Colouring Clay

A friend took a trip into Artisans in the Attic this week and she pleasantly took some pics for me, which showed me that my clay pendants were getting low. Which means it’s time to make some more. She mentioned she’d like to see more colourful ones so I obliged! Normally I am random with the colours but this time I worked more systematically AND took note of my colour combinations so I’d have recipes for the next time. And then I realized that you probably haven’t seen how this works! Lots of people don’t realize that I colour my polymer clay with mica-based powders.

First, here is the raw clay. I condition the clay, roll it out, cut it with shape cutters, then texture each piece by hand using various texture tools I’ve collected and made.

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Now it’s time to start adding colour! I like the PearlEx powders personally. I have two sets which I’ve re-sorted into Metallics and Brights. 2014-03-23 12.44.11

 

Using the world’s tiniest brush, I start adding miniscule amounts of colour to the clay, one at a time. It’s easy to add too much and saturate the clay, so I have to take my time and pay attention to how much I’m adding and where I let the powder go. It can have a mind of its own!2014-03-23 12.34.07

 

I’ve found that blending colours on the clay adds much more depth and interest than just solid colour. Here I’ve built up several colours, overlaying them and creating new colours in the process.

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Next I came up with a peacock-inspired colour set.

(This is on the same blue background as above, the colour is all washed out… you’ll see the true colour when I take the final photos later on :)

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And a metallic set:

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Which one is your favourite?

 

Product, Photos, Design, Show!

About a month ago I suddenly decided that with two shows this season, it was time to get some professional photography done on my jewellery. It came together extremely quickly, with my friend Jayme Burns agreeing to take the photos, which I’m lucky she had a slot open; and my husband’s lovely co-worker Sarah-jane agreeing to model for me – and despite never having done such a thing before, she was amazing.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this was the new work I’d just started figuring out.

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Copper, which is so warm and calling to me lately, with some filigree.

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Someone basically stopped me on the street recently to say that my large pieces need to be shown ON MY NECK because she’d never have bought it on her own but seeing it on me showed how it could look. That’s really what prompted this whole thing, because well, my neck isn’t so photogenic:

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And my camera phone clearly wasn’t cutting it:

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But something needed to be done because I honestly think this is the best I’ve ever been. I am loving this line and I’m excited to find the time to get more of it done. I think it deserves to be showcased. So I got together my team. Getting the timing together was fast and furious but a few days later, I was frantically gathering some stock I wanted to try and capture.

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I picked up the lovely Sarah-jane and met Jayme at my house. We started figuring out which outfits might go with which pieces.

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In no time Jayme had our living room completely transformed into a photo studio and they got to work.

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We even went outside in the yard for a bit!

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Which resulted in some super great lookbook-like shots, like this one:

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Jayme even took a couple of adorable “boudoir” pics of our kittehs!

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 (All together now: Awwwwwwwww.)

We worked until the light failed and then the amazing Jayme managed to get the pics edited and returned to me the very next day! With the shows coming up it was a race against the post office to get the marketing collateral I wanted printed and shipped. What I really wanted was a banner for behind my table. So I think I probably designed a jillion of them and I reached out into my super supportive crafty community with some ideas and got feedback to help me figure out where I was going with this.

It’s weird that I literally spend my week critiquing my students’ designs but I couldn’t narrow down one of my own.

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I was torn and a little burnt out on design so I gave it a rest, and the next day finally came up with something that I’m sure still has flaws but by gum it was workable and printable! So off it went to the printers.

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Isn’t that stunning? While I was at it, I made up some Moo cards with all the great images I couldn’t get on the main banner! I picked a fun purple back and a pile of fronts that make me smile. I see now that I should have done more work cleaning up the images to make them more consistent but I was getting really sleepy ;)

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The banner came and it was all I could want. So I popped it up at my show last weekend, and lookit how great! I made a lot of other changes to my display as well – I’m looking for a more cohesive grey background – and except for the mishmash of mixmatched busts in the centre, I’m pretty pleased with both the simple look and the simple setup and teardown.

