Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sandblasting ceramics

A few months ago, I bought a great little kit from my lamp work suppliers for sandblasting. It was sold for working with glass, but I wanted to try it with ceramic. I’ve had an idea in mind for a range of relic beads. Beads that look like they’ve been lying in the ground for years and been recently discovered by archaeologists. Beads like these!

GREEK-SCYTHIAN, c. 300-100 BC, lot of 1 stone & 4 clay beads, 18-24mm dia., from Bazera

This is the kit. You get a blow up sandblasting booth, a compressor and hosing, and an airbrush type gun. To create the weathered look, you use the abrasive powder, (also supplied in the kit) to blast the glaze from your work. 

For safety, you also get a dust mask. This is a messy process with the abrasive powder ending up everywhere, so it’s an outside job!

I’m still at the experimenting stage with all this, but so far, I’m loving the effects I can get. 

This Goddess bead was made from earthenware clay and fired with a variegated green glaze. She was the refired with 24 carat gold lustre before going in to the booth for blasting. The majority of the gold was removed during the process, but you can see hints of it in the deep crevices giving her a worn appearance.

I really like that with the softer earthenware clay, you can blast right through the surface to the clay below exposing the bare material. You can half imagine that these scuffs have appeared from years of being worn as an amulet around an ancient warrior queens neck as she went in to battle!  I’m looking forward to making more of these and trying out some different designs!

These next beads were glazed in matt turquoise  and shades of blue before being blasted in the booth. Again, you can see the porous clay beneath. These could have been lost at sea, being tumbled by the waves over centuries before finally washing up on the beach!

For my next experiment, I tried working with porcelain clay. This is much harder to blast, just getting through the glaze takes a good 10 minutes of work, so I decided to try a more etched effect. I made some hollow porcelain lentils and created a digital design of a dreamcatcher, which I then cut in vinyl to create a resist for the sandblasting. The vinyl stickers were placed on the glazed bead and then went in to the booth. The blasting created a much softer effect and etched where the glaze was exposed, leaving the design shiny. The lentils were teamed up with some porcelain feathers to make dreamcatcher sets.

With orders and preparing for shows, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to explore more of the effects I can get with this technique, but I’m really enjoying experimenting, and am excited to see where this takes my work! I hope you enjoyed reading along!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spiral Play - Part 2

I know it has been a while since I posted part 1 of playing with spiral rope with seed beads.  I have been trying to find the inspiration piece with my new organization while still getting ready for my daughter to move back home and taking care of the normal day to day stuff.  Throw in some sickness and a holiday and here we are almost 2 months later.  If you missed part 1 you can find it here.

So one of the things that the girls on the team wanted to know is how to add art beads to a spiral rope.  I do not claim that this is THE way only that it is my way and seems to work best for me. 

First I have to tell you when I found this gorgeous set of stoneware beads by Diana of Suburban Girl Beads.  I just love Diana's stoneware beads they remind me of sand.  I know that may sound strange to some but I love beach sand.  I love the texture, warmth and the colors of it when the sun shines down.  I do not get to the beach often enough so these take me there.

Second I took the information that Jennifer shared on this post and used my phone to take all these pictures.  I would really like your opinion on how they show for you.
I started with this gorgeous set of Diana's beads and the colors of seeds that matched. Now some art beads have larger holes that seedies can sometimes slip through so for the core I choose size 8/0 seeds.  If the hole is really large choose either a 6/0 seed or use a bead spacer to keep the beads from slipping through.

Start your spiral rope and when you want to add the bead do so and add the next section of seeds like you were starting the rope from the beginning.

After you loop the beads and come back out of your core instead of starting the next round you will go back down through the spiral beads and through the art bead.  This is to reinforce the thread path because one thread through the art bead could lead to a breakage.

When you added the art bead you came out of the core.  When I am going back through the art bead I go through the spiral beads to center the art bead better.

And then of course now you will go through all the core beads, through the art bead and then the core beads on the opposite side then continue your spiral. 

This is how mine looks.  I will get a better picture after I clasp it.

So that is how it works for me.  If you give it a try please show me I would love to see what you do with it.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dysfunctional Studio Tour

I've been "living" in my new Roadhouse Arts studio space for almost four months now, and while there's a lot that I really love about it, there are also some things that aren't working for me.

My little admin area needs to be reworked. I spent a huge chunk of the day yesterday working through the paperwork that had accumulated, both for my own business and the Roadhouse side of things, and everything is caught up. While that makes me happy, I think the backlog started because the workflow wasn't well-organized to begin with.


I have two file boxes now, and the segregation of things will help. The smaller one contains the stuff I get into more frequently; the larger one is longer-term. But I still don't have the right space to stash either of them - my camera bag and equipment is taking up two entire cubbies in my wall unit. And I don't like the nest of cables and power strips on top of the desk. I just ordered this remote switch and I'm hoping it will solve the problem while still allowing me to turn lights on and off without having to crawl under my desk.

My metals and fabrication area would benefit from a little tweaking. I have an Ikea kitchen island set up for sawing and soldering, so I can see things close up without having to bend over or wear my magnifiers.  The problem is that most of the great storage the unit includes (two metal shelves) is pushed up against the wall so I can't get to it.


