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Tyrannical Botanical Molds

I have been 1000% obsessed with the organic molds I made last week. But after that first batch, something went horribly, horribly wrong! Let me show you. First, here’s the exciting thing I was doing with chalk on the raw polymer clay impressions:

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Faaaaaabulous, right? I was PUMPED. But it was too hot to turn the oven on, so I covered the raw clay and waited nearly a week for an evening cool enough to bake. Imagine my chagrin when I found that all of that gorgeous colour had FADED!!

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left: before baking. right: after baking. OH NO.

I was heartbroken. I tried a few things but couldn’t fix it. My new crackle medium had arrived, and since I was getting such good results with it:

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Crackling everything I could lay my hands on…

….I thought it might be able to save my faded junk. turns out… only sorta. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I wanted.

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Better but… not quite right, not yet. I had some thoughts about making the crackle different – always learning, you know – but meantime, I thought MAYBE it had faded only because it had sat there for so long and the clay had leached the chalk colour, causing the fading. So, I made up a new batch, baking them immediately, using similar colours as before, to see what would happen.

And it did it AGAIN.

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DAMMIT

Frig. These ones I didn’t want to crackle – I didn’t think I’d learned enough yet to be trusted not to ruin these. But suddenly, I thought – what about alcohol ink?

And… well, let me just show you.

Here’s a set of sad, faded, baked medallions:

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Heartbreakingly pale.

And here are the same pieces with a bit of alcohol ink added and some distressing done to knock it back:

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SAVED!

Can you guess if there was squealing?!

Check out some more:

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Remember that faded hexagon from before? Well, I hadn’t crackled it, so I tried fixing it with ink:

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OMG

Here’s that whole second set, SAVED by alcohol ink!

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squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

My heart is still palpitating with the gorgeosity (it’s a word!) of these. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites, taken in natural light. Needless to say, I’ll be doing these again soooooooon.

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Organic Faux Ceramic (Polymer Clay)

Earlier this week, I found this post on pinterest, linking to Poly Clay Corner’s post on what to do with liquid polymer clay. This led me down the rabbithole to this post about faux ceramic. Such a beautiful result!

At the same time, I was eyeing my molding material out of the corner of my eye – I’d been waiting for summer to get some real live organics out of my silicon molding putty. So being me, I decided to combine the two ideas!

First, a little trip into the back yard for some leaves and tiny flowers and things. It was surprising how many I could find! I thought about it and figured a solid mold would work better for what I was aiming towards, so I pulled out my giant box of white sculpey and went to work.

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My first attempt at making a mold out of a flower!

Some organic material was left in the clay, but who could be mad when this plant came complete with its own curlicues?!

Check out those curlies!
Check out those curlies!

I did up a few different molds, then shoved them in the oven to bake. (Note: I finally got ceramic tiles! The only size was 3×6 but as it turns out – pretty well perfect for this!).

Ceramic Tiles full of molds to be baked
Ceramic Tiles full of molds to be baked

I figured I could scrub the organic crap out after they baked. Turns out – only sorta, but eventually the stuff pulled out onto fresh clay anyway. After the molds baked and cooled, I pulled out my Kato liquid clay and started to mix colour into it using a few of the only alcohol inks I had on hand (oh, my poor bank account is going to suffer shortly, I can tell). I used one of my new tiles as a mixing surface, which worked great – for a while. After a bit it started running together, so I used it to just mix new colours.

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Alcohol ink. I let it dry as per instructions, then mixed it in with my Kato liquic polyclay
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You should have seen the mess after I started making purple and brown and different greens….

But… it was time to start making shapes to paint. So I rolled out some clay, pressed in my stamps, and with delighted squeals I started cutting out ovals, squares, circles, and rectangles, placing them on my mini tiles and putting them aside (so convenient) until I had enough to start painting.

And then. The painting. Oh, the painting.

My first attempts at faux ceramic with tinted liquid polymer clay
My first attempts at faux ceramic with tinted liquid polymer clay

It was INSTANTLY addictive. I realized I was going to want to do this until my eyes bled (I pretty much did – immediately upon quitting at 9pm last night, I got a silent migraine aura and couldn’t see). And in that case, I was going to need a LOT more tinted clay. I looked around the studio and found these little food cups from the dollar store, and mixed up a chunk for each of my ink colours. Not a perfect colour wheel, but sure dang close!

Mixing up larger batches of liquid polymer clay
Mixing up larger batches of liquid polymer clay

So far as I know, this stuff doesn’t go bad, or even dry out, since it needs to be baked to set. I was able to spend a LOT of time futzing with my colours and even leaving the brushes out most of the day, they never got hard or gross. A wash in alcohol (since alcohol dissolves polymer clay) cleaned them up.

