Sorry it’s been so long…

So, this was the year of COVID-19, and like all of you – I have an excuse. Despite all of my best wishes and intentions, an entire year has passed into a disappointing whirlwind of cancelled classes, loss, rescheduled events, debilitating sadness, fear and worry. If you’ve read my writing for long, you’ve probably realized by now that when there’s a shit storm, I retreat to the sanctity of my peaceful inner world. I step out of the line and go away. I check out. Can’t help it, sorry guys, but you know that’s who I am.

Taking COVID19 seriously at Snow Farm

I haven’t got very much jewelry work to show for 2020, because after getting back from teaching in Tucson last year, I became compelled to make my home the safe space for everything and everyone I love and all that is good in this poor, sad and suffering world. I finally did get to teach a workshop for three intrepid students this past October, and all I can say is Bless You Snow Farm, you saved my spirit and got me through early winter. It was the one other good artistic thing that happened for me in 2020.

For the past year, I did “mom” in a huge way – and cooked, cleaned, organized, read dozens of books, took care of cats and kids, grew an absolutely perfect and bountiful garden, purged junk and did my very best to be brave, strong, feel life and keep us all alive and well. We have each other, a roof over our heads, good food to eat and although it wasn’t easy, I’ve kept a stiff upper lip and soldiered on. I always do what has to be done, and the thought of making art during hyper-survival mode just seemed alien and ridiculous. My bench has been idle for months and many months and I could only look at it like a dear friend I had loved so long ago and kept meaning to call but never really made the time for. There was just so much other survival stuff to do instead.

I started fabricating a new multi-stone bracelet earlier this month.

Two weeks ago, something in the universe moved. I was awarded a huge pile of hope and an important reason to get myself back to my bench. I felt a slow change engulf me over the course of about three days, and then really, really good news came from several different places, seemingly all at once. I have no clue how it happened and I always look for reasons because, you know, there must be a reason. The only explanation I can offer is that one morning in mid-January, I woke up and picked up a pen and started drawing ideas that had come to me from dream world. Sleeping through the night has become a little easier for me since November, and I’ve had really vivid and instructive dreams for about a month now. Anyway, something has lifted and cleared away in my psyche and I have been nudged to get to work again.

It’s amazing that once I started to draw again, the Universe reminded me of my path. I truly believe that when you do what you are supposed to do, the Universe will reward you. I feel optimistic again and I really want to work – even though the Pandemic is still raging out there, I am still poor, and nothing else has really changed. The only difference is that the wolf at my door finally went somewhere else. I hope he stays there.

A Few Quick Updates!

Hi, all. I’ve been pretty busy with a packed teaching calendar and writing commitments for the past few months and meaning to get back to my personal blog. A couple of quick updates, before I jet off to Tucson for my next round of classes:

• Come visit Tucson’s new Jewelry Craft and Design Expo show starting next week at the La Quinta Reid Park, 102 N. Alvernon Way in Tucson, Arizona 85711. I will be offering 8 different 3-hour workshops at the show, covering a wide variety of techniques and with some object-making, too.
Walk-ins are welcome, so
Click here to sign up!

• In October 2020, I’m set to teach a four-day Intermediate Soldering Workshop at Snow Farm, and the online signup link just opened. You can sign up by clicking this link.

• I’ve proposed a neat batch of workshops for August BeadFest in Philadelphia, and I am totally excited to teach them. Keep watching my Current Classes page for updates and direct links. As soon as I know, you’ll know.

• On the local front, my usual slate of beginner metal and wire evening classes at Haddon Township Adult School are beginning in about 2 weeks.

• And at The Artery Studio in Medford, NJ, my tween, teen and adult beginner jewelry workshops and classes are ongoing.

• If you can’t come to Tucson, check out my new blog on the GemCrowd Marketplace. We are in the early stages of site development, but in the meantime, it’s free to sign up and start your own profile page to buy and sell and catch my blogposts.

• I’m still writing my columns. Check out Cool Tools & Hip Tips which has been running in every issue of Jewelry Artist magazine for ten years now!

• And the MJSA Journal, runs a frequent At the Bench column from me which can be found roughly every other month. They have just published a new compilation called At the Bench 2, which includes my 5 favorite tips from recent years.

• My first book, Jewelry Maker’s Field Guide is now out of print, so you’ll have to search for it on Amazon or used. However, you can pick up a copy of my latest book, Metal Jewelry Workshop from the fine folks at Fox Chapel Publishing.

Wow. No wonder I feel like I have no time, lol.
That’s it for the moment, and I hope to see you soon!

