Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Component of the Month Reveal

Hi and welcome to the February Component of the Month Challenge/Blog Hop! I had the honor of providing the components for this month, and I chose to create metal clay pieces. After getting a kiln last year, I have been playing with copper and white copper metal clay and am really loving it. For this COM, I decided to carve a rubber stamp and used it as a starting point for all the pieces. It all started with this drawing...

As much as I loved the dots around the design, the carving tool wouldn't really work for them. For the metal clay pieces with extra holes, I used a drill bit while the clay was leather dry.

I hope you will go and show some love to those who have created designs using them!
Here are the participants.

Guest Participants:

Michelle Mach
Patty Miller
Divya N

AJE team:

Jenny Davies-Reazor
Susan Kennedy
Melissa Meman
Rebekah Payne
Lindsay Starr
Kristen Stevens
Francesca Watson
Lesley Watt

Friday, February 27, 2015

AJE COM Theme: March Hares

The *new* AJE Theme challenge!
A variation on our Component of the Month feature!

1. A. Durer - Young hare, watercolor, 1502.  2. Lepus Leporidae   3. B. Flanagan - Leaping Hare, 1982 bronze
 4. M. Ohara - Ivory netsuke, mid 19th century
You, our loyal readers, know us. You know that we are constantly evolving, creating, discussing and challenging ourselves. This year the team decided to initiate four themed challenges, loosely aligned with the seasons. We wanted to offer a creative challenge that was broader in scope, drawing in bead makers, component makers, as well as designers/jewelry makers.

The theme for Spring 2015 is the Hare. 

We are creating hares in our respective mediums - from clay to metal, polymer to resin. We invite you to join us: create a bead, a pendant, a finished piece of jewelry. It may be whimsical, naturalistic, or abstract. Just hop to it. (Details on entry/participation at end of post.)

I selected the hare, as its my totem animal of sorts. In myths the world over the hare is associated with fertility, creativity and rebirth. I wanted to share a few stories here, and I will delve deeper into the myth and symbolism on my own blog throughout the month. I am continually inspired by these legends, myths and lore!

Now it IS March... "Mad as a March hare" comes to mind. This is a British idiom, referencing the antics of hares in their Spring breeding season. They are often seen "boxing" as a courtship display. The March Hare is commonly known from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland".

Image credits: 1. Boxing hares 2. Boxing hares 3. Tenniel illustration from Alice in Wonderland
4. Cheeky hare by  Simon Litten
There are many pre-Christian goddesses associated with hares and springtime, including Kaltes, Freyja and Eostre, the namesake of Easter.  Spring is a time of rebirth and fertility, so the connection with rabbits is clear, and was maintained via the Easter Bunny.
Antique Easter postcard, the Germanic goddess Eostre, an antique chocolate mold. 

The Asian folktales and myths offer a wide range of hares, most often associated with the moon. In China the hare is the consort of moon goddess Chang-O, and grinds the elixir of immortality in a mortar in pestle. In Japan - he's making mochi! The hare is seen in the craters on the moon's surface, forging a tangible link between myth and reality.
1. Lunar rabbit netsuke by Eilchi, late 19th cen. 2 & 3.  Lunar hare in the moon diagram and noren 4. Ivory netsuke  5. Embroidery, Chinese Imperial robes, 18th century

Here is what the team has been up to: (I'll let the pictures do the talking!)

Rebekah's trio - arctic hare, hare, and jackalope! Melissa's molten morsels in progress. 

Caroline's stunning silhouettes in raku. 

Karen has work in progress! Available soon - complete with the iconic spiral of life stamped on these totem beads. 

Lesley has etched, and soldiers, and cast and fired... 

Lesley is glazing these beauties now! Niky, although new to the team, has jumped in, sawing these  pieces/WIP.  

My own old and new: casting a 3d detailed hare, my hare and lunar hare ceramic pendants . 

The *new* theme challenge details:


1. Giveaway - This theme challenge DOES include a giveaway! ( This will vary each time.) 
I will be giving away one hare and one lunar hare pendant - winners selected randomly from comments on this post. 
  • Winners selected Sunday March 1.
  • You must have an active blog. 
  • Email and blog address requested in comments. 

2. Goal - Have fun! Try something different! Hop to it! Be inspired by the creative nature of the hare! Make something that fits within this theme. This can be an artist bead, a component, or a finished piece of jewelry.    

       *You are free to use any artist bead/component in your design -
  • from an AJE team member 
  • of your own creation
  • from another artisan bead maker... 