A rainbow of brushes
A rainbow of brushes

But what am I saying! BACK TO THE PRETTY THINGS.

More of my first tries
More of my first tries

These are two of my favorites – I love how the colour has melded together:

By this point I was hopelessly lost. i went back out and got MORE organics and made MORE molds so I could make more different pieces (see, this is why I couldn’t have a tattoo, I’d be a circus freak by the end of the week, covered head to toe in different ones).

Second batch of molds
Second batch of molds

This second batch was even more exciting than the first. I’d learned a few things along the way of course and while these aren’t perfect, they improved. And look at the super up close detail I was getting out of them!

Beautiful impressions
Beautiful impressions out of my next set of molds
Mold on left, impression on right
Mold on left, impression on right
Starting to get the hang of this coloring thing!
Starting to get the hang of this coloring thing!

These all got baked and they have a really beautiful texture – not quite matte, not quite glossy. Soft and lovely under the fingers. On a few of them, I heat set the first layer of colour to avoid bleeding; on others, I WANTED the bleeding.

I’m not sure how many trips to the oven I made yesterday but this morning, I wanted MORE. This time I hit the front yard, and I feel like this was the jackpot set of molds.

Organics for molds - batch three!
Organics for molds – batch three!
I mean really. Look at this!
I mean really. Look at this!

Such detail out of these ones.

Last night I found my brushes were all rolling into each other and they kept contaminating the colours. So I quickly rolled up a log and used a brush to make impressions along it, baking it with my last batch of the evening. This morning when I got set up, it was PERFECT.

Brush holder
Brush holder

I tried some orange today – it’s not bad, but I can do better.

Orange?
Orange?

My final pile is exciting and summery. I wish I had another week’s vacation to get these ready to sell! I think I’ll do a 4-strand braid in silver on these. Might make some brooches, definitely some earrings.

But without further ado: the final pieces! See how soft and not-quite-matte they are?

Faux Ceramic Final
Faux Ceramic Final
So many!
So many!
So colourful!
So colourful!
SO HAPPY.
SO HAPPY.

Assemblage!

Have you ever wanted to do something really badly, and then when you get a chance to you stare at it blankly, not sure how to get started?

I’ve been doing that with these assemblage steampunk pieces for several weeks. Arranging, rearranging, gluing, adding, then just staring. And staring.

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They’ve been looking like this for two weeks.

Well today I figured, enough is enough! For weeks I’ve been telling my design students to use “timeboxing” to get shit done; and today I put my money where my mouth is. My phone timer set to 25 minutes, I first attacked the mess in the studio, telling myself it didn’t matter if I got specific areas clean – just keep putting things away until the timer went off. I got a SHOCKING amount of things put away in that time, including using these adorable little boxes from the dollar store to sort my more special-er cabochons.

cabochons
cabochons

The timer went off a second time so I switched over some laundry and realized I was lightheaded. So – to the deck! I set my timer for 25 minutes again and grabbed some iced tea, my book, an umbrella, and some sun.

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suuuun

Aaaaaand timer went off, so back to the studio! Where I managed, after a few timeboxes, to get this far:

Getting there!
Getting there!

But wait… What’s that? TIME FOR THE POOL?! Well sure, if I MUST!

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(I must)

My theme these days is self-care, so the pool is very important. I’m super lucky that my parents-in-law have this little oasis just five minutes down the road.

And when I came back… I had a nap! And THEN I finished these (not so very)little dudes. They’re belt leather, cardboard I metal-ized and patina-ed,beads, filigree, buttons, cabochons, watch bits, reclaimed jewellery , and aluminum and parawire.

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Hey, notice anything different? That’s because last week – instead of working – I made these fab little photo boards. My workbench is just getting too filthy for any usable photos.

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They’re canvas boards coverd in paper, paint, fabric and paper flowers, ribbon, lace, some rusty chain, and whatever else I could find. There are also a few other props hanging out in a new area in the studio as well. I think they worked out pretty well, despite my monitors being entirely non-calibrated and completely different from each other. What do you think?

Wire Nail Polish Flowers & Pendants

Recently I picked the topic “wire nail polish flowers” for a blog post a Craftsy, essentially choosing it out of a hat. I was highly skeptical… but as it turns out, it’s a BEAUTIFUL, simple, and way fun method of adding colour to wire. Go read my experiments over there, then come back and see what I did next…(I’ll wait)

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Create Beautiful Wire Nail Polish Flowers in 4 Simple Steps @ Craftsy »

After that shocking introduction to the world of Nitrocellulose and wire, I couldn’t WAIT to do something to put around my neck! OBVIOUSLY. Here’s what I came up with.