I also have two old science tables pushed back-to-back that are supposed to be for layout, design and fabrication work, but as you can see from the photo, they wind up being a collection area for all manner of flotsam and jetsam that have little to do with current projects.


I had convinced myself that rolling my chair between the two stations would be fine, but the truth is that the floors in this old building are so unlevel that "rolling" is an exercise in frustration. This also makes pulling the island unit out to get at the long-term storage a serious pain in the neck, because everything (and I mean every.single.thing) has to be shimmed to within an inch of its life in order to avoid punches, beads, wire and any other curved or roll-ey thing from just making a run for it the moment it gets set down.


And then there's my kiln and glass area, which just sort of squat in the corner taking up a bunch of room. I don't think it's an efficient use of space, but I'm kind of stuck because that's where I had the dedicated plug installed for the kiln. And I don't think I'm making the best use of the space along the one main wall.

I'm considering a pretty significant reorganization that includes separating the two science tables and using one to create an "L" shape with the island sticking out into the space. This would put the storage shelves on the island facing my admin area, where I could use the extra storage. The other science table would go where the island was and be primarily for mixed media work. (That's a subject for another post. "Living" with mixed media artists is starting to mess with my head, I tell you!!) I could also use it for larger project layouts, when I have multiple or complex pieces going.

So... any suggestions? I'm really open to any and everything - the space just isn't working well, and it's not because I don't have enough to work with. Let me know what you think and I'll update you in a future post.

Until next time -

Monday, April 21, 2014

One of the Deadly Sins

Maybe the title is a bit overdramatic. This particular sin isn't deadly. Unless there's some kind of a freak accident thing. Technically it isn't a sin either. Except maybe to glassworkers. And the jewelry maker who commits this particular sin.

I know you're probably yelling at your computer (because maybe I'll hear it?) to just spill it already. What IS this "deadly sin"?

The answer: using a flame on or near your lampwork glass beads. In particular, I was thinking about designers wanting to heat patina lampwork glass headpins. However, this rule applies to any glass on any metal. Your beautiful glass headpin or bead WILL crack. Guaranteed.

This photo is an example of a thermal crack from allowing the bead to cool too much while working on it, then putting it back into the flame:

I really love all our readers. But I'm not sacrificing one of my headpins to show you what happens if you take a perfectly annealed headpin/bead and try to heat patina the wire it's seated on. You will have to take my word for it. Or I suppose you could try to prove to yourself that it's true. I just don't recommend it. 

Newest headpins. Really love the pop of bright color during this really cold snowy winter. #lampwork #glassaddictions #thisartistslife
Perfectly annealed and un-cracked glass headpins.

It's super simple to avoid. But oh so tempting to try-especially when you want that beautiful flame patina on copper or bronze. Don't give into the temptation or you will cry. And probably swear. A lot.

-Jen Cameron
Glass Addictions

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Little Easter Tour

When I think of Easter, I think of warm Spring weather, new growth, fresh pastel colors, and signs of Earth's re-birth. I thought I'd do a little visual tour of artisan jewelry and bead goodness that remind me of today's Easter.

These lovelies are by Leslie Watt of Thea Elements. I just want to dive in! And hey... do you notice something interesting about one of these photos? If you do, post the answer in a comment below!

Nellie Thomas has several yummy spring colors in her shop WoolyWire Etc., and is currently running a Spring sale for 25% off. 

Here are some lovely beads by Genea Crivello-Knable of Genea Beads. By the way, she is having an Easter / Spring sale starting on Monday.

Next is lovely Spring jewelry by Linda Landig of Linda Landig Jewelry. I especially love the bunny bracelet. She looks very content in her little garden of beads. :)

Rebekah Payne of Tree Wing Studio is having a Spring Clearance sale several of her beautiful polymer beads.

She has also introduced this new color, which I love! Really puts one in the mood for Spring.

Diana Ptaszynski of Suburban Girl Beads has these sweet pastel colored ceramic beads in her shop.

Jenny Davies-Reazor has some cute spring critter beads, like these two examples ...

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour. Have a lovely week. :) 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Share - Playing with Precious Metal Clay

If someone asked me to choose one new jewelry medium to learn, no matter what the expense, it would be a toss up, I think between lampworking and precious metal clay...both require extensive tools, kilns, materials.  Since I torch-fire enamel,  I happen to have some of the supplies needed for lampwork...torch, mandrels, glass rods, but no kiln.  I took a class ages ago and pick a glass rod up occasionally when I am sitting at my enameling station and make the odd bead here and there.  But since I have no kiln, it really isn't feasible for me to invest much time in that.

I figured precious metal clay would be out of the question as well, but, lo and behold I discovered PMC3, which can be cured with a kiln!

I wanted to try it, but it took some gumption!  This stuff is not cheap.  I finally dove in after getting a newsletter from a site that was offering a free texture sheet with any purchase.  I splurged on a 16g package..not the smallest, but definitely not a huge amount!

