Nov 112012

Another topic that came up recently on the FB page had to do with shaping wire. Specifically someone was asking about marquise shapes. There was a lot of great discussion and there are MANY ways to do this, as with most things, there isn’t ONE right way. Also, different techniques work well for different wire types and intended outcomes – say the different between round wire to make a decorative shape and sheet to make a setting for a marquise stone.

This video shows just one way to go about shaping wire into a marquise.

 Posted by at 10:01 am
Nov 102012

We had a question come up the other day on the Network FB group page about drilling and controlling the drill as you go through the metal. Specifically, how do you keep from slamming through and damaging the piece you are working on. One way to avoid this is to stabilize your drill with your drilling hand. Please see the video for details:

 Posted by at 12:58 pm
May 032011

We all love to create. We all love to SHARE our creations with others. And why not? We work had and we’re proud of our work! Right?

After spending hours creating and more hours taking photos, nothing is worse than uploading them only to find out they are out of focus, or dark, or there is too much glare. It can be very discouraging!

After receiving many many questions about what camera I use and the set-up etc. I decided to condense into 5 areas that *I* think are the most important


Jewelry Artists Network Photography Tips

Those little dials help!

Seriously, this is number one. Its the main deal here folks. Get to know your camera. Read the manual or just experiment, but KNOW what the dials and buttons are for. Understand what they do and use that to your advantage.

General tips –

  • set the ISO at 100 or less
  • turn off the flash
  • use macro setting
  • adjust the exposure

And yes, the type of camera matters. I know many people get great photos with relatively inexpensive cameras, so you don’t have to spend a fortune for a camera like the Rebel. After going through many cameras, I finally have one that I love and it didn’t break the bank. I use a Panasonic Lumix. Its a point and shoot but itsa great camera with some really nice features for jewelry, like the macro-zoom. I thought macro was great, but macro-zoom takes it to a whole other level!


It does’t have to be expensive. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be store bought!

But it really can make a huge difference in your results.

Jewelry is a difficult shot because of the light reflection – it bounces off the metal and stones creating glare and out of focus shots. For crisp clear images – use a lightbox.

When I started I made a lightbox from a semi-transparent plastic tub. (ok, when I FIRST-FIRST began, I used a plastic gallon milk jug top cut off and the bottom cut out) Any semi-transparent container will diffuse the light. You can be more creative and use some sort of cloth over a makeshift frame or tissue paper (just be careful with your lights!! they can get hot!)

I now use this lightbox – it was inexpensive and I like that it folds flat. Space is an issue for me, so this works well. (the price has gone up but its still worth it!)


This deserves its own heading because I can’t over stress the importance of lighting. You need to understand your lighting. Whether you  use natural light streaming in from a window (or if you take your party outside) or artificial light – halogen, daylights, whatever. .. . the DIRECTION of your light, any GLARE, etc will impact your photos.

I like to use lighting coming from all angles to reduce shadows.

If you don’t have enough light sources, use mirrors. Set them outside of the shot, opposite a light and they will bounce light back in the opposite direction!


Many people don’t realize what a colossal effect different backgrounds have on images. Again, it has to do with how the light plays off it.  I find that matte backgrounds work best. I don’t have a preference for light OR dark backgrounds but I can tell you that alter my camera settings differently if I am shooting on black rather than white. (refer back to #1!)


It pays to do all you can to reduce movement of the camera.

Jewelry Artists Network Photography Tips

Use the timer! Your finger pushing down the button to trip the shutter WILL move the camera, and even the slightest movement will have an effect on your images.

Don’t hold your camera – use a tripod or set your camera on a box or stack of books. Anything to reduce movement.

And finally #6 (I know I said 5, but I can’t hold back here!)

My best tip is to use a notebook. TAKE NOTES. Any time you alter your set-up, document it. Then compare the images against the set up. See what works best for you.

If taking notes is too cumbersome – take a photo. That’s right! Take a photo! Each time you change something, back up and get a picture of the set-up. When you load your photos on the computer there will be a photo set-up image prior to the new pictures. Delete the ones that don’t work – save photos of the set-up that does. It will make duplicating awesome photos very easy!


So those are the 5 (ok, 6) things that I often talk to people about. Next time I’ll share some of my favorite backgrounds, the use of props, setting up for illusions (floating jewelry anyone?) and more. I won’t tell you which way to go, as I think different situations warrant different set ups. I’ll just show you how to go about it. Then you decide what suits your purposes. 🙂

What are your best photography tips?

Apr 262011

We all go through periods where we feel less than creative.

Typically we are either burned out or bored.

Some people have the luxury to wait it out.  But for others creation is part of their livelihood and waiting it out really isn’t an option.

So what to do?

Well, there may be a multitude of things that might work, however, we’ll present 10 that are tried and true according to our research and discussions in the forum.

10 Ways to (re)Charge Creativity

1GO FOR A WALK. Get out of your studio, change your scenery, let the different sights and sounds and smells help clear your head. By far this is the most often suggested solution.



Leave your studio and take ten minutes to read.

Many artists find that this focuses their thoughts to the point that when they return to the studio, they are able to direct their thoughts and energies towards creating.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:26 pm  Tagged with:
Oct 272010

I once heard someone say:

“Don’t want scratches on your metal? Then don’t put them there!”

I love that saying. And its really the number one tip, and the first place to start in a discussion of removing scratches from metal, or polishing/ finishing.

Don’t scratch it in the first place.

