Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Coloring on Metal

Not long ago, I stumbled across the work of Deb Karash, who does amazing fabrication work and likes to color on metal.

Yeah. You heard me right. She colors. With colored pencils. On metal.

Are those not stunning? Seriously!

Now, you know that I love all things metal. And when a friend showed me a Deb Karash piece that she actually owns, I decided I had to start experimenting. And let me stress: THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT. (Before I begin, I have to apologize for showing you the gorgeousness above and then subjecting you to my poor little copper etched cow. It's what I had available to play with, left over from a recent etching class. Be kind.)

After reading a whole bunch of stuff on the interwebs (a lot of which was contradictory, I might add) I set out with a small copper etched cow, a bottle of gesso, a 24 pack of Prismacolor pencils, a heat gun, and a few assorted odds and ends.

Before pickling and cleaning.

After pickling and cleaning.
I cleaned her up really thoroughly and dried her off with a clean terry shop cloth.

Then I gave her several thin coats of gesso, drying each one with the heat gun.

Set the hot piece on a bench block, which will cool it rapidly. Use pliers!
After several coats of gesso, I lightly sanded her to expose the raised areas of the etched metal and to smooth out any bumps.

Prismacolors! Don't you just love this tin? 24 great colors to play with - reminds me of the first day of kindergarten!

And then, literally, I just colored her in.

I wasn't particularly neat, and I pressed really hard with the pencils. As you may be able to see in this photo, that left some little wax crumbs behind. I used a soft, firm brush to clean those little crumbs off.

Then, I heated her up with the heat gun again, just until the surface of the color started to look soft.

I also scorched my clean terry shop towel. Don't be like me. (Seriously. Those heat guns are HOT. At about this point of my experiment, I realized I probably should have been heating Bessie on a soldering brick or something fireproof. You know, other than cloth. Sheesh.)

I repeated this several times: color, clean off, heat with the heat gun. Between heatings, I let the piece sit for a few minutes on my bench block to cool off. I should probably tell you at this point that several of the instructions I read online involved baking the piece in a 275 oven for 10 minutes. Between every layer. After putting Krylon spray on it. (Did I mention that this was after every layer?) This is why Deb Karash is so awesome and I am not: I am not that patient. Heat gun. ::Insert Tim the Tool Man grunt here.::

Then, after about three layers of color and the final heating, I buffed the piece with a terry cloth towel....

... and then lightly sanded it back with a sanding sponge.

And then, because I am incapable of doing anything with metal that doesn't involve either enameling or patina baths, I dunked it in Novacan Black for 30 seconds, which darkened all the raised etched areas that were exposed in the final sanding.

Final step: REN WAX!!

So let me point out that, once again, I diverged from the instructions on the interwebs because I am impatient. The instructions were to put the final coat of Ren Wax on the piece, let it dry, then bake the piece in a 275 oven for 10 minutes.

I think you can guess what I did instead.

The Ren Wax flashes and gets very liquid in just a few seconds. Then, when I put the hot metal on the bench block, it cooled immediately and I was able to buff it without waiting.

Because waiting = bad.

Here's the finished little piece - not my usual style at all, but I think there's a lot of potential here. I'm no Deb Karash (obviously) but I think with some further experimentation, this is a process that has a lot of promise for some of the mixed media work I'm fascinated by these days.

So what do you think? Worth some additional effort??

Until next time -

Serious note: heating wax and metal usually results in noxious fumes, most of which are really bad for you. Some of what I am suggesting here may not even be safe - I was experimenting, and I have a lot more research to do. If you decide to try this yourself, make sure you're working in a well-ventilated area and wear a respirator. I wear one in my studio whenever I solder or enamel, and I should absolutely have worn one when I was doing this experiment. Don't be like me.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Going out of my comfort zone part 1

Hey there friends.  Last week I posted a question on the AJE Facebook page about whether or not you continue to work through a color palette you are not quite sure of.  Most of you said that you push through and some times set it aside for a while then come back to it.