Beneficial information from recent workshops

It is my tradition to create a debriefing blog post after any multi-day workshops I teach to answer all of those lingering questions on my tickler page that came up during class because my poor, overloaded brain couldn’t immediately retrieve the information.

I recently taught two awesome workshops at Snow Farm, and came home with two extensive lists of follow-up information to provide to my students there. And, good news for you as well – you also get to benefit from the information!

So, here goes, kids, and just click the links to get to the goods…

Workshop: Rock & Roll: The Art of Lapidary
Diamond Pacific Lapidary – Genies, Pixies, Wizards and a whole slew of fantastic Lapidary Equipment to fill you every stone-centric desire… I have used their equipment in my classes for nearly a decade.

Kingsley North – Another full-service lapidary supplier; they have hundreds of products, including the Cab King, Hughes 300 Epoxy and other awesome equipment.

Lasco Diamond – One of the best suppliers of Diamond attachments for use in the flex shaft and/or other rotary tools. Their drill bits (from your kits) and other diamond accessories are rockin’

Slabs to Cabs – My good friend, Gemologist  John Heusler, G.G. (GIA) is the mastermind behind those fantastic templates we used in class. Check out his work, follow him on Facebook, and tell him I sent you!

Allcraft Tools – New York City. If you coveted my bezel wire snips, call Tevel at Allcraft and tell him I sent you. He has every hammer known to man, plus tons of other awesome hand tools, too, and his shop on 29th Street is not to be missed if you ever find yourself in the Big Apple.

Chris’s Cables – is the source for those slim closure, precious metal necklace cables I used on our target object project pendant.

Contenti Tools – Is one of my favorite all-around tool suppliers, you can get Wubbers Pliers, the L-square, scribes and the slim line centerpunches from them, and for most of my workshop students, in your home state – Road Trip!!

Kent’s Tools – in glorious Tucson, AZ. is a must-see shop when you eventually get to the Gem Shows in February. I get my Moore’s Snap on Sanding discs, Coin, Pearl and Bead Clamps, Diamond Attachment Boxed Sets, Riker Mounts for stones and other esoteric goodies there.

The Gem Shop, Inc. – is a great mail order source for slabs, cutting rough, tumbler mixes, books and reference materials on rocks and minerals and also finished cabs cut from classic rockhoundy materials. Their agates and jaspers annual calendar totally rocks.

The Tuscarora Lapidary Society is my local club, and they have a free newsletter listing area rock shows, too.

Workshop: Exploring Textures and Patinas in Metal Jewelry
Wowsa, what a list!

First, my list of Incredibly Useful Hand Tools will appear on this blog shortly… If you are reading this later and the link is there, I wrote it, so click away…

Ditto for my Useful Products to Seal Patinas and Base Metals…

Reactive Metals Studio – Rokusho powder, Cupric Sulfate and other essential materials for Japanese Patination. Check out the Titanium, too…

Jax Patina Solutions – The Hazmat fee is so worth it. I use the Black-Brown, Brown, Green for Copper and Brass, the Cleaner for Copper, Brass and Bronze especially for those rapid oops removal situations, and you owe it to yourself to try the sampler set, too.

Potter USA – is the go-to place for hydraulic presses and dies, plus great shop tools and equipment. Affordable, sturdy, well-made in America. What more could a self-respecting jewelry maker ask for?

So, that wraps it. I will get to those other two blog posts shortly, and have a happy June!

 

 

Workshop spots available!

I just returned from Tucson with a treasure trove of nice material for my upcoming Lapidary workshop at Snow Farm: The New England School of Craft. Here’s a quick peek at some of the lapidary rough I could not come home without:

And I have been cutting slabs for student use, too — despite the fact it has been freezing in the studio and my hands get too cold and wet to work for too long.

I am also creating new demo objects for a three day Textures and Patinas workshop that immediately follows my lapidary class, with a focus on some less common but stunning Japanese patinas you might want to learn more about and try.

Here are the signup links:

https://www.snowfarm.org/workshops/topics/rock-roll-art-lapidary and https://www.snowfarm.org/workshops/topics/exploring-textures-patinas-metal-jewelry

I hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

News You Can Use!

Hi all! It’s been a busy summer and I have a bunch of updates…

MJWJacket

 

First, and most exciting, my new book goes to press this week!!! TA DA!!!!!
That’s a photo of it at left, and you can pre-order it here: Metal Jewelry Workshop on Amazon.com, or if you are more patient, find it at most brick-and-mortar booksellers, in large chain craft stores and at many other book vendors in late fall when it arrives from the printer.
I am really very happy with this book and it was a huge pleasure to work with the amazing editorial and design teams at Fox Chapel Publishing.