3. Share/Reveal - Reveal date March 31st! 
If you would like to be included in the blog reveal at month's end, please email Jenny at jen.davies.reazor (at) Since this is open to all, this is the most efficient way to be included. Emails need to be received by March 29th  to be included. 

Rabbit manju


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reprise - Flower Tendril Earring Tutorial

\I don't know about you but I've had enough of winter for this year and I'm eager for spring to arrive. There don't seem to be many early flowers making an appearance yet - I've seen one lonely daffodil but not much else so to brighten things up I thought I'd reprise my tutorial for these flower tendril earrings...a quick an easy way to get yourself ready for a new season.

To make these you will need two 8" lengths of 19/20 gauge wire, 2 flower beads or similar flat disc beads with reasonably small holes and 1 pair of ear wires. You'll also need a hand torch, wire cutters,  round and needle nose pliers, looping pliers or other round tool and a file.

Please excuse the state of my hands in these photos - much neglected at the best of times and not helped by my thumb having a mishap with a door hinge at the weekend!

Step 1
Using the hand torch ball up the ends of the wires so that they won't pass through the holes in the beads. You can find a tutorial for doing this here. This should also soften the wire and make it easier to bend. I've left the fire stain on the wire but you can clean them up at this point if you want to.

Step 2
Pass a wire through the a bead from front to back and with your thumb on the ball at the front bend the wire up and press gently against the back of the bead.

Step 3
Where the wire comes out of the back of the bead bend it into a loop using looping pliers, mandrel  or a round object like a sharpie marker.

The loop should be visible above the top of the bead.

Step 4
Take the end of the wire and pass it between the bead and the loop over the wire where it comes through the bead then gently pull it down to form a vertical tail. Keeping your thumb pressed at the point where the 2 wires meet while wrapping will help ensure the wire is snug.

Step 5
Trim the excess wire to 2 1/2 to 3 inches from the bead centre, file the end flat and remove any burrs.

Step 6
Using round nosed pliers make a turned loop at the bottom of the wire and then continue winding the wire up the pliers towards the jaws until you get to the bottom of the bead.

Step 7
Remove the round nose pliers and you will have a graduated coil. Use the needle nose pliers to bend the coil down so it sits vertically beneath the bead and loop.

Step 8
Insert the needle nose pliers into the loop at the bottom of the coil and grip the wire. Holding the bead and loop between forefinger and thumb to avoid stressing the bead, pull firmly but gently on the wire. The coil may open up nearest the bead at first and which point it may help to hold the wire there while pulling further on the lower end. Close up the loops at the bottom of the tendrils and file/polish out any tool marks.

Step 9
Repeat steps 1 to 8 to make the second earring and then use your pliers to gently adjust the coils to roughly match if necessary.

Step 10
Add your ear wires and treat with any desired patina and there you have your finished earrings!

All the beads used in the earrings shown here are from Mermaid Glass.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and feel inspired to try it yourself.


The Gossiping Goddess

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tutorial Buying Tips Someone Should Have Shared With Me

Can we talk? (I loved the late Joan Rivers.)  It happens to all of us. You start a new craft and you want to buy anything and everything that is pretty, and you do. Then you get your awaited purchase and......

Yep you either didn't look at the pattern close enough or didn't read the list of materials needed and you are left just staring at your new awesome tutorial and no way to make it.

So today I am going to share with you a few tips I learned so that you don't feel you wasted your money or you have to do even more shopping.

I am going to use one of my absolute favorite designers Nancy Dale as my example for you. And this is the tutorial I will be referring to during this post.

Now that you have found a tutorial you really really love it is time to take a breath and read the listing. Nancy always put a description of the materials she uses in each listing, So many times I have just hit the "add to cart" without reading this and found out that I have needed some obscure bead or an insane amount of beads I do not have and what happens the tutorial sits often forgotten about.
Techniques used include right angle weave and picots, and bezeling a chaton. This tutorial is suitable for intermediate beaders, I wouldn't recommend it as a beginning project. Materials needed for these include size 11 and size 15 seed beads, 2mm pearls, 29SS 6mm chaton crystals, 4mm bicones, 2mm crystals (these can be replaced with size 11 seed beads if needed) and a single strand clasp of your choice.
Second step is also to read what level beader you need to be. Yes if you continue you will get to each level in due time but if you are not "advanced" you will get very frustrated and then it ends up in the UFO pile. No one especially the designer wants that to happen to you. Most designer especially Nancy would love it if you emailed them questions rather than have a bad taste about the design.
This tutorial is suitable for intermediate beaders, I wouldn't recommend it as a beginning project.
Third step and one that not many of us think about is know your bead sizes. How often have you found a tutorial, purchased it, started to make it and it is not what you were thinking. For instance this is one of the components in Nancy's design. Now I know how small the chaton used in the pattern is therefore I knew how dainty the design would be.