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How happy does this make me?! I mean, it’s a LOT of waiting around – I had to figure out a production line where I’d make a bunch of wire bits, paint them, come back and make more, do first coats on those and second coats on the first one, wait and come back for more coats and topcoats – but still totally worth it, and I did get into the swing of things eventually.

They’re not perfect. I haven’t really tested them – I wore one out one day but nothing more – so aside from my stabbing tests (which I think turned out OK!), I’m not sure how they’ll hold up. But we’ll find out!

More :)

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Artisan Jewelry Times – Featured Artist

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A really lovely thing happened to me recently – I was approached to do a tutorial AND be the featured artist in a relatively new magazine called Artisan Jewelry Times. I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and it’s a lovely little mag.

I’m not convinced I’ve put my best foot forward – I wish I’d had better flower colours left when I shot that pendant – but I am REALLY happy with the featured artist column! Here’s a closeup of the first page.

Gayle Bird bio

So pretty! There are tons of images inside as well. And they even somehow made my little pendant look pretty good on the cover, too.

I suggest you check it out! I’m in the July issue but their back issues look super, too. Here’s that link again: Artisan Jewelry Times

 

Exclusive Jewelry-Making How-To: Make a Baroque Wire Pendant

I recently worked with Jewelry Making Daily to product an exclusive how-to project and thought you might be interested!

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This beautiful little pendant can be glitzy and glam while being relatively quick to whip up. If you want to be meticulous and precise with your wrapping, you can spend longer on the piece–but I’m not that sort of artist! I like loose and free, which is why my measurements, tools, and materials lists are mostly of the “ish” variety, with any number of alternatives available. It’s not just because I find measuring things slows me down and dampens my creativity–and it’s not just because I forget measurements from one second to the next, either (I am a terrible baker but a great cook!). The real idea is to work with what you’ve got and be free to make something unique to you!

Exclusive Jewelry-Making How-To: Make a Baroque Wire Pendant »

Learn How to Make Your Own Wire-Wrapped Rings

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Rings are one of the few pieces of jewelry you can see when you wear them. And whether you’re into making jewelry normally or not, there’s quite a thrill to looking down and seeing some bling that you made on your own hand!

It’s not hard to get started, either. You only need a handful of things to make a wire-wrapped ring: some wire, a couple pairs of pliers, a focal piece and, most importantly, a ring mandrel.

Read the full blog post here »

Taking a Breather

There have been so many amazing opportunities coming up because of the book that I’ve been flat-out, working my day-job and completing extra projects, promoting the book, and generally going mad with joyful busy-ness, for months. So at the last minute, I took this past week off the day-job and planned to spend it in the sun.

Unfortunately, the sun didn’t show up for our date, but it was a good idea nonetheless. A bunch of deadlines somehow converged on me for this coming week and I never would have made it while also working 40 hours at the college. But I didn’t spend the whole week working! I finally got outside and made some leaf-based molds (there haven’t been leaves for six months… c’mon sun, get back here!).

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I managed to get in quite a bit of kitteh-snuggling (not that I had much choice):

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My fabulous father made a desk for me recently, and my just as fabulous husband hooked me up with a new computer and dual monitors so I now have a comfortable space for the ever-increasing computer usage for my jewellery business. It’s amazing to get work done and NOT be uncomfortable and in pain the whole time. Amazing.

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I finished up a bunch of patina experiments for a webinar I’m hosting next week:

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(Feel free to sign up for that webinar, by the way. You get access to it later even if you can’t attend live.)

I was able to get to the beach for a bit – it wasn’t sunny and we’re still experiencing a nor’east wind for some reason so it was pretty cold. But beautiful! And I walked SO FAR!

Having the house to myself was also pretty peaceful. I got to make and eat some delicious food, including this taco salad:
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And these ridiculously good cookies (from scratch!!):

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I played with new translucent clay and a new tutorial by Ginger Davis Allman that I’m going to do a whole review of soon, but here’s a preview:

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I studied up on some D&D nerd stuff and started playing with making a different character sheet (as a newbie, the regular one is difficult sometimes):

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Did I mention the kitteh snuggling?

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I think they like me.

I did a bit of design work for this amazing, local youth project called iCreate Cape Breton:

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I broke down the gallery from the book launch and got to see all the lovely things people wrote about my show:

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I got to visit my brother in his new apartment, spend time alone to clear out my head, do a bit of housecleaning with the windows open smelling like heaven, spend some time with my favorite people, and mostly, do a lot of all the things I WANTED to do instead of only things I HAD to do.