I did not have the luxury of putting this one aside as it has a deadline.  So I thought I would share the whole process with you to see what you think.  These are colors I have worked with before but not together so it is a totally scary process for me.

Here is where it began...

I have that really pretty sunset color!
Yes that is our Component of the Month courtesy of Diana.  I had a plan in mind as soon as I saw this one in person.  So I searched color palettes on Design Seeds Blog (by the way if you ever need a palette this is the go to place to find a perfect one.) and picked this one.

Here is the color palette...

Here are the colors I chose from the palette....

So I set off to work.  This color range is not what I am used to working with together.  I had a specific pattern in mind from Jill Wiseman's Beautiful Beaded Ropes book because of my thought process for this necklace. 

Here is what the first layer looked like....

Humm still very very unsure.  This necklace will either be an epic win or epic fail.  I am thinking it is wayyyyyyy  too much turquoise (I really have never said that) so I pressed on.

Here is the second layer....

Still worried but I continue to press on.

Here is the third layer........

 Okay so this is as far as I am going to show you today because part 2 will be on Wednesday on my blog.  Your opinions are greatly appreciated!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Carving Rubber Stamps

Back on the 18th, I took a trip to CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Somerset, NJ with my friend Linda.  I signed up for a stamp carving class and Linda took a jewelry workshop.  I wanted to learn stamp carving with the hope that I could somehow transfer the skill to my beads and pottery.
The first thing Julie (our teacher) had us do was carve a heart.  She gave us some tips and tricks for carving curved lines.  My heart turned out okay.  I wasn't super impressed by myself but then again, it was the first stamp I had carved in a few years.

We had a full class of 24-25 students and I was the ONLY jewelry person in the bunch.  

I realized after carving the jellyfish stamp in class, that these would not be deep enough to press into the clay.  However, he would look really cute on my "thank you" tags that I send with my orders.

As you can see in the photo above, I've been playing around with some other designs.  Stamp carving is VERY addictive.

AJE contributer Karen Totten, suggested I take my carving skills and carve some stamps out of clay and bisque-fire them.  Why didn't I think of that?!? They'll be deeper and then I can press them directly into the wet clay. I'm also planning to carve more rubber stamps and then turn the prints into decals which can be fired on to my pendants.

The wheels are turning!  I feel inspired again and that makes this workshop worth every penny.

Diana P.
Suburban Girl Studio LLC

Saturday, July 27, 2013

August Component of the Month...Melismatic Molten Morsels!

Good morning, and Happy Saturday, all you faithful Art Jewelry Elements readers! I hope you are having a fabulous summer day in your respective time zones!  It is hard to believe that we are only a few days from August!  In only a few short weeks, many of us will be sending the kids back out the door to start a new school year...yikes!  I am about to have a 12 year old in the 7th grade, and it is blowing my mind, just how quickly he got there.

Since I am relatively new to creating jewelry components, I was excited to be able to sign up and offer a Component of the Month.  It took a while to figure out what exactly to offer, but finally decided on some of my Molten Morsels!  These mixed metal pieces are inspired by workshops I have taken with Stephanie Lee, Deryn Mentock, and Richard Salley...they incorporate copper sheet, in this case, layered with molten soft solder and embellished with brass elements. I was drawn to this style and use of soft solder from the very first try.   I love the vintage, or even ancient feel to them.  I can't wait to see what the team here at AJE will create with them.

Sorry for the yucky photos...these suckers are hard to get just right, and the brass reflects off the silver metal.  These have a light antiqued patina on them, but there so many other possibilities...I personally am going to be trying some Vintaj patinas I have stashed away!

Would you like to be a part of the August design team?  It is easy! 