Knowing this information will save you disappointment.  I know it has happened to me that I thought a design was either larger or smaller than I was anticipating and that could also make the piece end up in the UFO pile.

Forth and one of the things not a lot of us do is to check with other beaders on what they think about the designer.  This will help you make the best decision.   For instance if you were to ask me about Nancy's designs and tutorials I would be able to tell you that for me they are perfect.  She has the right amount of words as well as photo descriptions for each step.  Her photos are very clear with showing thread paths.  She shares tips and tricks she has learned AND she totally inspires you to take her teachings and try something new with them. Another example is that after completing my version of the pattern I was inspired to create a matching necklace and finally bezel a tear drop that had been sitting in my stash for the longest time.

AND just to show why Nancy is one of my favorite designers here is a little bonus.  Someone asked her if it was possible to use a larger chaton in the design so she explored the possibility and then posted the adjustments on her blog.  A link is even included in the product description!

I hope this information is helpful when you fall in love with a design and want to make it for yourself.  I also thank Nancy for being my guinea pig so to speak in this post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Heavy Metal

I'm not sure why this is the case, but nearly every metalsmith I know longs for an anvil made from an old piece of railroad tie. Those buggers are expensive, though, and I've never found one I could afford.

Until last fall.

I got this old anvil for a song from a jeweler friend of mine, Marcia Bell. I think she said she found it at an estate sale, and I snapped it up in spite of its condition. And then I called my friend and local blacksmith John Meyer (who also happens to be the husband of Lisa Stamper Meyer, one of my Roadhouse business partners) because I've never refinished an anvil before and because I knew he'd jump at the chance to break out the big tools.

OK, medium tools.

It turns out that refinishing an anvil is identical to finishing a piece of jewelry: start with a heavier grit and work your way down to finishing grits. In the case of a lap grinder, which is what we used, we started with 80 grit and worked down to 400.

Don't be fooled - John's featured in these photos, but he made me do my share of the work! Between the two of us, we managed to get the deep grooves out of one side of the horn in about 10 minutes.

Then we went to work on the rest of it.

It took us over an hour to get to this point, and my hands and arms were aching. The vibration from the grinder is really hard to take - even though it isn't necessary to press hard on the metal, even a short period of time working with the tool left me seriously fatigued. I have a whole new appreciation for machinists and other folks who work with these kinds of tools every day.

This first session was last October, and it was several months before John and I could coordinate our schedules to finish the project. Last week, we finally had the opportunity.

We got the whole surface down to a rough finish - thoroughly cleaned, all the grooves gone, and the shape refined. And then we polished.

It took another hour to get it to this point, and John had to do the last 10 minutes for me because my arms and hands were literally numb. It was totally worth it, though - this bad boy is going to be my main workspace for forming and forging, and now I know how to care for it properly. The next step will be to build an anvil stand for it, and then John will help me bore some holes in the base so I can bolt it down to keep it stable. I'll be sure to document that process.

Here's what I learned along the way:
  1. Techniques learned in one discipline (jewelry making and metalsmithing) can be translated to another discipline (blacksmithing) with a little tweaking. Finishing is finishing is finishing. Had I thought about it (and watched a lot of YouTube videos), I probably could have figured out how to do this by myself, but I was intimidated.
  2. That said, there are some significant differences between working with steel and working with sterling silver. The most obvious is that steel sparks when you grind it, so make sure you're working on a fireproof surface with plenty of ventilation, and have water or a fire extinguisher on hand. You'll also want to tie your hair back and wear protective gear: safety glasses for sure and something to cover your clothes so a spark doesn't catch them on fire. A couple of sparks hit my cheek at one point and they really stung, so be careful!
  3. Take your time! Working with larger, unfamiliar tools can create fatigue and that can be dangerous. I was grateful to have a "spotter" while I worked, to make sure that I wasn't sloppy or creating an unsafe situation.
So this was kind of a two-in-one bucket list moment for me - a railroad tie anvil and a lesson in working with large tools and steel. I love it when moments come together like that - has that ever happened for you?

Until next time -