’t like the texture of corn tortillas. You get the idea.

While I make do make jewelry that is ‘smooth’ and more sleek – I LOVE texture! Texture can add so much to a piece – character, depth, visual interest. And there are so many ways to GET texture. From expensive rolling mills, to inexpensive options like a nail and hammer.

I surfed back through my blog and pulled some photos of pieces with textures:

This piece was textured by hammering the sterling onto concrete – in the driveway. LOVE the effect. 🙂

The rolling mill was used to texture the sterling in these earrings. The metal was run through the mill with window screening.

More window screening

This pendant was given texture with a quasi-fold forming technique. The granules also add a layer of texture.

Corrugation was used here to provide texture to the sterling – a nice offset to the smooth copper.

This pendant shows some chasing all around the bezel, on the wire.

Stamping with a chasing tool. LOTS of repetition

This was done using nails and screws, etc. I did a tutorial showing how to modify nails etc to complete this pendant.

Etching can provide texture either in terms of a ‘scene’ or just a random pattern.

The two pieces below are samples of reticulation. (using heat – torch – to create texture) The earrings have an added layer of texture as holes were drilled and then the metal was run through the mill to elongate the holes.

These final earrings combine reticulation, chasing, and roller mill printing.

These are just some of the things I do with texture.

I’m interested in hearing other people’s favorite texture techniques – what do you like to do?
 Posted by at 3:28 pm
Sep 172010

While conversing with some wonderful artist friends, the topic of blogging and RSS came up.

Most people are now familiar with a blog – a web log – shortened to blog. Its an online journal of sorts.

When people subscribe to your blog, they are getting a ‘feed’ — the blog is coming to their email or to a reader.

It comes via ‘RSS’  which is ‘really simple syndication’.

A reader is a service that allows you to get all your blogfeeds in one place. You can read the content right there for the most part.

Wiki can explain it all better than I can -> RSS ON WIKI

People use different methods of tracking favorite blogs, there is the google connect gadget, there are bookmarks, RSS, email subscriptions, readers, etc.

I like to corral not only my favorite blogs, but also my favorite websites, Etsy shops, etc. with a ‘reader’. With a reader you can add not only blog feeds, but a ton of other web content feeds.

Anywhere you see the now familiar RSS icon, you can ‘grab’ the feed and receive updates direct to your reader whenever there is a content update.

But what if you want to respond to a blogpost? No worries, your reader will have a live link you can use to get there.

I use Google Reader, its very user friendly.  Here are some screen shots to help you see how I do it.

I’ll use my Etsy shop as an example.

First, find the little RSS icon.

click it.

That should take you to a page that looks like this:

When you are there, you will have a drop down box that allows you to select how you would like to subscribe. (I use Google Reader, so I would select that.)

Making that selection will add the feed to my reader and also take me directly to my reader.

Once in reader, if there is another website or blog that I know I would like to subscribe to, I can do it right from the homepage of my google reader (if I have the web address or url). Google will import the feed.

You want to find where it says ‘add subscription’.

click that.

Then you will get a pop up where you can enter the url.

you can try this with any url, the worst that will happen is that google will tell you it can’t find a feed for that url or it can’t find content. Sometimes it will offer to create a feed for you. So nice. 🙂

*~* NOTE: I did this in mozilla firefox — it may look a little different in different browsers. *~*

The Jewelry Artists Network feed can be obtained on the sidebar, or just grab it here.

RSS and feeds are obviously helpful to you, you don’t have to run around visiting all of your happy places to stay up to date. You can do it from the comfort of one home page.

But how is it helpful to your business? What can RSS do for your business?

Stay tuned for the next post to find out!

Questions? Leave in the comments section or use the contact tab above. We’re not computer whiz kids here but we’ll try to help!

Sep 142010

jewelry tutorial, metalsmithing tutorial, free tutorial

I have to start out with a disclaimer.

This is not a traditional jewelry making tutorial. This is more like an outline of the technique that I use. It was originally written for a friend who has quite a lot of metalsmithing experience, so it was more of an outline or framework for her to see how I go about this process. I kept imagining I would redo the photos so each step is clearly captured and rewrite the text to make more sense for those who don’t have a lot of metalsmithing experience, however that hasn’t happened (and its been a couple of years I think!) so I’m just going to put this out here now the way that it is…well, with a few minor edits.