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It was an amazing process for an astounding result. Thanks to Jayme and Sarah-jane for helping me pull this all together into just what I wanted!!! I feel like my work is now being shown at a level of sophistication which matches the changes that have been happening in my work lately. It feels good.

Hood Ornaments – no, wait, I meant Statement Necklaces!

A while back I got myself some vintage leather belts, with some vague ideas of how I could use them as the base for some honkin’ big assemblage steampunk pieces. I didn’t really get a chance to start playing until a couple of weeks go. I cut up a couple of belts and started digging through my pile of vintage and new metals and bits and bobs, and began figuring out some placement. Here’s my original set of playing pieces:

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I glued up the larger pieces, leaving plenty of holes where I could back up the glue by wiring things down (I never quite trust glue). Then they sat on my bench for weeks while I had to get other stuff done. But today, I got to pull them together, add wire, extra embellishments, chains and clasps. And boy howdy do these make me happy!

The first one I ended up turning sideways – I just liked it better that way – and it needed more balance on the left so I added a few more feather charms. I used flat aluminum wire to create a light, airy balance on the bottom right.

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

I got to play with old keys I got at the local flea market, clip-on earrings & leather belts from thrift shops, bracelets and metal charms, vintage watch faces, aluminum wire, copper wire, glass beads, pearls, vintage buttons a friend gave me, and a couple of cabochons dug out of a bag of broken things sent to me by a friend who used to work at a jewellery warehouse.

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

A closeup of the flash of the labradorite on this one:

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

I love how things evolve. This last one was my least favourite when I started but now it might be my most:

Hood Ornaments - Wait, I mean Statement Necklaces

I’m getting ready for the Holiday Spirit market at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design. I feel like these might steal my table’s show, which I’m totally happy with. So now I’m working on ways to display these giant sumbitches. I’m thinking… minimalist cardboard busts, covered in aged paper?

Wrapping Beach Glass in Clay!

I live on an island. For the past six years, a significant chunk of my income has come from wire-wrapping beach glass and selling it to tourists, or folks from here who have family away and want to send them a piece of home. It’s been great, and my parents have been my largest supplier of beach glass, picking it up on their weekly beach walks.

But recently, at least three other wrappers have popped up and I felt the market was inundated, so I stopped – but my work was still being requested. I ruminated for a while, and decided that polymer clay was the answer.

First, I did a bit of sketching. That’s my new thing, with the Think and Design series behind me and a gorgeous new Galaxy Note 8 Tablet (with the pressure sensitive s-pen!!!).

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I may have gotten a little carried away drawing shellfish.

Anyway, yesterday was the first day I was actually able to work on this idea. I grabbed a couple of light, slightly uncommon soft greens and got to work. At first, I wanted to just make sure I could actually capture the stone without using a back, so I didn’t get into any fancy sculpture, just some waves and dots.

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I sort of liked them – the blue one has great lines – but neither one of them was really pushing my buttons. I couldn’t figure out why, so I went straight to my wonderful fan base on Facebook and asked their opinions! And oh boy did they have opinions :) Most people agreed with me that they weren’t quite right but it wasn’t until I started pushing for answers that it came up to the surface: they looked like icing, like cartoons, like kid’s jewellery. Which totally resonated with me, and now looking at them I can identify that the solid colours and thick lines are not sophisticated enough. I needed texture, depth, interest.

So OK, back to the drawing board. Except this time I didn’t do any drawing. Whoops?

Anyway, I thought of trying a somewhat traditional bezel setting. I rolled out some clay, textured it with this gorgeous zentangle stamp, cut out a geometric shape using my clay blade, used an x-acto knife to cut out a hole behind the stone to allow the light through, and then used a piece of textured clay to create a bezel to trap the stone.

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I went back to facebook with the new prototypes and received much more enthusiastic reviews. I was really excited, so I made more!

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I had a lot of fun picking out and blending the Pearl Ex Powder colours on the surface of the clay to set off the colour of each piece of glass.

This technique lets me play with pearlex powders and textures while still keeping the natural beach glass which I actually do still love a lot, and I think it’s just groovy.

I can see a few places to improve and grow on this technique but so far, I’m loving it and I just had to share!