Still have blog posts to write and deadlines to meet, but my soul feels recharged and my thoughts are at peace instead of roiling.

It was a good week. Now… back into the breach!

Rustic Gear Pendant Sets

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Super fabulous sets of necklaces and earrings! I had the most fun making these… molds made from actual clock gears used to create polymer clay medallions, hand coloured with chalk and gilded, or painted with metal paint and patinaed with chemicals, then sealed with a diamond-hard finish. I strung these on bead chain with hand-forged clasps and hand-made earwires.

Enjoy!

Freeform Wire Art Jewelry – Book launch a success!

At least, I’m going to call it a success – plenty of people came, the chairman of the board at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design said some incredible things about me and my book, I got to see my favorite people, meet some fans, and make new friends, and I sold and signed nearly every copy of the book we had on hand!

Full update (with photos) to come. For now, if you’re looking for a copy of the book try CBCCD (they had a couple left and you can order more), or My Fair Ladies in Sydney – or, try ordering your copy on Amazon.

I’m tired, but happy. Thank you everyone! Stay tuned for what’s next!

PS: I will be on the radio today! Listen to CBC Mainstreet Cape Breton today, May 8, between 5 and 5:30 AST, or maybe it’ll be posted to the website later? I’m not sure! 

Free Tutorial – Angled Frame Pendant

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I figured it was time for another free wire wrapping tutorial! This tutorial will make you capable of quickly building a complex-looking pendant using just two wires! The result is lightweight and colourful, a combination of geometric and organic that sparkles in the light. With your choice of beads it can easily coordinate with any outfit!

These instructions include how to create this exact pendant including an incorporated bail. With this technique you should also be able to create different shaped frames for variations on the look, although those instructions are not included.

Free Angled Frame Pendant Tutorial »

How to Make a Copper Hook & Eye Clasp

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I’ve been burned on pre-made chains so many times I decided recently to make my own. I bought ball chain and jump rings and then spent some time figuring out the best kind of clasp – turns out it’s not only cheaper, but also looks better, if you make your own! Here’s a free tutorial (including a quick video) showing two versions of how to make this hook-and-eye clasp. It includes fire!

You’ll need solid copper wire in 20ga, a ruler, flush cutters, bailmaking pliers, a hammer and anvil, and probably also a metal file (which I forgot to photograph).

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Making the Hook

Cut 6cm of wire.

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[Not pictured: hammer the end of the wire]

File the end round.

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Create a tiny bend in the flattened end of the wire using your round-nose pliers.

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Use the fat side of bailmaking pliers to create a loop in the wire.

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Oh wait, you only need 5cm of wire – cut off a cm!

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Hammer this end of the wire as well, and file it round.

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Create a bend in this wire, angled towards the clasp loop.

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Use the small side of bailmaking pliers to bend the wire end backwards until it touches the back of the clasp.

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Hammer the two loops very carefully.

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Variation

So hey if you want to make a balled end, keep the original 6m and complete the steps above up to just before cutting it down; and create a balled wire end as in this video:

Pile of balled end clasps!

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Continue making the clasp hook with the balled end instead of the flattened end.

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The two variations!

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Making the Eye

Uhoh. I don’t remember how long the eye wire is supposed to be. I think maybe 8cm? Flatten one end, file it, and create the tiny P at the end with your round nose pliers.

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Use the medium bailmaking plier size (3mm) and make a small hook. Make sure the p touches the wire.

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Loosen your grip on the pliers and swing the smaller side of the pliers back around in the loop you just made, and create a “neck” bend in the wire.

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Move the pliers out so the smaller plier side is in the neck you just made; and make a 90 degree bend backwards.

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You should have this shape!

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Switch to the larger bailmaking pliers (5mm) and make a large loop in the wire end.

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Create a wrapped loop with the wire end around the straight section you created.

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Cut and tamp down the end.

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Hammer both loops.

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Finished! I dumped these into liver of sulfur and then tumbled them overnight with some soap to make them shiny, antiqued, and hardened!

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Use jump rings to attach the clasps to the end of your chain!

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Copper Daggers & Gems

Quick look at my newest design, consisting of hand-forged copper dagger shapes, some fire-balled copper ends, various gemstones (labradorite, Russian chaorite, fossilized coral, malachite, and what I think is lapis lazuli) and lots and lots of finicky fiddling. No pre-conceived wire weaving here – it’s all freeform wire art.

My favourite part is the way the tumbler makes the copper GLOW. Way better than just sanding off the antiquing patina! I’m so happy with these.

 

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The labradorite I’ve claimed, probably forever, and the large fossilized coral is adorning the neck of a co-worker and it looks FANTASTIC on her. I can’t wait for the weekend to make more!