  • Wire – 12 gauge
  • Wire – 20 gauge
  • Rondelle Bead
  • Manilla folder, water, dish
  • Hammers (forming, rawhide), bench block or anvil
  • Nail
  • Sharpie
  • Ring mandrel
  • Files, sandpaper
  • Soldering supplies – flux, solder, torch, third arm, pickle

Begin by soaking small pieces of the manilla folder in water. ( I leave mine soaking for days, but you can soak them for as little as half an hour)

Wrap the 12 ga wire around the ring mandrel about a half a size larger than you want the ring to be. (some of the size will be taken up by the bead)

Cut into rings.

Next, file ends smooth so you have a flush join to solder. (no pic)

Flux and solder joins on each ring individually.

Return rings to mandrel and use mallet to true up the ring(s) into a circle.

Forge one end of each ring on the bench block with a planishing or forging hammer just enough to create a flat profile.

Then forge the other end of the rings into a sloping area which will eventually be drilled for insertion of wire to hold bead. (sorry no picture of the second side being done)

Next prop rings open on the wider forged end so you can solder the more lightly planished ends together to form the base of the ring shank. (this photo was taken as a ‘set up’ – in reality the open ends would be planished flat as well)

Flux, solder, pickle.

Gently close the shank and file all edges to create a uniform appearance (no photo)

Mark center of top of ring, create a divet with hammer and nail.

Lube your drillbit and drill hole(s)

Cut a piece of 20 ga wire – you want it long enough to go through the ring, the bead, and form a ball on each end.

You are going to use this wire as your double balled ‘pin’. You will want to measure this wire before you melt your first ball so that you can calculate how much wire you’ll need for the second ball.

So, measure, then go ahead and melt a ball on one end of the wire. (make the ball as large as aesthetically fits your design).

Now, measure how much wire you have left. This will tell you how much wire you used to make your ball ( [original length – (current length-ball) = amount of wire ‘in’ your ball] you’re going to need to know that later).

Next you need to wrap the bead in wet manila folder paper, insert the packet into the opening of the ring, thread wire through your drilled holes.

Cut the end of the wire so that the proper amount for your ball is extending from the other side.

Thread another piece of the folder onto the wire (on the outside of the ring)

(Optional: Take another piece of the folder and wrap it around the top of the bead.)

You now have something that should resemble this:

(but the amount of wire protruding should be trimmed way back! this is left long so you can see )

Suspend the entire packet into a third arm with the exposed wire hanging straight down towards your bench top. Heat to melt the second ball. (this photo is after I torched the second ball)

The ‘trick’ is to use a HOT tiny flame. I turn the gas on very high and then crank up the oxygen to obtain a very hot very tight flame.

*NOTE* The first two times I did this, I did NOT wrap the bead first and it worked fine. Wrapping the bead DOES take up some room so when you are done you may have a slightly looser join. When you remove the folder you will have a tiny bit of space. Very tiny. If you do it that way and don’t like it, try just threading the wet paper on the outside and then wrap the outside of the bead. The end result will be tighter.

FYI: I have NOT had the paper catch on fire. At the very end it will smolder and singe a bit, but thats it. Here is a pick of the singed paper:

Here is another finished ring. This one turquoise.

If it can work on turquoise, then its probably fairly safe on a variety of stones, HOWEVER, I highly recommend you practice with stones that you wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose as with any new technique it can take some time to perfect.

This process was first mentioned to me by Karen Christians (of Cleverwerx) as she was experimenting with it after watching glass makers work with hot glass using wet newspapers. It took me a long time to give it a try but I have found it works well.

I hope you find this useful information!

Other areas you might find interesting

Tips and Tricks Main PAGE

Other helpful posts:
Patina on Sterling

Jewelry Making Tutorials – Metalsmithing and WireWorking

Melting Temperatures
Scrap Metals Refiners and Returns

Aug 272010

The last post was really just a teaser with brief definitions and photos. Now let’s look a little further and try to get a handle on some of the tools and terms associated with raising.

Basic definitions

(we will expand on these as we go along)

Raising: forming metal over (or on) a stake (of some sort) using a hammer to compress and stretch the metal.

Stake: a solid object (can be various material) with varying curvatures.

Course: one complete pass of hammering while raising.