EDIT: Ok wow, my friend suggested that aluminum foil behind the glass would help with the luminosity, and BOY HOWDY does it ever! The difference was so staggeringly awesome that I re-baked all of these with foil trapped in a new layer of clay. Check it out, before and after, similar lighting conditions:

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It’s like there’s a flashlight behind them when it’s now solid clay! Yum :)

And new ones!

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Think & Design #3: The Cluster

Yep, I skipped #2 but that’s only because my sketches for those are upstairs – they were made while I was still doing the exercises physically, on paper with pen.

But then I bought this tablet, mostly because touching it in the store gave me a completely visceral reaction, and I started doing my sketching there. It’s nearly as good as paper, sensually, and ten times better because I always have it with me (but carrying around my notepad and a bunch of pens was getting tedious). I’ve been using it to capture all kinds of ideas – including a super secret project that I hope to be able to reveal soon! And then it’s easy to export sketches to a file for sharing.

So here are a few of my sketches from the third lesson. I’ll get back to #2 soon :)

First, a few sketches from the middle of the lesson and the beginnings of some designs:

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And then a concept for a necklace that occurred to me – to sew leather to a wire frame, and sew button clusters to the leather, and then cluster the frames: Sketch7019467

 

Good times, right? I’ve been having a ton of new ideas lately. Now if only I could get the time to do them! Oh hey wait – I’m on vacation – so here goes nothin’!

PS this Cluster lesson is available for sale.

Think and Design: #1 – The Flower

As promised, I’ve begun the drawing exercises on my journey towards a new style. Above is the first exercise in the Think and Design Jewelry Series, which is to, essentially, draw a flower. I drew a bunch because it was so much fun to remember that hey, I used to know how to draw!

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Part of the exercise is to come up with a bunch of loose concepts for types of designs based on the flower. I was somewhat distracted while working on the first batch but my second pass yielded a few ideas I think I might even put into production – including, perhaps, clay button starfish rings!

So far, I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.

 

Adventures in Ring Design

Back when I first started making jewellery, there were no tutorials online – no pinterest, no craftsy, no jewelrylessons.com. So when I wanted to make a ring, I had to sort of figure it out myself. And what I came up with was pretty neat – a base with beads “sewn” on top:

I’ve sold hundreds, even thousands of these little suckers. But that tiny wire used to sew those beads on? Yeah, grabbing that is actually kind of painful on my hands. And they’re not very fast. And Arts North opens in about a week so I need to have rings made. So last week I thought, there must be some other way, and I looked up a few different tutorials online and gave ‘em a go.

First, I tried the Basic Bead Ring pattern by Patricia Capotosto. This is the ring that everyone makes and I thought well, if I’m going to be quick, this looks like the best place to start. But maybe I can give it spin by using my lampwork orphan beads from Amy Hall:

Can you spot the non-artisan bead?

Well aren’t they delicious like candy?! But quite tall off the hand…

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Which is fine – I know some folks like that! – but only a limited number of people are the audience for this particular design. I’m starting to feel comfortable with the heavier gauge wire and the simpler ring base, but I need something else.

OK. So what next? The clock is ticking! My eyes light upon my button box, and away I go!

Button rings: Yes or no? (I know they're not original but that's OK, right?)

Oh yes, these are fun! Some vintage buttons and some new buttons combined to make a great little cocktail ring. I flew the idea across my Facebook page however, and the comments were basically that they didn’t look like Gayle Bird Designs. Fair enough! I tried adding some swirlies across the top though, and it didn’t quite work out.

With time running out on this long weekend, I thought well, I’m just going to have to do something boring. I found beads similar to the lampworked ones but much smaller, and when you use the smaller donut beads, the result is kind of a solitaire style, which I actually like quite a bit!

Solitaire Style

Well, what happens if I put more than one bead on there? As it turns out, it begins to look channel-set… and it starts to look a little more like something I would do.

Channel set style

Finally, before I got out of bed yesterday morning I thought, there’s GOT to be a way to make Gayle-swirls on these rings without taking forever! I came up with an idea and after some experimentation, I think I’ve finally hit on a good compromise of time, style, and originality: the Rosette Ring:

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I am VERY pleased with this new design! It’s using my favourite two-toned firepolished Czech glass beads, there’s an element of swirl in there (they’re hand-swirled, no tools involved) and after a few tries I was able to make a LOT.