Gemstone Focus Pendants

I’m really going to miss Little Mysteries in Halifax. They were one of my favourite stores, and I was really lucky to have them place wholesale orders for my Focus pendants in the last couple of years. Here’s a flashback to the couple of orders:

Pulling and laying out beads for a wholesale order of my special Focus line. Love, strength, and balance seem to be the most popular sentiments.
Pulling and laying out beads for a wholesale order of my special Focus line. Love, strength, and balance seem to be the most popular sentiments.

Two of my favourites from this batch:

Progress being made!
Strength & Protection
The more I do the better I get, I think.
The more I do the better I get, I think.
Little Mysteries Focus Pendants
Focus Pendants – Creativity

 

Little Mysteries Focus Pendants
Focus Pendants – Love

 

Little Mysteries Focus Pendants
Focus Pendants – Peaceful Sleep

 

Copper & Beach Glass

It’s just occurring to me that I’ve been lazy all year and putting my work on Facebook instead of my blog. So I’m backtracking a little in the next few days to get my site up to date.

Beautiful cat's eye marble suspended on a slightly larger frame than the others.
Beautiful cat’s eye marble suspended on a slightly larger frame than the others.

 

With that in mind, here are some of my favourite things from last year: beach glass suspended in soldered, hammered, copper circles!

After I made the circles (WITH FIRE!) I suspended each piece of beach glass in the centre, then dunked them into liver of sulfur (stinky) to instantly darken the surface of the copper.

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Blackened copper

 

 

My friend Amy and I then painstakingly ground the patina back off the top of the wire, leaving it only in the crevices. I’m so glad she was here to help, this is hard on the hands!

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Extremely helpful friend.

 

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Dirty and is that a broken thumbnail!?

 

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Left: finished & oiled; Right: blackened only

 

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After the liver of sulfur and sanding down, the beach glass needs oiling again.

A bit of creative staging and voila! I love these:

 

Cobalt bottle rim
Cobalt bottle rim

 

Soft aqua beach glass... beautiful colour.
Soft aqua beach glass… beautiful colour.

 

Kelly Green glass; this almost looks like a bouquet!
Kelly Green glass; this almost looks like a bouquet!

 

Dark lime green. Really gorgeous colour in person.
Dark lime green. Really gorgeous colour in person.

 

Soft green
Soft green

 

Amber brown
Amber brown

 

Metal & Patinas

Did you know that salt and vinegar can be used as a jewelry soldering “pickle” to clean off residue? Did you also know that salt and vinegar creates a killer metal patina mixture? And did you know that you shouldn’t mix the two because one ruins the other? Ha! I don’t even care, I just mixed up a new batch of pickle when I was done because check it OUT.

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OK, so some of the orange and all of the purple in that top photo were faked with paints and inks. But the blues and the rust – that’s real, and adding this layer of chemical reaction over artificial color gave me such a rush of satisfaction. Here’s how I did it a couple of weeks ago!

First, I dredged a big pile of shiny brass metal bits & bobs in my poor sad pickle pot (which needed serious cleaning after this!). I dragged it all out (wishing I had used a strainer or something… those tiny pieces were a nuisance) – and laid it out on a paper towel. Some of the pieces I spritzed with alcohol, having heard it can increase reactions. I then just…. walked away.

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The next day, it looked like this:

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Mostly blues with a few greens! All that nasty garish shine is gone, and that was REALLY what I was looking for.

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But I’ll sure take those gorgeous teals while we’re at it. The colours deepened the longer they sat, of course. Not sure if you can really see what’s going on but these are the buckets of pieces I ended up with for my steampunk jewellery.

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I had done a bit of metal colouring before this using patina paints and alcohol inks, and it was rather unsatisfactory – figuring what the hell, I can’t make them any worse, I dumped them all in too, and it made for a fantastic array of colours and textures. I’ll definitely be doing this again!

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I was using a patina product on my clay and some other metal pieces; I actually think I might like the cheap-o version better!

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On the larger, rougher pieces of course I’ll need a sealant; but for the tiny bits I’ll let them be. They’re pretty safe.

I do love it when something unexpectedly becomes beautiful!

Book Project Examples

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I spent some time this weekend making pieces that follow the techniques from my new book, Freeform Wire Art Jewelry. This one was made using a series of beads I pulled for a Color example in the Design portion of the book. A traditional complementary colour scheme of blue and orange makes up this colorway, inspired by the artisan-made lampworked focal bead:

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I did pull out a few more and I ended up ditching the larger beads, but it’s essentially the same colorway nonetheless:

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See more examples over on the book blog!