Synclastic: forging metal along two curves at right angles to one another and moving in the same direction. (bowl)

Anticlastic: forging metal along two curves which are moving in opposite directions. (pringle)

Annealing: heating metal to increase its flexibility (annealing article here)


I thought a little sketch might help clarify the curvatures for us. These sketches are reproductions of ones found in the book Form Emphasis. (I considered taking a photo of the page and then decided that went too far into copyright issues…so my crude sketches will have to do.)

anticlasitc and synclastic forms

anticlastic and synclastic sketch

Alternate imagery is sometimes helpful.

jewelry making anticlastic example


A saddle is anticlast as it curves in two opposing directions.

One curve goes ‘down’

One curve goes ‘up’

think of the long line as a curvature that follows the horses body, it would wrap around the horses ‘trunk’. The other, shorter, line creates a space for the riders bottom.

As an abstract – it can hold something from the top and from the bottom


Alternately, a synclast shape, in its basic form, only holds from one direction.

synclastic diagram for jewelry making


all of the curves move in the same direction.

either ‘up’

or if the bowl were flipped, all curves would move ‘down’

Don’t be fooled by imposters!

The following image is neither synclast or anticlast.

only one curve!

Why? Because there is only one curve.

To become anticlast, the two points on the straight line/plane would need to move down.

To become synclast, the two points on the straight line/plane would need to move up.

The Tools I Use


Stakes for Jewelry Tutorial Metalsmithing Raising


These are fairly simple stakes. The metal ones having only one curvature on each end. Typical sinusoidal stakes have a series of curves on one stake.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of variation in forming that can be done on these.

Stakes 1 and 2 are metal and would be used with a nylon or delrin hammer.

Stakes 3 and 4 are delrin and would be used with a metal hammer.

Never use a metal hammer on a metal stake as it would mar and pinch the metal too much.

A delrin hammer is not used on a delrin stake as both materials are going to ‘give’ a little and therefore the force of the hammer blow is going to be diffused too much. You will waste a lot of energy hammering for very little movement of metal.


jewelry raising hammers


Here I have two metal ‘raising’ hammers and one hammer that is made of delrin.

Technically, the metal hammers are sold as ‘bordering’ hammers. I have two because they have different sized heads.

Hammers used for raising typically have profiles longer than they are wide.

The other tool is a vise. I use a regular vise bolted to my workbench although alternatives could be a GRS system that has a holding mechanism or some stake sets may come with their own holder.

One problem that can occur  with a regular vise is slippage of the stake in the vise while hammering.

I combat that problem by making a hammock for my stakes. Basically it is a hanger made of brass sheet that overlaps the top of the vise jaws.

Here is how I make mine:

Estimate how much you need to hang over the top of the vise jaw. Place that much of the sheet of brass down into the vise. Bend and mallet down.

Remove sheet from vise and place stake at the bend. Mark the depth of your stake.

Bend that second line, bringing the first fold UP. Now you have a little ledge for your stake to sit on.

Bend again at the end of the stake, bringing the bottom ledge up the other side of the stake.

Next, mark a line at the top of the stake, while it is on the ledge.

You will fold DOWN, away from the stake at this line.

Now you have a little hammock for your stake. This will help give the stake something to rest on and keep it from moving down while you hammer!

I normally place this entire packet back into the vise, tighten the vise up, and mallet down the top edges. This confirms all the folds so they stay put.

You can also conform the top of the flaps to the top of your vise jaws.

When you take the ‘hammock’ out of the vise, trim and sand so you don’t inadvertently cut yourself!

Next time we’ll move on to the actual forming process!

Jul 152010

One of the most frequent techniques I receive questions for is raising. People are very curious about raised forms, perhaps because they have such dimension and movement.

Customers are fascinated by the shapes and the lightweight but solid feel of the shapes. Fellow jewelry artists light up for another reason – they want to know “HOW?” !

I explain a little to customers, just enough until I begin to see the deer in the headlights look, but my fellow artists like to know it ALL.

So, I thought I’d run through a series of posts outlining how I do it.  I always like to remember (and remind)  that there is more than one way to do things. When I share, it is what works for me, others may do things a little bit differently, or a LOTTA bit differently. That is A-OK. In fact, I think its great and I enjoy hearing how other people go about things.

Here are some raised forms, pieces, and samples.

The two types of raising I’ll talk about over the next few post are synclastic and anticlastic.

Synclastic raising forms the metal in one direction – think bowl.

Anticlastic raising forms the metal in two opposite directions – think saddle or pringle potato chip.

The next post I’ll show the tools I use, stakes, hammers, etc.  and then we’ll look at the actual forming process.