Now I just need to figure out how to steampunk some rings and I’ll be all set. … Hm… if anyone needs me, I’ll be in the studio….

Concepts & Clay

I purchased a small fistful of these tiny watch parts one time because I couldn’t help but think they’d make perfect bird heads. Today the muse hit to give it a go!

I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted it to go, but first, I traced the watch part – doesn’t it look just like a head with a beak and an eye?! – and tried a couple of sizes and angles of body before I found one I was satisfied with. Next, I textured some clay and started cutting it out!

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After placing the heads and wings, adding a few more genuine watch parts, and doing a bit more texturing, I came up with two separate colourways and did half the birds in each using pearlex powders and a teeny weeny brush. One set is sorta peacock-ish and one is rather rustic and cosy:

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Loving it so far! I wasn’t sure what to do next, though – I had only thought through as far as the bird shape itself! Now what? Well, I knew I wanted some matching beads in there so I found a few that worked and, using some heavy gauge wire I built these bail-type things:

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But there’s an inherent flaw here! Can you see it? Well, basically, the big hole at the top is facing out but a chain would have to go side to side. D’oh! what to do, what to do…. I could turn the big loop but I liked the hammered look – plus, a single loop isn’t very stable for a bail. I dug around the studio to see what I could find and came up with a couple of ideas:

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Nope. Not working. That black cord with the lark’s head knot is almost right but the cord itself is too slippery and won’t stay. Doing the same thing with a chain just looks messy. Finally I realized I can CUT the chain and use jump rings to attach – then we get a Y-shape with a fun drop pendant, and everything lies nice and flat! After that I was able to quickly finish up my workday and get back to Deep Space Nine :D

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Another weekend, another project. And aren’t those colours to die for?!

Back to my roots… and they’re made of gemstones!

Earlier in the week I was planning my studio time. All previous projects have been complete and are off the bench, and I was musing aloud about what I could work on next. My very clever husband suggested I “get back to my roots” and pull out some gemstones and silver wire. And oh boy was he right!

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First, I pulled out my silver wire, which I haven’t used in forever – partly because the last couple of spools I had were over-worked out of the package. But yesterday I had a whole new spool which turned out to be beautifully soft and usable. This helped enormously.

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I pulled out my notebook of ideas and flipped to the page with gemstone combinations. I’d chosen these a long while ago for my “Focus” line, and the idea is that certain gemstones have ancient, mystical meanings, which when combined make for a stronger result… plus: pretty colours!

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Working from my previous research makes picking combinations much simpler. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried this but working within constraints can make creativity blossom! When you have unlimited options you can easily get stuck, but if you pick a constraint then your brain is free to work within that constraint without getting overwhelmed.

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The containers with the gemstones in them positively creaked from disuse, but the contents were gleaming and shiny and gorgeous. Choosing the shapes and sizes of stones from my stash was fun within the colour constraints.

We’ve got Pink tourmaline, Amethyst, and Rose Quartz, meant to denote Love: Photo

Happiness: Garnet, Amethyst, and CarnelianPhoto

Peaceful Sleep: Amethyst, Citrine, PeridotPhoto

Meditation: Labradorite, Moonstone, QuartzPhoto

Spiritual Growth: Iolite, Kyanite, MoonstonePhoto

Strength: Garnet & AmberPhoto

Peaceful Sleep: Citrine, Amethyst, PeridotPhoto

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More individual images over on Facebook.

Chakra Resolution

About a million years ago, when I was working out the gemstone combinations for my Focus line, I drew this Chakra necklace idea:

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Today I turned it into this!

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Top to bottom… Amethyst, Iolite, Aquamarine, Seraphinite, Amber, Carnelian, Garnet, and Onyx

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Fun so far!

Antiquing Copper!

Today I’ve been having fun with copper and oxidation. First, I created some earrings out of non-non-tarnish wire (bare copper!).