 

Next, and just as exciting : BeadFest Philadelphia is just around the corner and I will be teaching a load of new classes from August 15 – 19 at the Oaks Expo Center. We are packed, printed, prepared and my little store is fully loaded with tools, media, supplies and materials you’ll need for a week or more of jewelry making fun. Check into my classes here, and read about the annual BeadFest Event here.

Shortly after BeadFest, I will be jetting over to Tucson, Arizona for a stint at the JOGS Summer Restock Show  between August 31 – Sept. 3, 2016. We are currently solidifying the actual class schedule, but I intend to be there teaching some fun new fashion-forward object-making classes for 4 sunny days. JOGS is a great place to stock up on supplies before the busy holiday crush, and the fall show is much less frenetic than the winter one. If you’ll be there, swing by, take a class or just say hi!

I’ve also been contracted to teach several workshops for 2019, and I am currently developing an entire slate of new classes for next year. I also continue to write Cool Tools & Hip Tips for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, and keep an eye open for my At the Bench column in every issue of the MJSA Journal – PS: You can get a free 4-month trial subscription here, so sign up today!

Other than that, the garden is calling, every flat surface in the studio is covered with student kits, partially finished demo pieces, UFOs (unfinished objects) and workshop proposal folders. In other words, life is normal, lol! Have a great day, and I will see you next time!

 

 

 

 

 

A dispatch from jewelry making frontier

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a bit, but I have good news: the manuscript for my second book has been delivered (on time!) and all of the object step-outs for the photography plus the final jewelry objects are completed. Woot-Woot, Ra-Ra, Ya-Hoo!

I am so very happy with this book, and it was a total pleasure to write it. Photo sessions are tentatively scheduled for the beginning of April, and as soon as there are some PR images to share, I will post them here. Some preliminary information that I can share without revealing any state secrets is this: Metal Jewelry Workshop will be published by Fox Chapel and released in the Fall of 2018. The book should be on sale in large chain craft and hobby stores and available from traditional booksellers soon after that. There should be pre-sale information soon from major online sellers and I’m happy it will be out just in time for holiday shopping. Best of all, I can finally, finally change that old news picture of my first book that’s been sitting over there on the right sidebar of this blog for almost 5 years, lol!

In other news, I thought I might be teaching in the next week or so at Innovative Bead Expo in Oaks, Pa. but alas, I had no advance sign-ups. I decided I should be making some new work for myself that is non-book, non-curriculum and non-workshop for a change and cancelled those classes, because, sometimes, you just need to make something for yourself. No guilt here at all. You see I know that very soon, those never-ending garden tasks will come, jewelry workshop season will swing into high gear, I’ll need to get ready for Fall Adult School courses and life will get too, too crazy again so I am grabbing this time slot while it’s there.

Before I go any further, it’s way past time for me to send some shout outs I missed in the flurry of life over the past weeks: thank you, Alison Lee of Craftcast for an incredibly fun experience creating my Color on Metal with Cold Connections Webinar just before I went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows to teach five workshops, including a live webcast from JOGS Show Tucson that was recorded for Jewelry Tools. It was great to see everyone I caught up with there, make future plans for some new classes and most of all to get out of the freezing weather for several days. Again, Thank yous go to Alec and Debbie at JT.com and to Vitaliy and Yelena plus the whole JOGS crew for making it happen every Tucson.

I’ll share some upcoming workshop news soon, so thanks for reading, try to stay warm for a few weeks more, make some cool work, and don’t forget to check my upcoming class schedule for breaking news on the workshop front. Ciao!

 

 

 

Winter means Tucson and more!

In the feast-or-famine rhythm of my life, I am happy to report that feast season has entered the building.

To a teaching artist, the time between late September and end of January equals a constant stream of work. Instead of getting that quiet transition into early winter, a peaceful holiday with maybe some snow, cocoa, good food and darkening days, it’s just BAM, BAM BAM! For the past few weeks life has been proposals, photos, class descriptions, kit packing, tool repair, orders, handouts, meetings and early writing deadlines 24/7. This is the time the proverbial doo-doo hits the fan, and with the arrival of Tucson I’ve got a severe case of non-stop run, run, run.