The meager contents - 16g
After receiving it and before playing, I watched a few You Tube videos to make sure I had the rules down...keep your clay well covered so that it doesn't dry out, make sure to keep all your tiny scraps. So, I got all my stuff together, made do with what I didn't have and held my breath!

I chose a small mold I had made for my polymer clay and made 2 small pieces.  Boy, this stuff is sticky...I know there is a special cream to keep it from sticking to your hands....if I keep at it, I will have to get some.  I used just a tad of olive oil like the videos suggested.  I went ahead and put small holes in the pieces, them left them to dry.

Here they are all dried is the time to sand them or clean them up in any way.

Since these pieces were small, they didn't take very long to sinter at all.  The binder burns off really quickly, then you need to hold the piece at a glowing pink, but not glassy, for about 2 minutes.  After that, quench in cold water.  The pieces will be a matte, white color at this point, but after buffing/polishing with a brass brush, this is what you will get:

 Bright and Shiny!

I thought they turned out great, so I decided to make some more!  Using some more molds I bought for polymer clay, and did small layered pieces.  

After drying and about to be torched!

All cleaned up and patina'ed!
After the patina, I put them in the tumbler for about an hour, which really softened the edges a bit and and enhanced the design.

These 4 pieces took about 2/3 of that chunk of clay shown earlier, so that amount is just enough for someone to decide it really isn't the medium for them, or really open new doors for a designer.  In my case, I was really happy with how these turned out and want to buy more clay so I can play some more, at least until something new catches my fancy!

Go play!

Melissa Meman

Friday, April 18, 2014

Freeform Friday: Skeletons in the (bead) closet...

 Now - we all love beads.
Seed beads. Czech glass. Gemstones. Artisan beads. Polymer, ceramic, lamp work... Metal, Bali, Hill tribe... bicones, super duos, magatamas... lentils, daggers, rondelles, briolettes... Sorry I got lost there for a sec. But I know you are with me.

These last 2 weeks have been a flurry of productive time for me - getting ready for Spring festivals and shows. And as such I have been in the clay cave (basement ceramics studio, you know) for much of the time. Once tiles and pendants are glazed I can create new wearable pieces in clay, gems and polymer.

What's your point, Jenny? Oh - well... I have nothing really unique and new to show you from the jewelry studio - yet. But I do have a few skeletons that I recently uncovered, and thought I would share.
Zoey guards the entrance to the Studio Closet of Doom

Ah! The Chaos! The treasure! The perils that await our intrepid explorer! 

Spiral rope in 2 pieces. That's NOT supposed to happen. St. Petersburg stitch? chain? (w/ blue teardrops) app 3".
Tubular/circular peyote. Yes, that is a taped together toilet roll. Ha. I wanted to make amulet bags. Still do, actually. 
Here we have unearthed evidence of my love-hate relationship with seed beads.  While I am currently loving seed beads, these false starts are at least 10 years old. And yes - I had them packaged with their ingredients, like space explorers in cryogenic chambers. Just chilling, waiting to be revived. 

 Egads! A relic from the past! The tins that used to arrive via post with a CD inside for AOL. Whoa. That places this artifact in the popular culture timeline. What's inside?!

Why its more seed beads! A blue and silver peyote soup in progress as a bracelet. Not very old - as it includes a stoneware cab made within the last 4 years. Was I planning on stitching a bezel onto the bracelet? We may never know. And on the right - I don't even know what stitch that was GOING to be! Its a lovely raku leaf pendant from a mother/daughter team based in Washington state. We carried their pieces at the Shepherdess ( San Diego, CA) when I worked there  - like 12 years ago! 

Speaking of the Shepherdess/San Diego years... this wasn't really hidden as I go to this tray often. When I worked at the Shepherdess I was the lowest bead girl on the totem pole. I spent many, many days tubing seed beads. After I punched in I would be handed a tray with half a dozen gram bags... of beads. To tube. Scoop, scoop, tap, scoop, lid, hammer. Repeat. The left overs were bagged and sold on the cheap. Yes, I personally felt compelled to adopt many, many bags of orphaned 11's, delicas, 8's... I do still use them in pieces today.

And now - a little bead confessional:

1. Vintage/antique crystals from necklaces I took apart to repurpose. I was in my teens. Still have these in my stash. 
2. Bells. While I wasn't hippy enough as a teen to wear bell anklets, I love these bells, man. 
3. Hand painted beads fro Peru. I think I was in high school when my older sister travelled to Chile and Peru. These aren't my style any more, but I still have them.... 

What skeletons are in your closet?

What projects are buried treasure waiting to be rediscovered and reworked? 

What tools or materials did you purchase with good intentions and lofty creative plans - that have  languished in solitude? 

I myself will definitely revisit the peyote in the round. Peyote stitch is the one stitch I feel comfortable doing... and I would love to make amulet bags with a wee ceramic icon or charm tucked inside. Maybe I will look at the St. Petersburg (?) again; I like the drops on the edges, and I have seed beads friends now! Thankfully Kristen has done a AJE tutorial on spiral rope so if THAT urge flares up I can tend to it... 

Please share your skeletons with me! I don't want to be lost and alone amidst the abandoned projects...