Next, I prepared a solution of Liver of Sulfur and dumped all my shiny pretty earrings into it. They instantly turned black! But that’s OK, that’s the point:

Next, I gathered some supplies – my dremel with the flex shaft (invaluable), some earplugs, a  face mask to avoid getting little bits of black dust up my nose, some safety glasses, and a few abrasive pads for the dremel:

Then… I just started buffing! It’s almost magical to watch the black come off and leave behind this gorgeous, soft finish to the metal, with dark crevices to show off the wire work.

The process is so amazing, I had to show you a video!!

How cool is that?! And here are some finished pairs of earrings:

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On Creativity & Collaboration

I was lucky enough to be in attendance at the first day of the first annual Growing a Creative Economy conference, hosted by the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, earlier this week. The first day had several excellent speakers, and I came away with an actionable list of things I can do to help my customers really see my jewellery, and be able to visualize any one of them working within their existing wardrobe. I was given a completely free consultation on my displays (we actually dragged her right to the store!) and I’m already working on adjusting them. I got info on trends and innovation and collaboration and using the media and I’m tingling with ideas! It pushed me into the website update I just completed, and a new way to use existing materials appeared fully realized in my head right in the middle of a talk!

In addition to the actual content of the talks, I also found myself surrounded by creative types… every one of them tingling too… and it was like the vibration in the room churned up my imagination so that I’m brimming with ideas.

I wasn’t able to attend the final two days (oh day job, you pay the bills but why are you so mean?) and I regret it fully – friends have called it life-changing. But just that one day has sparked me enormously and made me feel lucky to live in this inspiring art community. I’m grateful to CBCCD and the folks who came to the conference; and you can bet that I’ll be doing the WHOLE conference next year!

Finally, I am hoping to pull together a group of creative folks to meet, say, once a month, to bounce ideas off each other in a pub. Interested?

Tribal/Steampunk Filigree Pendants

One night while browsing Etsy I discovered that you can get filigree blanks that are much larger than what I normally work with. I simply HAD to have them. I got a nice shipment of various shapes and then went to town with my Gilder’s Paste. This is a waxy kind of goo that you dab on to metals and burnish off, and it helps drab pieces turn into dynamic, colored WOW:

WHEE!! Original on left.

It's so fun! Original on the right, patinaed on the left.

I had SO much fun with these. As you know, colour is what floats my boat so figuring out what works was super delightful.

I'm having THE BEST TIME colorizing these giant filigrees with gilder's paste.

So when I was done I had these amazing pieces of metal:AHHH THEY'RE SO PRETTY I can barely stand it :D :D :D

And then… I was stuck. I wanted them to be part of my steampunk-y assemblage pieces but when I started pairing them up with my regular bits, nothing was working!! I tried keys and gears and hammered wire and rusty things and patina’ed metal and so many other things I can’t even remember them all. NOTHING was working. They sat on my bench for two weeks!

Seriously, it was awful. Look at this mess:

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Somehow, one day I found the answer, and it was this: Bling!

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Suddenly it all started coming together…

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and that meant it was time to add wire! And much like everything I do… they instantly became my new favourite :D

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I'm having trouble picking but I think this one is my favourite!

 

Are these not totally fabulous??

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I’m also really pleased to have found a new type of chain for my non-silver pendants:

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My bellydancer friends tell me these will work well in the Tribal Fusion community. Now I’m looking for a way to get them to see!

Holiday Spirit… Got Yours?

Guess what? There’s a craft market this weekend! It’s always worth a look so I thought I’d give you the heads up. This year I got ALL of my shopping done at Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design on Charlotte St. … no, really! It was so easy, and affordable too, and I know all of my presents are one of a kind.

Now you can see the best handmade gifts around, maybe do some shopping, and meet the artisans too! Including, y’know, me! :)

322 Charlotte St., Sydney, 3rd floor (Elevator available!)
Saturday 10am-6pm
Sunday 12noon-5pm

Admission: Possibly free? No more than $2 I think. I can’t find it for some reason.

My favourite thing to do is buy an ornament from each vendor. Usually less than $10, I can make my tree the prettiest and unique-est every year!

Here are some of the images I could find of my fellow artisans’ work:
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Irene MacKinnon, Peter Bauer, Katherine Scott, Needleit, Shari MacLeod, and Yours Truly!