Believe it or not, I actually thrive in that kind of situation, unlike most people. That old saying, “If you want something done right, give it to a busy person” is my Modus Operandi. So, some quick news in bullet form:

• If you will be in Tucson, come check out my in-person classes at the JOGS Show between Jan. 28 and Jan. 31., I’d be happy to have you in class!
• If you will not be in Tucson, but would still like to take my class there, you can sign up for a live stream version of my Beachcomber’s Bonanza class on Jan. 28!
• You can also take a different online class before Tucson, if you check out my Color on Metal with Cold Connections webcast with Alison Lee and CraftCast on Jan. 27!
• Join GemCrowd – the new and exciting B2B community that is currently under development and soon to launch. I am working with them now, and this community will be geared specifically to lovers of Gems, Jewelry and Minerals. It’s free to sign up, and you can follow me via GemCrowd on Instagram and Facebook, too!

And now, some pictures of my upcoming live classes for 2018 just to get your heart rate elevated … enjoy, have fun, and I will see you in the desert.

 

 

 

 

Busy? Yes, busy…

Hi all! I have been missing for a month (almost 2!?!) due to a very full teaching schedule and lots of work – which I am NOT complaining about! I have successfully pitched a load of new spring classes for my local evening gig, at the Innovative Bead Expo in April, and Tucson, of course. I will also be doing a live webcast on January 28, 2018 for CraftCast and also live from the JewelryTools.com classrooms at the JOGSShow in Tucson just a few days later. It’s been a busy but delightful fall full of creating demo objects, class proposals, handout design and creation and all the other fun stuff that goes with being a jewelry instructor and having a full, rich and rewarding life. If you are interested in whats on deck, my current teaching schedule is posted here.

So sorry, but this post is a quick hit, because I am on deadline for my latest At the Bench column for the MJSA Journal, and one other secret: I am writing my second book as we speak. It is scheduled for a Fall 2018 release, will be a jewelry making book, and I am really thrilled with it so far. I took a break to blog because I reached the halfway point late yesterday, and now the fun begins: creation of the jewelry objects and project pieces, WHOO HOO! Watch my Instagram feed for photo updates…

So, hang in everybody, I hope you are all keeping sane, resisting lunacy, keeping busy and having fun making work. I know I am. I’ll try harder to post more often, so see you sooner next time… I hope!

2017 Denver Gem & Mineral Showcase report

I was so lucky to have a chance to cover the Denver Shows in conjunction with a wonderful writing assignment I have been engaged in for the JOGS International Gem & Jewelry Shows. It was a busy, fantastic weekend with the team — covering 8 out of 11 shows over 4 days — culminating in a red-eye flight back east. For me, this Denver Showcase was a whirlwind trip, but I somehow still managed to hunt down and catch up with my friends to collect the many hugs that I’ve been missing out on for a few years since I last attended the shows in Colorado. So first, shout-outs to my Denver peeps!

Back to business now. I’ll post links to my coverage for JOGS as soon as I can, but here are some quick highlights for those of you formulating your “must-haves” list for the upcoming Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows…

New materials to keep an eye on

Denver usually functions as an “early warning” show for the next big thing coming to market. Many dealers buy early in Quartzite and bring those finds to Tucson, but the Denver Show is the place for the post-Tucson discoveries that catch hold and boom in the following winter. Denver’s a great place for rock hounds and lovers of stone of any type to gather, gossip and make predictions plus the fall weather is nearly always perfect. After attending this Showcase, I can say one thing for certain: Blue is the 2018 color to watch! Here are some materials from Denver that I’m most jazzed about, all coming soon to jewelry pieces and mineral collections near you…

AquapraseHelenDriggsDenver

Aquaprase cabs available from Village Silversmith

Aquaprase
This gorgeous, natural, new blue-green chalcedony was discovered in Africa in 2014 and ranges from gemmy-clear to translucent blue green to a more matrixy-mixed white with earth tones combined with baby-blue. The GIA report can be found here, and I shot these stones at the Denver Coliseum Show with a little lighting help from my buddy John Bajoras from Village Silversmith who cut these cabs and was selling there. You can also see and buy his work at gem shows across the US.

 

DumortQtzHeleDriggsDenver

Dumortierite on quartz from Brazil.

Dumortierite on Quartz
Pure Dumortierite is rarely found, and most of it is dense and of a dark blue color. Dumortierite is also found as inclusions, splotches or in zones of quartz. Both light and dark blue occurs, and this new material from Brazil is an appealing pale baby blue forming strips, stripes and segments on clear to nearly-clear crystals. The stones are fascinating to look at under magnification, and the more rare, clean and clear crystals with blue Dumortierite encased within are always snapped up first.

 

BurtisBlueHelenDriggsDenver

Burtis Blue Turquoise by Clinton Cross.

Burtis Blue Turquoise
Miner Clinton Cross has collected a gorgeous, natural, untreated turquoise from Cripple Creek, CO in colors ranging from pale blue to greenish. Named Burtis Blue, this stone has been submitted and certified as 100% natural and untreated by Stone Group Laboratories and is from the North Star mine. Clinton will also be debuting a new Malachite-Chrysocolla-Cuprite find from Australia at the JOGS Show Tucson in 2018.