Store it carefully. And handle it carefully.

There are many different ways to store your metals, obviously some work better than others and not all suggestions will fit for all studios.

Do what works for you. Here are some popular ideas for storage.

Storing Metal Sheet

  • A small plastic filing box with hanging files
  • plastic ziploc bags (inexpensive and come in varying sizes)
  • wrap sheets in paper towels (or shop towels which are a bit sturdier)
  • use manila envelopes which can be clearly marked and can be folded over for sizing
  • cover it with layers of tin foil
  • or……………………. whatever else you can dream up that works for you to keep metal from rubbing on other metal or anything else for that matter.

Despite the best planning and your hard efforts though, chances are you will end up with some scratches. Whether during storage or during handling/crafting, you are going to need to figure out how to remove scratches. Even if you don’t want a mirror shine on your work, you don’t want scratches interfering with your design. You can either add scratches INTO your design, making them a part of a texture, or learn to remove them.

Handling the metal

Take care in how you handle your metal. Both while you are working on it and in between operations.

While working – Use nylon pliers, a ring clamp, or your hands when possible to hold metal. Place your piece on a cushioned surface such as an old fabric placemat, beaders mat,  folded dish towel, paper towel, or other soft surface. This protects the back from scratches as you work and they are easily moved around the studio and tucked away for storage. Just remember to shake them out well before each use.

In between operations – Keep small containers handy to place your piece in between studio sessions to prevent other items being placed on the piece or having it knocked on the floor. Some popular suggestions are altoids containers (place a paper towel or tissue inside), chinese take out containers, or stacked styrofoam trays from the grocery store (the ones meat, veggies, or fruit come in – just wash then well first!). Be creative and think of items you could recycle for this use.

BASICS on removing scratches

  1. Select an abrasive – This can be files, sandpapers, a flexshaft attachment.


  1. Select a grit – Most of the abrasives will come coarse to fine and are noted by ‘grit’, micron, or grade (coarse, medium, etc). Choose a grit that is only the coarsest needed to blend in with the scratch. You’re not technically removing the scratch, you’re removing the metal around the scratch. It may take practice determining what grit or tool to begin with, but don’t worry, if you go too coarse, its not the end of the world, it just means a little extra work getting THOSE scratches out.


  1. Move up in stages, going through finer grits, always ‘blending’ until your previous scratches are covered. It helps if you turn your work a half a turn each time you make a step to a finer grit/medium. This way you can look for the directional change in marks on your metal.


  1. Brace your work. It is tempting to hold your work in one hand ‘in the air’ and go at it with your other hand, but it is much more effective if you brace your work on a benchpin or other surface. This provides resistance which increases the impact of your efforts.

for removing scratches


Can be purchased from a hardware store, automotive store, or jewelry supply house. There is the typical sandpaper and then there is wet/dry sandpaper. Both serve a purpose and you may want to add both to your studio.

Rio Grande also sells ‘finishing paper’ which is a sanding paper charged on both sides and backed with a synthetic fiber – finishing papers are meant to last longer than traditional sandpapers. (IN GENERAL – the coarsest sandpapers I use is a 220 grit sandpaper and the finest is 4000 wet/dry. Before or after that another tool is probably a better choice)

Sandpapers can be used in the hand or on a stick. You don’t have to purchase sanding sticks (although that is convenient), you can make a sanding stick by wrapping sandpaper around a paint stir or for small jobs a popsicle stick and adhering with either glue or tape.


large, small, flat, half round, bastard, rifler, nail (YES, a nail file!). . . . the list of files can be overwhelming! When called for, with basic removal of scratches, I normally use a needle file or rifler file. and normally that is for small hard to reach places. For flat open areas of metal, I use sandpaper.

Flexshaft attachments

3m radial disks, abrasive wheels ( such as cratex or advantagedge), sanding bands, etc. There is an ever growing number of attachments for the flexshaft. Don’t run out and buy them all at once. If you can test them at a local studio, workshop, or with a friend, do that first! Find which ones match your equipment and style of work.

Finally –

Final polishing can also ‘blend’ surface scratches by burnishing. Polishing can be done with felt, cotton, muslin buffs . . . and every metalsmith seems to have their own preference for how polishing is done. These attachments can be used on a flexshaft or a polishing lathe. The buff is ‘charged’ with a polishing compound and the various polishing compounds all have different ‘grits’ and applications.

In Practice

Here is a small test piece that shows one progression.

This piece was fairly clean, soldered and pickled.

It then went straight to the 3m radial disks. It was worked through the 3m radial disks to pink and then put on a polishing lathe with either red rouge or ZAM. (sorry I can’t recall which!)

The final photo is straight from the lathe, in all of it’s polishing gunk glory.

All photos were taken directly on the bench during the process, between each disk and they are hopefully in order.

This is strictly as one example of what can be done, it is not suggestive of ‘the’ correct method or the ‘right’ way to do this.


Hand positions in photos may not be accurate as angles are often changed due to camera position.

* * *DISCLAIMER  * * * *

This was not originally intended to be anything more than some photos with an explanation of the specific process used for the photos. However, it grew and grew and could have grown more……… is not as in depth as it could be, there are many area that could have been explored further…..but we’re capping it for now and will revisit it in the near future – maybe focusing on polishing buffs and compounds. If you have any pressing questions or curiosities, please feel free to leave a comment! In addition, any well meant and well stated critiques or corrections are also welcomed! * * * * *

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