Full list of participating artisans:

  • Katherine Scott (paper)
  • Irene McKinnon (polymer clay jewellery)
  • Barbara Kelly-Landry (textile)
  • Sandra Kay and Peter Bauer (metal jewellery)
  • Bob Evans (wood)
  • Gayle Bird (wire jewellery)
  • Shari Macleod (basket weaving and needle felting)
  • Linda Wright (clay)
  • Virginia Donovan (wood, visual art)
  • Gillian Lake Thompson (textile)
  • Lynn Pascoe and Lester Wood (textile)
  • Joan MacKenzie- Needle It (textile)
  • Virginia McCoy (visual art)
  • Barbara Longva (clothing, hats)
  • Whitney MacEachern (visual art)
  • Lynda Lou & Caitlyn Purcell (metal jewellery)

HOLIDAY SPIRIT FUNDRAISER
There is a special event on Friday night preceding the craft market. I will be the fanciest Mrs. Fancy Pants for the evening, and there are plenty of great things happening throughout the night. If you care to attend and help support the arts in your community, here is more info:

Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design will host our grand finale fundraiser Holiday Spirit on Friday November 30th to round off our ambitious 40 Years of Hands-on Creativity campaign. A campaign that set out to raise $40,000, host 40 events and gain 40 new members, all in 40 weeks. Holiday Spirit will be our 40th event and we are looking for your support to end our campaign with a bang and to help us meet our goals!

The Centre will host a special fundraising event on Friday, November 30 from 5-9pm. Holiday Spirit is the Centre’s signature fundraiser which helps us provide wonderful programs and services in our Cape Breton community, such as kids’ workshops, exciting exhibitions and many other special arts events. Holiday Spirit is a “private shopping” evening, where guests get the first opportunity to buy those one-of-a-kind pieces of fine craft and artwork while experiencing fine food, “Craftinis” and great entertainment.

Tickets for Holiday Spirit are $40 and can be purchased by contacting Jessica by phone (902) 539-7491 ext. 117 or by email jessica@capebretoncraft.com.

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/events/276506062469593/

Holiday Spirit fundraiser: November 30th 5-9pm, $40

Here is some of the work I’ve been putting together to prep for the show:
Check out THESE enormous babies!

BUTTONS.

Only some of the gorgeous lampworked earrings to be available at the Holiday Spirit this weekend!

Hope to see you there!

Antiqued Copper

My whole weekend has been consumed by bare copper (weird for me not to use non-tarnish wire!), chasing hammers, sea sediment jasper, liver of sulfur, dremel collets, and the new ceramic tile which I’m really enjoying as a photo background.

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I’ve never done this before but I LOVE it.

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Liver of Sulfur is this goop you dump your metals into in order to make them oxidize – that is to say, turn it black.

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Then, you buff it back off the raised areas to get this lovely soft contrast between the dark crevices and the shiny copper.

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I didn’t actually know how to buff it, or what to buff it with! I have a dremel rotary tool and a kit full of random bit-type-attachments, so I tried a few and found one.

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I wore that one to a nub on the first half-dozen pieces, and then had to wait until today to hit the hardware store to find a replacement.

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As it turned out I found a BETTER buffer/polisher-thing and it did another dozen buffs without being worn down at all!

Yay for home hardware!

I ran the liver of sulfur three times, which is a waste, but the first time was a test, the second time was being over-eager once I knew that it worked, and the third time was because I was done wrapping for the weekend and wanted to have the rest of the pieces finished before I quit for the day.

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The small wire here is my regular 22ga wire, made to look miniscule by the very heavy 16ga wire I’m using for the main wrap.

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The 16ga is very heavy but surprisingly easy to wrap with; I make a curl and then hammer it, and then it’s essentially immovable after that, which is great for trapping a stone.

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I kind of like how the bails at the top mostly look like hearts! Trying to come up with a name for these that isn’t as corny as “for love of the ocean” but that does mean kind of the same thing (since these are sea sediment jasper).

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This is the newest direction for Gayle Bird Designs; expect to see more of this style, probably mostly at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design high-end gallery in Sydney.