 

CollaWoodHelenDriggsDenver

Colla Wood from Turkey, courtesy John Heusler, G.G.

Colla Wood
This Turkish material was discovered in 2012. It is wood that has fractured during fossil formation, and water containing copper-rich minerals has created beautiful deposits of intense blue azurite, deep green malachite and blue-to blue-green chrysocolla in the fractures. Some sections opalize and the stone surface will change both in the intensity of color and of brightness with some areas of chatoyance. My good friend Gemologist John Heusler, owner of Slabs To Cabs had an amazing chunk of Colla wood displaying every one of these qualities at once, and this particular hunk of rock was probably the most amazing thing I saw at the Coliseum Show.

Other fun from Denver

My focus this trip was hunting for new minerals and gems, but that didn’t stop me from admiring (and acquiring) other treasure, like, tools, stones, slabs, beads, and gifts. At a big collective of shows like Denver, well, you just can’t help yourself. I restocked drills for my student Lapidary Kits at Lasco Diamond, found some great stone and shell cabs for my Wire Jewelry Making class, bought a few presents for my sister, plus some great old slabs for myself. I am ready for my fall teaching schedule now, and eager to start.

Stay tuned for updates, and I’ll just park these other Denver shots here… Enjoy!

MinerMartHelenDriggsDenver

BrassElementsDriggsDenver

 

 

 

 

 

FibulaHelenDriggsDenver

coralHelenDriggsDenver

AmmonitesHelenDriggsDenver

Touching Base from Touchstone

helen-driggs-touchstone

Touchstone Center for Crafts is located in Farmington, Pa.

Recently I was invited to be a presenter at the Touchstone Center for Crafts for an awesome annual event called The Jim Campbell Hammer-In and Alchemists Picnic. Other presenters included the amazing Eric Burris, Rebecca Strzelec and Laurie Brown on the jewelry track and Caitlin Morris, Bob Rupert and Jerry Veneziano on the blacksmithing track. It was a full, rich, rewarding day and the demos were fun, informative and well-worth attending. I had never been to Touchstone, so when organizer Wayne Werner invited me to present, I jumped at the opportunity.

Touchstone Center for Crafts runs a full schedule of workshops, classes and year-round activities, the metals studio is fully equipped, and the setting could not be more serene and peaceful. Forget your cell and computer, abandon the endless beeps, chirps and never-ending electronic intrusions of daily life and just focus on making work — my idea of heaven on earth. Centrally located for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, DC, Maryland and upstate New York or Ohio residents, it’s worth the drive out the PA Turnpike to attend a class there. And do not miss the food either, because they really, really feed you well and make every effort to meet any dietary restriction or preference!

helen-driggs-blacsmith-samples

The Blacksmith shop is one of the best I have ever been to — here are some of many twisted iron samples.

Because I have been screaming busy for several months preparing some grant applications, doing digital housekeeping, creating new work and curriculum work and doing lots of freelance writing and teaching, it was great to just get away from my computer for a weekend, eat food prepared by a talented cook, see other members of the metals tribe, listen to nature and chill out. I did not realize how much I sorely needed a break until after Saturday’s lunch, when my full stomach and tired hit me like a ton of bricks…

Next year, I am planning on attending the Picnic for the fun of it. Or, maybe teaching a workshop there leading into it, or following after. Either way, I intend to be there or be square in 2018.

My favorite part of the weekend was the mokume gane demo by talented Eric Burris (he has workshop openings, I am totally going) who has invented an affordable, ingenious small-scale mokume gane kit that works with an acetylene/air torch in your average home studio. Can somebody say awesome? What a brilliant idea, and what an amazing artist.

eric-burris-genius-mokume

Eric’s amazing setup allows you to create mokume gane in the average home studio.

The metals studio is fully equipped with benches, torches and flex shafts, and situated on the hill down from the blacksmith shop. There is also a secret mosaic studio, spring houses, a kitchen and flower garden, a hot glass studio, the main hall and gallery, dorms and camping facilities, so you can go rough or not. There are bonfires and sand casting at night, plus myriad other ways for metalheads to entertain themselves.

Basically, I can’t recommend Touchstone and the Alchemist Picnic enough. If you live in the region, you owe it to yourself to attend a workshop there, visit the center, or at least join.

So, check out my photos and links, and if you are in the Mid-Atlantic region, make it a point to go to the 2018 Alchemist Picnic next year — I’ll be seeing you there!