Here's how the giveaway, challenge, and blog-hop will work (please read all the information carefully!)...
  • I will give away 1 component to each of 3 winners selected randomly from those who leave comments below this post by midnight,  Wednesday eastern time. I'll choose the morsel and add connector holes, so you'll be surprised!
  • Please include your EMAIL address in your comment so that I can contact you ASAP should you win.
  • Please (PLEASE) only leave a comment if you can commit to creating a finished piece and blogging about it on the reveal date.
  • The names of the 3 winners will be announced on Thursday, August 1, 2013.
  • The blog reveal will be on Saturday morning, August 31, 2013.
Good luck!  Oh, and be sure to come see the creations by the team and guests for the July components...that reveal is Wednesday, July 31! I can't wait!

Melissa Meman
Melismatic Art Jewelry
Art. Life. Love.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Folklore Friday: Ancient Egyptian amulets

Collection of amulets, Senckenberg, Naturmuseum, Frankfurt, Germany.


From Merriam-Webster: : a charm (as an ornament) often inscribed with a magic incantation or symbol to aid the wearer or protect against evil (as disease or witchcraft)
And while that definition may sound a bit Medieval - I think the definition infers that a piece have meaning and believed power/symbolism to be seen as an amulet. And when I think amulets - I think Egypt. Since I decided to do this series of posts, I have been reading and researching - and having great fun... I look forward to sharing it with you. 

Warning: I have been fascinated with Ancient Egypt my whole life. Well, specifically since I was 8. When the monumental exhibit of Tutankhamen's tomb goods was in DC at the National Gallery. ( No, my parents did not take me, and yes, I begged. Scarred for life? maybe a little...) A secondary degree in Art History and supplemental study on my own... clearly this interest wasn't a passing fancy. So let me start with the more iconic symbols... 

In Ancient Egypt, amulets were worn by the living... and the dead. Worn as necklaces, placed in a mummy's wrappings, they were a unifying element across the levels of society - from the common folk to the nobles, to the divine royalty. Certain symbols were used by both living and dead; others had specific funerary purposes. Their recorded use dates back to app 3100 BCE, 1000 years prior to the first Egyptian Dynasty. Most frequently worn for protection, some were fertility amulets, others invoked certain deities and their attributes. ( More on that later)

Materials - 

 Clay, faience, shell, gemstone, gold, glass, bone, ivory to name a few. Cost was a factor in materials - of course - but so was symbolism. Colors help great symbolic meaning to the Ancient Egyptians. For example, lapis imported from Afghanistan was very precious, and expensive. The deep blue represented both the heavens ( the gods, life, rebirth) and also the primordial Nile flood (life, fertility, rebirth). Gold, plentiful in Egypt was seen as the sun;  un-tarnishing, unaffected by time it represented the immortal, the divine. 

Images from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Ankh  - life, immortality, rebirth, reincarnation

The Egyptians believed fundamentally in an Afterlife. Hence the tombs containing all the items needed to live on in the way to which you were accustomed. The ankh appears everywhere in Egyptian art. Worn as an amulet it would also confer health and strength to the wearer. 

The shape can be said to reference a sandal strap - top oval around your ankle, long tail down between your toes... It is also seen as a reference to the Nile. The top representing the Delta, the length being the Nile itself, and the 2 side arms representing the annual flooding of the river. This flood deposited rich silt, creating arable land on either side of the banks. This truly represented the life of the ancient people in that desert climate. 

Images from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Scarab  - sun, resurrection, transformation, protection

The dung beetle, common in the region and highly symbolic. The beetle lays its eggs in a ball of clay or dung and then rolls it off, burying it. This was a direct metaphor of the sun, rolled across the sky, to disappear, and magically reappear the following day. As the sun god Ra was chief among the Ancient Egyptian deities - the scarab was an important symbol. 

Worn as an amulet it brought health, strength. and virility. A scarab amulet was placed at the heart of a mummy; the heart being the seat of all thought, emotion, intellect... 

Photo credits: 1 & 4 - British Museum, 2 - Bader Ancient Art 3 - Williams College 

The wedjat or Eye of Horus - protection from evil, healing, restoration, protection, sacrifice

The wedjat eye is perhaps the best known of all Egyptian protective amulets. The drop and spiral below the eye imitate the markings on a lanner falcon, the bird associated with the god Horus. The name wedjat means 'the sound one', referring to the lunar left eye of Horus that was plucked out by his rival Seth during their conflict over the throne. The restoration of the eye is variously attributed to Thoth, Hathor or Isis. The injury to the eye and its subsequent healing were believed to be reflected in the waxing and waning of the moon.
The first use of the wedjat eye as an amulet was whenHorus offered it to Osiris. It was so powerful that it restored him to life. The regenerative and protective powers of the amulet meant that it was placed among the wrappings of mummies in great numbers. It could even replace food offerings in rituals. It first appeared in the late Old Kingdom and was used until mummification was no longer practised, in the Roman Period (30 BC - AD 395)
Amulets were made from many different materials, but blue or green faience was the most common, as these colours symbolized regeneration to the ancient Egyptian. The wedjat eye was also worn by the living. Faience factories have been found at Tell el-Amarna, where rings with wedjat eye bezels were very popular among the inhabitants.

(Who am I to paraphrase the British Museum?!  I normally write my own entries, but that was too succinct to pass up. The Isis and Osiris myth is a powerful one. Love, treachery, deceit, a quest, magic - and a great insight into Egyptian beliefs on life, resurrection, rebirth. Read it here if you are interested. 

Thank you for staying with me until the end! I hope there was something interesting there for you - I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Stay tuned in 2 weeks - a few more obscure symbols and how they translate into pieces I am making - making and making... as the Beadfest clock counts down! 



Wednesday, July 24, 2013


My initial idea was to put one of those clever dictionary definitions of the word Ombre,


 noun \ˈäm-bər; ˈäm-brē, ˈəm-, -ˌbrā\

While I can find the pronunciation I can't find the proper definition for my reference.
 But there is Ombre fabric and these days even more common Ombre hair
 and I'm showing you Ombre beads.

My definition is one color/tone softly transitioning in to another,
 often but not always in the same color.
The word "ombre" in French means shadow or shade.
I've been playing with Ombre in my most recent polymer clay work.
Here are some of my Ombre Barrels.

Purples/Reds and Oranges with Gold tones over the top.

Shades of purple.

Color variation here, Raspberry, Ivory and Silver/Gray.

These are a lot of fun to make I just stack the colors
and use my thumb to gently pull the color across both ways then I add texture.
 I think they are very cool!!

Here are some more beautiful Ombre Pieces to inspire you!

Bronze Heart Pendant by TheaElements

A gorgeous example of Ombre on this Bronze Heart Pendant by Lesley Watt!


These lovely Earrings by Melissa Meman have a very subtle and beautiful Ombre effect.

Recycled Sari silk is often Ombre, like this Emerald Berry Bundle from JMozart

The Ombre in this bead happens from one bead to the next.
Love these little Ceramic Color Shift Beads by Slate Studios Supply.

Super cool painted beach pebbles.
Ombre Blue Dots by Plymouth Rocks!

I hope you enjoyed my tour of Ombre as much as I did!
Thanks for joining us!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Little Finds and Studio Cleanup

When we have time, my boyfriend and I like to peruse antique stores and outdoor markets.  I don't always have an idea in mind for what I want, but I always look at the old jewelry.  Most of it is junk, but sometimes I find something that I wish I would have purchased! 

Here are some little finds that I did purchase recently.

 These little pendants are made from what I am assuming are antique or very old cards.  At least they look that way?  They could be reproductions, but whatever, I like them!

 These are some buttons I picked up at the Hannahstown antique market.  I'm sure they aren't old, either, but I really liked them.  I thought of using them for polymer clay stamps, but not sure if they would work well or not.  We shall see!

I also promised you some photos of my studio cleanup!  Here's a photo of my work bench, before I started making beads after cleanup!   Very clean!  Doesn't look like that now!

What little things have you found in antique stores or markets that you use to make jewelry?  If you want, send me some photos and I'll show them off in my next AJE post!  Send your photos to sue(at)suebeads(dot)com.